I was reading some old posts on Apathy Games the other day and I stumbled on Why We Need to Pay for More Adventures, written by Tyson Hayes. It’s an old article but it’s a good one. In this gem, Mr. Hayes laments that RPGs lack the shared experience across groups found in video games. Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait…
I get it, and I’m wistful for the “good old days” too. I’m too young to ever have enjoyed The Temple of Elemental Evil, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, or Tomb or Horrors, though I have run The Keep on the Borderlands (TPK, first room with the zombies). On the other hand, I’ve had the occasional conversation with a random stranger about various video games and I tear up just a little bit whenever I listen to The Lament of Captain Placeholder.
On the other hand, I also understand the motivation to make your own adventures. You get a unique gaming experience that has been tailored specifically to your group and it’s free! Well, it’s mostly free. I suspect that most gamers are like me insofar as the older we get and the more responsibilities we have, the higher the dollar to hour ratio becomes. Maybe for some of us it’s time to re-evaluate a decision that we made decades ago that has become less and less cost effective while we weren’t paying attention.
I think the lack of shared community experience obviously has a lot to do with system too. Look at that list of “Classics” up there. Notice how they’re ALL from DnD? While DnD only briefly had a complete lockdown on the market it was the 800lb gorilla in the room for a very long time. While I’m not suggesting we discard the variety we have today in favor of a greater sense of community, it’s much harder for something to become a shared experience of such a fractured community. Luckily, what we do have is that wondrous series of tubes, the internet. Though we may no longer be able to depend on swapping tales in our FLGS or at a con unless we play one of the games that has major market share, there’s a community somewhere out there for almost everyone.
I disagree with Mr. Hayes on this point: “We refrain from the recap (of our sessions) because our loyal readers weren’t present for our games and thus they aren’t that interesting.” While I agree that reading about Mr. Hayes’ game will never be quite as community building as playing the same game as Mr. Hayes and comparing notes afterwards, I disagree that they are uninteresting. Over the years I have found game write-ups I’ve enjoyed as much as any other form of media, and after reading, I often feel a sense of connection with the characters and places similar to those from novels or similar media. It’s not quite the same thing but it’s feasible that the community can enjoy water cooler chatter over the latest write-ups.
One of the things that I think will help the RPG community build this type of shared experience is the advent of Kickstarter. Often the stretch goals associated with a new RPG project include a handful of pre-made adventures. This goes a long way towards allowing groups to have similar experiences.
Something we can do as members of the community to encourage these shared experiences is to make our own homemade adventures available to others. While it’s unlikely that without some extra support my home brew adventure would take the net by storm, and it’s true that few of us produce adventures that would be ready for a true professional release, that doesn’t stop us from sharing and others from making use of them. After all, even with professional grade adventures, no two groups ever run them exactly the same anyway.
More important than my ramblings, however, are yours. Is this an issue? Do you wish we as a community had more shared experiences or do you not care? If you agree with Mr. Hayes and I, what’s the solution? What do we need? What can we do to support creation of shared experiences?