Yesterday, due to sheer chance, I ended up playing a short RPG session with a group from a nearby city. The game was Dragon Warriors - I've never heard of it before, apparently it's a UK-specific thing, a more-or-less generic fantasy setting with a similarly more-or-less generic d20 mechanic. As the name suggests, and what I gathered from a brief look at the character sheet, this is one of those old-school RPG's which tend to the D&D type players' needs. The GM introduced my and my friend's character to the game right before a standoff with the groups' antagonist from a previous session. We didn't really have any time to role-play (though Jack was able to throw some funny stuff in after the battle) or to even introduce our characters properly - we dived right into the fight. And it took more than an hour to resolve, while in in-game time it took less than a minute. This is a topic for a separate discussion, but it's my personal feeling that if any battle of any type (apart from really big battles and perhaps end-campaign boss showdowns) lasts longer than 30 minutes, then there's something wrong with either the players, the GM, or the system. But this is not what I wanted to talk about here.
My gripe was with the players. Sorry to say this, but when I came to England I was almost certain that the players here are not your stereotypical geeks - you know the type: overweight, socially inept, possibly low hygiene. I won't say it was as bad with this group, but it was pretty bad. I don't really get it. From all the people I ever role-played in Poland, there wasn't ONE player who fitted that description. All my gaming buddies were always highly aware, physically 'in the norm' (some of them quite fit, actually!) and with a good understanding of what is usually considered to be 'strange'. Sure, they were geeks, nearly all of them. Our conversations would often wander off to SF tv series or movies, or comic books, or fantasy novels, or video games. We had a lot of inside jokes nobody else would ever get, and every single one of us had his or her's quirks. And I could easily categorise 95% of my players as 'odd' in some, albeit usually positive, way.
This got me thinking, because I really NEED to roleplay now. It's the withdrawal syndrome, a physical urge to play or GM. I just love this hobby so much, and I can't get my fix for how many years now? At any rate, my point is - I want to play, but I don't want to play with these people. And by these people I don't mean this particular group, but rather a category of people. I encountered them before, when I wanted to join an RPG/Board Game group at my University - one of the reasons I didn't were time constraints, the other however, was how that group was constructed. I just don't feel like I can communicate with these people on a level I would like, and this means I have no interest in playing with them - because what's the point of spending time with people you don't really feel like spending time with?
I just want to touch on a different topic here for a minute. Jack, the friend I went with, has not role-played before in his life. He was a spectator, and knew what the hobby was about, but hasn't played it. And I won't lie when I say that he's a person I would REALLY like to get into the hobby, as I would seriously enjoy playing with him. But after yesterday, I doubt he's any closer to being interested in a session than he was before.
How should you go about with introducing new people to the hobby? I managed to run a mechanic-less session in a generic fantasy system during a convention in July, for an almost 100% noobie squad of four/five (two players shared a character) gals (a personal first), and I was hell-bent on showing them what the hobby is so I could interest them in it. I think it worked, as general opinions afterwards were positive and I heard from other people the girls were quite happy with the game and talked about it afterwards. Not only does this fill me with great pride and satisfaction, but I also think I know what kind of adventure one should prepare to show people how the hobby works.
What I did was simply throwing in a lot of different elements. There was something of an intrigue, I gave a lot of space for role-playing and inter-player dialogue, role-played several NPC's myself, there was some mystery, some tension and threat, and finally two skirmishes. And I think it worked quite well. If I wanted to improve on that, I'd probably throw in some intrigue sub-plot for any schemers interested in that sort of stuff - and then use it more or less depending on the interest.
Now, what I'm saying here will probably come across to some of you as an obvious thing, not worthy of discussion. But apparently, it's not that obvious even for people from the industry itself. Have a look at this series of videos:
This is a D&D writer GMing a session for the writers of Robot Chicken (a great TV show, if you don't know it: shame on you, go watch it), most of who are total newbies. How does his session progress? There's a short introduction, some roleplaying (he doesn't seem to try and 'drag' the players out to do it, though), a short comic-relief / riddle interlude (which is actually done quite well, even if sloppy and obviously unprepared) and then a battle. Which takes them the next several videos (each video is around 8-9 minutes). And then they have another skirmish, which takes them two videos. May I ask, what the hell? Is this what the creators of an RPG think a good introductory session is? Seriously, NOBODY who had no previous experience of the hobby is going to leave the session in awe or even impressed after he spent the last few hours rolling dice! In the videos, you can actually see one of the writers as he's apparently bored to tears with the battle and he only really has fun when they're cracking jokes outside of combat... Also, during the combat rounds there is NO roleplaying. They just focus on picking the right combination of skills to kill their foes, adding no description to anything, and the GM does the same, and doesn't encourage them to do otherwise.
So what I'm saying is - how are we supposed to throw away the whole social stigma if even the creators of triple-A titles are the source of the problem? Am I alone on this, am I just waaaaay too fanatical about the need to role-play and diversify problems in, you know, a ROLE-PLAYING game? Share your thoughts please.