Random Thoughts for 2019

Hello, and welcome to my final post on The Rat Hole for 2018. It’s been a heck of a year, not just in gaming but in the rest of my life as well. Some good, some bad; a bit more of the bad if I’m being entirely honest. But through it all, tabletop gaming was there to help me smooth over those times. Whether I was DMing, playing, reading rulebooks, chatting with other gamers on Twitter, or writing articles for this site or my own, TTRPGs helped me cope.

So as we leave 2018 behind I wanted to look ahead and share some thoughts on gaming in 2019. These thoughts are in no particular order, and may not even be fully fleshed out for me. But these are ideas and hopes I have for my hobby in the new year, and possibly for the new years going forward.

Gatekeeping – I’ve made no secret of where I fall on this issue. Gatekeeping is elitist horseshit and has no place in this hobby. If you love some aspect of the hobby, whether that’s playing the games, watching livestreams and actual plays, painting minis, making scenery, crafting TTRPG accessories, whatever…welcome to the hobby. If you’ve been playing four days or forty years, you are a tabletop gamer and have every right to enjoy the hobby as you see fit. Our hobby is infinite. It will expand indefinitely at the speed at which we add new imaginations to it. There are things I can’t imagine that others can, and vice versa. But if we can bring them to life through our games, we can all share in those imaginings. That is the tabletop hobby at its best, the infinite possibilities of shared imagination. Gatekeeping is the diminishment of that possibility, and should have no place in our hobby.

Kindness – I spend a fair old amount of time on Twitter and other online spaces, and let me tell you, we all need to engage in a little more kindness. Whether it’s angry attacks on Twitter, nasty comments on videos and articles, or long screeds on someone’s blog, there is a lot of anger online. Some of it directed, a lot of it not, all of it volatile. And I’m a CIS white male, so I know I am only seeing a fraction of the total, nowhere near what my LGBTQ2S and women gamers face.

Going into 2019 and beyond, I intend to be more militantly kind. In my Twitter bio I half-jokingly refer to myself as a Social Justice Cleric, as opposed to warrior. I think it’s time to remove the “half-jokingly” from that and get to work. I’m still fuzzy on the details of what that means. But I need to start using the heavy armour afforded to me by my maleness and whiteness to take some of the burden off of folks who are neither. Some of that is reporting and blocking douchetrumpets on Twitter; I’ve been doing that increasingly often in the past few months and will continue until Twitter gets sick of hearing from me. I’ve also expanded that out to other spaces, like YouTube, using whatever reporting functionality they have. I don’t expect it to turn the tide, but it will do more than doing nothing ever achieved, and it’s a start.

That’s the militant side of the cleric, but what about the healing and buffing side? I want to spend more time helping to make these online spaces more positive. For me that means supporting the folks creating and putting themselves out there, regardless of where they are in their creative journey. It takes confidence and bravery to share your work for the first time in the online community, and that should be rewarded. So I’m going to make sure my interactions with folks are noticeably positive and supportive. This means veering away from my use of sarcasm and dry commentary, since those tones don’t translate well online, especially when speaking to someone who doesn’t know me and my habits.

For the articles I write, that means spending more time focused on writing about the things I love in the hobby. That doesn’t mean an absence of critique; even if I love it, maybe especially if I love it, I’ll point out the ways I think it can be better. But I’m done with any article which is essentially a hatchet job, because what’s the point? Say someone has published a really bad D&D adventure. I could easily write an article ripping it apart, detailing its flaws. But at the end of the day, that person has still done something I have yet to do, which is take an idea from concept through to execution and then put it out in the world. Maybe they didn’t do it well, but it was just as amazingly brave of them as it was for all the Platinum sellers on the DM’s Guild. So why not encourage that? All the skills necessary for putting out a good, polished product can be learned and improved, but not everyone finds the courage to do it. I think encouraging and rewarding that courage is a key part of being kind.

Playing – I need to not only carve out more time for play in 2019, but I need to get more play back in my gaming. I had to work so hard to actually get to play in this past year, I found myself extremely task-oriented when I did get to the table. “I need to do X so I can have fun, and here are the steps that will lead me to X!” Sometimes that’s okay, for strategy games that’s wonderful, but for most of TTRPGs it isn’t very fulfilling. So I need to play more, in all the various senses of that phrase. I don’t have a solid idea of how that will work, yet, but I share it in case it’s a problem you share, and maybe we can work it out together (comment down below).

Being Brave – 2019 is going to be the year I take my own advice about being brave, and publish some of my own work. I’ve shared pieces of creations here and on my own blog, but that’s definitely different. For one thing, it’s free, so I’m not as bothered if it isn’t perfect. For another, it’s in a blog, and the expectations surrounding a blog post versus a published work are vastly different. But I currently have a short adventure in the final edit/layout stage, a longer setting book going through the first draft, as well as several other shorter ideas that will hit the page while I work on that draft.

It’s scary and I sometimes have to fight with myself to push ahead. After all, I’ve been in the hobby for forty years now, and I’m only publishing now? And what about all the amazing stuff already out there, surely I don’t think I have anything to add to that? Except those thoughts are crap. Sure I waited a long time to get started, but that just means I potentially have experience to draw upon which others might not. And yes, folks are creating and publishing amazing stuff every day. But it isn’t my stuff, it doesn’t have the voice only I can bring to it. And it’s worth having my voice heard, even if it’s only by a few.

If you’re having similar thoughts, I encourage you to let 2019 be the year you put something out as well. Be brave, do the thing. Whatever happens, something you made will now exist, and it makes it easier to make the next thing, and the next.

Okay, that’s some thoughts as we head into 2019. I really do hope that the coming year is excellent for you, that you get to continue to enjoy this fabulous hobby. If you ever want to chat, or need words of encouragement, leave comments below and I’ll reply as soon as I can. Or follow me on Twitter (@DorklordCanada) and message me there.

Happy New Year, fellow gamers! May the dice be ever in your favour!