A little while back I played my 75th RPG (Psi*Run), and ever since I hit that milestone I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve played and what I’ve learned along the way.
I think every gamer should try new games, yes, but I don’t have a stake in how many you play, or how few, or who plays the most. Seventy-five RPGs sounded like a lot to me until game designer John Harper told me he’d played 187 different games. I’ll probably be dead before I ever play that many — and that’s OK. The journey is the fun part.
Having played the number of games that I’ve played, though, has made me realize some things I thought would be worth sharing here. For context, here’s my lifetime list of RPGs played and lots of reasons why I think tracking this stuff is useful.
Setting aside the stuff I don’t think would be of interest to Gnome Stew readers, here are some things I’ve learned by playing 75 different games.
Every game has taught me something about GMing
Not necessarily something I can put into words (though often that’s the case), but something. This is what made me want to write this post: New games are powerful teaching tools, in addition to being fun in their own right (or not fun, as the case may be). Everything about a new game can be instructive, often in surprising ways: how much/little prep it involves, and why; how many people it works best with, and what that suggests about other games I play; what aspects are fun only in that game, and what aspects of that game could prove to be a lot of fun in others, too; and so much more.
New games encourage new perspectives
As a player, almost every game I’ve played has made me look at gaming a bit differently; this is doubly or triply true for the ones I’ve GMed. Sometimes I’ll try something new and not like it, but in general I’m open to new experiences and like to let games take me down their own roads.
Most games are fun
I’ve enjoyed the majority of RPGs I’ve tried (44/76 are rated 6+), which is due to: the strange alchemy of RPGs, which is as much about the players than the game (I can’t separate my experience of the game from my experience of playing it with the other players, except for games I’ve played many times with different groups of people); the nature of self-selection, whereby I mostly play games that I think sound like fun; the fact that I’m pretty easy to please in some respects; and, I believe, because at the end of the day most RPGs are fun.
Good choices require good data
I’ve gotten a lot better at guessing whether or not I’ll enjoy a game before I play it, and that’s due in large part to rating the games I play, considering how often I play them, and trying games from all over the spectrum. 2013 Martin picks a lot fewer stinkers than 2003 Martin did.
It’s fun, and useful, to try things once
RPGs often require a decent time commitment: learning the rules, creating characters and campaigns and adventures, and playing the game itself over months or years. I put a lot of thought into games I plan to run or play for any length of time, but virtually no thought into games I plan to try once. Trying things once is liberating. (Conventions and online games are great ways to try games guilt-free.)
For me, there’s no end to this journey
Cue cheesy music, right? What I mean, though, is that I’ve rated exactly zero games a 1 or a 10. I’d actually like to try a game I could rate a 1, but as far as 10s go I expect it to be a long time before I play a game that’s perfect for me — if ever. And that’s okay, too: Again, the journey is the fun part.
I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but I’ve at least hit the high points with this list. So how about you: What conclusions can you draw, and what advice can you share, based on the games you’ve tried?
I started gaming six years ago and I too keep a list. It looks like we have similar tastes!
I’m up to 36 games but some of them I’ve only run without having played them first. I ought to use that RPG Geek site to do what you do too!
I still manage to find a game that’s not for me nearly every convention. I still don’t know the best way of making the best of it. I feel bad for letting everyone else at the table down with my ignorance of their game or style. I know it’s not a GMing question but has any gnome ever thought of offering a survival guide? Or even what to do when the player that was looking for something new ends up being clueless at your table.
Cheat Sheets! These links should help:
I often play games at cons that turn out not to be my bag, but in my experience it’s the GM, the other players, or both, not the game; I usually enjoy the game.
When I don’t, though, I try to find something about the game that I do enjoy — an anchor, if you like — that doesn’t irritate everyone at the table, and I do that a lot. Sometimes it helps, sometimes I grit my teeth; usually it helps.
Inspired by this article I counted up RPGs I played/ran for at least one session. I counted extremely similar editions as “1” (so D&D 3.0 and 3.5 count as one but Pathfinder does not) and only segregated systems that used the same engine if the play experience was different (so I lumped GURPS experiences together but separated Babylon 5 and Mutants & Masterminds as they deviated from the SRD).
I came up with 110 games and the realization that I’m getting old.