Sunday, June 17, 2007

Expanding Horizons, part I (Podcasting)

I've always thought of myself as a fairly cosmopolitan gamer. Like many players of my generation I've been playing for a very long time, and like many players I have experimented with dozens of systems. For the most part I thought that, by trying out every major system that came along, I was fairly well versed in just about every play style.

I have been proven wrong.

I think one thing that those of us who primarily run games miss out on, is seeing alternate ways that games can be played. Even if you like to try new things, and are open to other ideas, you are still limited by your definition of what an RPG or a campaign is. For example, I run a lot of games, usually two to three a week, but they still mostly break down into the same basic style. I start the group off, find some way to tie them all together, run a few plots by them until something sticks, and then spread that out into some over-arching storyline that usually lasts 50 to 100 sessions... Roughly a year or two of play. In the mean time there will be side plots and individual storylines of course, but basically that's my modus operandi.

Since I've never actually played in any extended games under someone else, I don't think it ever occurred to me that games should be run any other way.

Then I started cruising forums and listening to podcasts, and I started to open up a little to different perspectives. I see more value in short-term games, or games with a bit of conflict between players, and the idea really intrigues me, but I haven't really given much thought to how I might go about trying it out.

Then one day I'm listening to the Sons of Kryos (an excellent podcast, that I waited way to long to get into) on my way into work, and realize hat I have to stop 20 minutes in, and start over once I'm somewhere that I can take notes while I listen. It really made a difference in how I play. They're not the only ones either. I was completely burned out on D&D when an episode of Dragon's Landing inspired me to write a new campaign world. Gamer the Podcasting convinced me to get back up from the table, use props, move around a bit, and really get into the game. The list goes on and on.

That's why I pushed so hard for a podcast category. They really did help to make me a better player. It's not the specific advice, so much as listening and hearing about the different ways other people play. It was about expanding my horizons by exposing me to dozens of good, experienced players, who aren't bogged down by my preconceived notions of what a campaign is.

So, I guess I should thank the podcasting community, not just for entertaining me, but really teaching me. I know that I, and others like me, can be quick to blow off the specific things you say, especially the GM hints or player advice. We already know it all, right? I don't need anyone to tell me how to frame a scene, or write an NPC, do I? Maybe not, but I still learn by seeing that there are other methods available, and that is where the real value lies. It's not easy for life-long GMs with long-term groups to sit down at someone else's table and get a taste of their idea of what defines an RPG, but these podcasts make it possible. They open a little window onto someone else's game, and help us to find new definitions of our own.

Maybe I'm the only one who has that need, but I know it sure worked for me.

1 comment:

Chuck said...

And thank you for the kind words, and for advocating for gaming podcasts!