I just wanted to direct readers to James Maliszewski’s recent post about OSRCon. He goes through exactly the kind of fear I was writing about in Chapter 1, only to find it completely unfounded.
As it turned out, I had no reason whatsoever to be concerned. I very quickly felt quite comfortable, due in no small part to Chris Cunnington’s excellent organization and discussions with me beforehand. But, much as I wish to praise Chris, even more do I wish to praise the con’s attendees, who were, to a man, some of the friendliest and most pleasant gamers I’ve had the occasion to meet. As I noted in a comment to an earlier post, gamers have a reputation for being socially awkward misfits who are in large part responsible for the bad impressions outsiders have of our shared hobby. I came away from OSRCon with the feeling that, while that description may be true of somegamers, it certainly isn’t true of most of them, certainly not any of those with whom I interacted over the course of two days. I won’t go so far as to claim that “the ugly gamer” is wholly a myth, even if I am sure that he’s not as common a creature as conventional wisdom would have us believe.
If you’re not reading James’ blog, Grognardia, you should be. And if he can GM at a convention after thirty years of playing solely with his home group, then you can, too.
You’ve met this person. You’ve probably been this person. “Let me tell you about my character…” What follows is an excruciating (to you) narrative all about that person’s beloved character from their ongoing campaign, or a campaign long past, or whatever. Odds are good that this narrative isn’t even documenting events that occurred during an actual game; it’s backstory that was written during chargen, or maybe it was story implied by events in game, or that spanned events in-game, concocted between sessions.
Why are they telling you all this? Because they want that story to matter. Unfortunately, in a lot of RPGs (or, at least, a lot of RPG groups), that story doesn’t matter. It’s tucked into their PC’s backstory because the pre-play the only time they have any control over their PC. It’s narrated into the corners of play and session downtime because the actual game being played isn’t particularly concerned about any of this story-stuff. So, they corner you at a convention or a party and talk your ear off.
I wonder, then, why this has become such a cliche. Because, really, being a cliche means that it is accepted behavior, i.e., it happens all the time, expectedly so. But why? Why are people playing games where the “story-stuff” of which they are obviously so enamored is forced onto the sidelines?
I’d love to be able to answer this, but I don’t think I can. The answer I want to give is “Because they don’t know it doesn’t have to be that way”, but I realize that sounds elitist.
But does that mean it’s not true?