It’s about getting better, Pt. 3: New can be overrated, but it’s okay to try #DnD #RPG

The thing abut hobbies is that you do them for fun. It is fun to scrap book, paint, garden, play bridge, play sports, and play role playing games. And if something is fun, you don’t have to be good or great at it. Now some hobbies involve something competitive, so there is an urge to get better, if only so you can play more or longer. But that is if the hobby is competitive, and not all of them are. Role playing games by their nature are not inherently competitive, you can be competitive, but the measuring stick is so subjective that it is difficult to prove someone is the best. But that does not mean that someone who plays these games cannot strive to get better. This week I plan to write about some things that I work on or think about in my quest to be better at role playing games.

I was in a role playing group with the same core 3-4 players for at least 10 years I would guess. And in that time we ran one game for quite a while, and had a great time with it. At the same time we tried some different games and game systems. And if I had to pinpoint one of the reasons I was willing to stop playing with the group was this ‘game of the week’ flavor they fell into. And at the end it felt to me that it was more of a group of friends playing game of the week. And I don’t think anyone ever got better playing it that way. It was fun to hang out with friends, but no one was improving their skills at role playing that way.

Now the Denver group I am playing with is a group that has been playing together for a really long time. And for the most part their campaigns last a really long time, like several years. And also for the most part they play strictly D&D/Pathfinder games, not falling into other systems or campaigns.

I started the boys with 5E; and then made what was in retrospect a major error. I tried to transition them to Pathfinder. And while I kept the game going for a while with that system, the game was not the same. So when I decided it was time to start over I went back to 5E. Because that was a system that they learned on, and for some of the players it was still the most comfortable.

The point is that, while there are a lot of fun games out there, I have found that sticking to what you know and enjoy is probably the best course to take. For quite a while I played in Shadowrun Second Edition, to the point where I knew that system down pat. And when I was in graduate school and right after, Shadowrun was my go to game, because I knew it and the world so well. And when we had that really long term game group the game system we played the longest and got most comfortable with was Deadlands (turning into Savage Worlds.) And we knew that system very well. And now I am becoming very familiar with Pathfinder, and D&D 5E. And for the time being those will be my go to systems.

The thing that some people may not realize is that just about any system offers a lot of variety. As a player, if I am playing D&D/Pathfinder I am not limited to just being one character type, there are a lot of options. So if the group reaches a point where they want to start a new campaign, the players can ply something different and it will still feel new. The same thing applies to Shadowrun or Savage Worlds, you do not always have to play the same character. Even if you prefer a ‘gritty realistic’ style game, using GURPS, there are still options and variety.

I am not saying don’t take up new role playing games. But it has been my experience that if you want a long term campaign, and group, find a system and settle on it. Because familiarity improves performance. So I am settled on 5E for now. I might pick up the book for a new system, just to read through it. But if I want to get better as a player and a GM the best thing I can do is stick to what I know. And if I want the boys to really improve as role players the best thing I can do for them is to stick to just the one system.


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