The gaming industry is rife with court intrigue both behind the scenes and out in the open. Between social media hotspots, conventions, local game stores, and darkened back alleys, rumors about our beloved hobby are traded cheaper than idle chatter in a mouse trap. But what is true or untrue? Valid or invalid? D&D or Pathfinder? Board games or not board games?
Give these thoughts not another bother! Your friends at Nerds on Earth want to give you the direct scoop on what is true. Like you, dear reader, I have little use for the false or deceitful. Like that beggar you shouldn’t trust in some city in the Forgotten Realms, I beckon you to approach as I separate the gaming wheat from the chaff.
Let’s get all TMZ up in here and dish on some of the juiciest rumors in tabletop gaming that are absolutely 100% true.
1 There are role playing games besides D&D and Pathfinder.
I want to address probably the most troubling true rumor right off the bat. Don’t fret, dear readers, but there are roleplaying games besides D&D and Pathfinder on the market. I know, I know. This is probably deeply troubling for most of you. The mere fact that the juggernauts of roleplaying are not the sole providers for your tabletop gaming entertainment needs is no doubt vexing, but alas, it is also true.
A cursory glance of the Drive Thru RPGs website revealed dozens, if not hundreds, of RPG titles not titled Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder. I visited three shops over the last couple of weeks, all of which puzzlingly had systems outside of those two. It is as if someone actually recognizes that having two gaming systems is perhaps an inefficient and limiting way to approach roleplaying.
I beg you to not feel dreadful about our two-party gaming system. Please don’t let that dissuade you from picking up the latest (and seven hundredth) Forgotten Realms book from Wizards of the Coast or some splat book about something called a Golarion. However, a multitude of options are there.
These pretender games may not be featured in some flashy Netflix show or a live play podcast thingy, but could it be they are worth a shot trying out?
2 You don’t have to be Matt Mercer or one of his players to enjoy role playing.
Fact: There is only one Matt Mercer. And chances are that if you are reading this, you most likely aren’t Matt Mercer. If so, hello and thanks for reading.
There is no doubt that Critical Role has been a boon for the roleplaying resurgence of late. With just under 800 thousand subscribers on Youtube and their own upcoming D&D campaign book, Critical Role stands leagues above nearly anyone else in the “Watch me play, bruh” industry.
The positive benefits are legion, but unspoken often is how players frequently compare their style of play to those of Vox Machina and The Mighty Nein. And their style is found to be wanting by comparison. Their DM lacks the pizzazz. Their banter lacks fluidity and crisp sense of humor. Their accents aren’t quite ready for the podcast waves. Sigh. What’s a player to do?
Bloom. Flowers in the wild bloom regardless of how the flowers around them fare. Be that flower! BLOOM, you die throwing fool! Bloom! Don’t sweat it if you’re not up to snuff with Mercer and his crew. They are all professional actors and voice actors. You? I don’t know… are perhaps a corporate shill? Accountant? Flutist? I’m done guessing. What you are is a role-player! Bloom!
I mean, play!
3 Bards don’t have to be excessively sexual. It’s roleplaying, not Tinder.
Ah, the bard. A character class intended to weave magic and combat with the arts. Such a noble goal with unfortunate execution. This regal roleplaying class has been dumbed down to “Have Bard, will hump.” Yet it doesn’t have to be so! It is possible to actually play a bard without having them be a human love pump.
Here’s the typical way Bards are created:
- Roll stats,
- Apply bonuses,
- Buy equipment,
- Slather lots of sex and off-color jokes on what remains.
Bards remain as the character class that probably has the most stereotyped and cringe worthy norms. Calcified in the minds of anyone is the portrayal of bards as overly sexual Lotharios hell bent on bedding everything within a three village radius.
But it doesn’t have to be so. Bards can be charismatic and curious without feeling the need to seduce every kobold or queen they encounter. Players can change this stereotype. DMs can smack it down too. “Nope, you failed to dry hump the Queen of Whateverton. Now your character is in jail for sexual harassment, you creepy, skeevy little runt.”
Together we can change the future for bard’s one super cringe-worthy role-played attempted sexual assault at a time.
