Hello and welcome! My name is Brent, sometimes known as Renaissance Gamer, sometimes also DorklordCanada, depending on where you find me on the webs. I’ll be here every Monday with something to say about tabletop roleplaying games, because they are my passion and the thing which has consistently brought me joy since I started playing at age ten. You may find what I have to say useful and entertaining, and I certainly hope that is the case. You may not find it either of those things, and that’s okay, too. Either way I hope you’ll comment so we can talk about it. Comments delivered with respect, even critical ones, will be met with the same respect. But if you pull up in your douchecanoe expect to be dealt with accordingly.
Okay, housekeeping done, on to the main event.
When I was a teenage gaming nerd, shunned by the general population of my high school, I never thought I would ever with a straight face say this: tabletop roleplaying games have entered the mainstream and are welcoming hundreds of new players every month. Pick a reason: the growing popularity of actual play Twitch streams thanks to Acquisition, Inc and Critical Role, roleplaying showing up in mainstream media a la Stranger Things, the increase of fantasy and science fiction in mainstream media in general, or a version of Dungeons & Dragons which has brought 4E casualties back to the game while attracting new players. However you slice it, tabletop roleplaying has never been more popular than it is right now, and while experience tells us that might change it seems that change won’t come for a while.
I’m what is sometimes referred to as an Old Gamer. I’ve been playing since 1980, and it is often easier for me to talk about games I haven’t played because it’s a shorter list. If you’re on this site reading this, you might be an Old Gamer like me, you might have joined the hobby a few months or years ago, or anything in between. The point is, like me you’re inside looking out at the folks who are discovering the majestic vista of tabletop gaming for the first time. They are stepping off the boat into a new land, one potentially filled with joy, passion, and fulfillment.
And we have a choice to make, my gaming nerds.
On the one hand we could look down on all these new players, glaring at them from the heights of our gaming experience. We could sneer when they ask questions we answered for ourselves ages ago. Scoff at their campaign ideas or character builds we “grew out of”, and slap them down as they take their first faltering steps into the hobby. That would certainly keep us at the top of the heap, resting on a horde of hard-won experience and knowledge, as the newbs scurry away in the face of our obvious superiority. But that way lies the death of our hobby, whether the gatekeepers want to admit it or not. We can’t sit, like Théoden in his hall, blind to the world outside our hobby. And besides, gatekeeping horse%#@& is just no fun!
The better way, I think, is to set a table for the most people. There are three things you need to play a role-playing game: dice, paper and pencil (yes I lumped these together as one item, deal with it), and imagination. With those three things there is no RPG you can’t play, and even dice aren’t always necessary. But that’s it. You don’t need to be a certain gender identity, or a certain race, or any of the myriad BS criteria that gatekeepers use to try and keep folks away from our hobby. Our hobby doesn’t need to be protected, except from the minority of gamers who want us to remain some sort of elite club.
Over the next several weeks, maybe months, I’m going to be talking about ways we can make our hobby more open and accessible to new players. I’ll have some ideas for veterans about opening up our spaces, and I’ll have tips for folks new to the hobby on how to navigate this strange and wonderful world you’ve found. I’m going to be talking about subjects that, I’ll admit right from the start, I may not have first-hand experience with. For instance, being a white male I don’t know what it’s like to be excluded from a gaming space because of race or gender identity. But we’re going to have those hard conversations because they are important. And I do want these to be conversations. If you want to talk more about a point I hope you’ll comment. If I make mistakes I’m happy to accept respectful criticism and I’m even tolerant of disrespectful criticism up to a point, because I know that on some topics emotions run hot. Please know that I am learning and teaching simultaneously, as ideally we all are, and if we keep that in mind I think we’ll get along just fine.
So that’s where we’re at. It’s an exciting time to be a gaming nerd and I can’t wait to talk about this hobby with all of you. Tune in next week and we’ll get the conversation started with neuro- and bio-normativity in the hobby.