Well, there were some nice prompts today, but Group felt particularly relevant given all I’ve written throughout this month about tabletop roleplaying games (TTRPGs).
Necessary to Play
Most TTRPGs, when they describe what you need to play, mention in passing—and usually tongue in cheek—that you need a group of friends.
It’s just assumed to be the easiest part; maybe you’ve never heard about TTRPGs or have no idea where to get those weird dice you didn’t even know existed, but friends? Everybody’s got those, don’t we?
I think it may be a little bit more complicated than that.
Before the Fall
When I started playing TTRPGs, I didn’t have a group of friends to play with. I had some classmates who I had known for a few years at that point who were the ones who invited me to play, but they weren’t really my friends.
After spending a lot of time after school playing TTRPGs with them, I can say with confidence that they became my friends. That didn’t make much of a difference while playing, but it certainly mattered when it came to the (emotional) cost of running a campaign for a group of people.
But what happens if you already have a group of friends you want to play with?
I’m sorry but, after 20+ years of seeing TTRPG groups rise and fall around them, I’ve come to a somewhat bitter conclusion.
Playing TTRPGs with a group of friends is the ideal, but it rarely works in reality.
Your friends are your friends for many reasons. You may share many things outside TTRPGs. Hell! They may even say “Yes” if you invite them to a game they have no idea what it is about, but that doesn’t mean they’ll make a good TTRPG group.
I think the problem here is as follows. Your friends are your friends because they care about you. They want to see you happy. So, if you ask them to do something they may have no interest in (like TTRPGs)—and you seem happy and excited to do so—they’ll probably say “Yes” not out of any particular interest to learn this game, but just because they want to see you happy.
This is particularly true in the case of your family (if it’s functional, that is).
So, as you can see, inviting your loved ones to play with you is not such a good proposition after all. In theory it may sound great but, in practice, it’s rife with potential downfalls from the very beginning. They may have no interest in gaming with you at all, but they’ll join you out of love for you. They may even endure doing something they dislike a little if they see you happy.
It’s rather depressing when you think about it.
Having come to this point, the alternative of Solo TTRPGs may seem enticing, but I’m not about to give up on the idea of playing TTRPGs with friends just yet. Before that, there’s an alternative I’d like to explore.
Instead of asking your loved ones to share your hobby, why don’t you find some people who already like your hobby and then add them to your list of loved ones?
Or, in other words, why don’t you just look for other gamers to befriend?
When I returned to the hobby in earnest, back in 2014-15, I made the mistake of trying to turn all my loved ones into TTRPGers. The results, as you may expect, were less than stellar. People were curious about what I loved, and wanted to be a part of that joy but, once all was said and done, they weren’t playing so much because they had discovered a hobby that they never knew they loved, but because it was a nice way of sharing a passion with me.
For years I resisted playing TTRPGs online. I couldn’t fathom how someone would prefer to play through a screen, while being in front of a computer, instead of sharing the real-life space with people. And how about the dice? I’ve spent a small fortune on my collection. What would I do with them?
And then the pandemic hit and now there was no option; it was either online play or nothing. Some people prefer “nothing” in that situation, but I’m not one of those people.
In fact, as I’ve mentioned before, after transporting all my games to online platforms, I’m now having a hard time imagining getting back to play in real life.
Consider this: if you play online—barring some extreme time zone differences—you can play with anyone in the world. Not just from your neighborhood, no. Not from your city or even from your whole country, no. From the entire planet Earth.
How are you not going to find some really nice TTRPGers to play with?
The Inevitable Addendum
If you’re playing with strangers, I cannot recommend enough that you use safety tools. At least put the X Card on the table and try to establish other tools you may like in a good session zero.
Also: be as honest and straightforward as you can be while looking for a group. Be explicit if you are LGBTQIA+ friendly. Mention which safety tools you intend on using.
I honestly think that, if you put enough time and energy into it, you’ll find your group. It’s out there, I suspect.
You just have to look for it.
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