4 It is fine to play classic board games. You’re still a gamer!
Word association time. Think of the first thing that comes to mind when you read the following game names.
Got it? If you felt even a twinge of indignation or contempt that a site as storied and venerable as Nerds on Earth would mention such casual games, we do offer a stable around back to put your high horse in while you continue to read. It’s true that gamers have a sense of entitlement and elitism when it comes to our niche hobby. It’s equally true that it is an unwarranted and damaging practice.
Why not act superior? That game you are paying that has some fantastic miniatures and inventive storage solutions is indeed a gem. That does not mean you can use that as a gatekeeping tool to denigrate others for playing lowly board games you can buy at any big box store instead of Kickstarter. Gamers come in all shapes and sizes, with each coming to the hobby for different needs. Players need to stop game-shaming others. Playing Monopoly is as equally valid as playing that overly complicated European placement game you have been trying to teach your poor friends for the last several hours.
They hate you, by the way.
5 No one cares that you backed that game on Kickstarter. Literally no one.
What’s that you say? You backed that game via Kickstarter? Oh my, really? I was unaware of your status as the resident gaming bada$%. Chop, chop everyone. Get in line. We must kiss their ring before they set up their wonderfully elaborate game with its exotic title that’s probably something like Air Wings or Dice Receiver 1989. (If not actual titles, you’ll find them on Kickstarter in 3… 2… 1…)
It is entirely possible to play games, and even enjoy them, if you did not back on Kickstarter. I know, it’s shocking. As above, there’s a gatekeeping notion amongst gamers to compare Kickstarter sizes. Bragging about Kickstarting a board game is the equivalent of bragging about using Grey Poupon on your sandwich these days: pretty much meaningless.
Kickstarter is a useful tool for getting games funded, no doubt, but it does not imply that it is a superior product and or that everyone else should feel ashamed for buying a game off the (shudder) shelf at your FLGS..
Like a vegetarian announcing to an uncaring stranger that they do not eat meat, walk up to any table featuring a Kickstarted game, the owner will inform you in two nanoseconds flat they got it on Kickstarter. It’s cool that you have the cash to fund whatever you want, but don’t be an elitist jerk by flaunting your expensive plastic and cardboard around as if it makes you a better gamer than the rest of the proletariat that surround you.
6 You can find a gaming group. Yes, you.
The oft quoted lament of the gamer is that they sadly cannot find a gaming group. Whether it’s board gaming, collectible card gaming, or roleplaying, the complaint heard ‘round the scene is that finding gaming groups is impossible. Difficult? Yes! Impossible? Never!
Unbeknownst to many, your local game stores often have space for players to play their games. It’s an absolutely crazy notion, but it does happen. Players will come in during business hours (highly recommended) and play games. They do it for the fun of it. I would hazard to guess that if you brought your favorite game to this fabled store, you would be able to find someone to play with. You might even join a game. Most gamers are friendly folk. Approach them and say, “Hi, my name is ________. I was wondering if I could join your game?”
The person who owns the shop, often called the shop owner, can also inform you of gaming groups that play there. They can even help you coordinate finding players for your own game. It’s true!
7 You’re the DM! You can do whatever you want.
Social media groups dealing with roleplaying are filled with questions about what a DM should or shouldn’t do in a situation. While I certainly don’t fault them for asking the hive mind of the interwebs for advice, it’s always puzzling to me that game masters are quick to forget the central truth of DMing: You are the DM. You can do whatever you want.
“But what do the rules say?” the confused DM will cry. My only reply: who cares? Really! Who cares? You’re the DM. Don’t know how a Ring of River Tubing works? Well, crap. Nor does the rule book. Make it up! Do what is fun! Do what will generate interesting role-play or creative thinking from your players!
The rules are just guidelines. They can provide order in chaos in certain situations, but they should never even once hamper your creativity or the collective storytelling of your group because of misguided fidelity to someone’s gaming system. One does not have to crucify themselves on the Cross of PHB! Roleplaying should be a limitless activity. Rules provide a baseline. Never let them crush your creativity!