Tuesday, 21 November 2017

RPG vs Wargame community qualities

Roleplayers and wargamers share a lot of the same qualities, both being engaged in creative dice-related pursuits.
And of course, without wargaming, there'd be no RPG's, a fact that is still visible in many RPG combat systems.

As someone who grew up playing literally everything (RPG's, miniatures, board games, card games, the odd LARP etc.), it was always a bit of a shock when I got older and realized there were D&D players who had never touched a miniature or board gamers who refused to try a card game.

As someone with a leg in both camps, I also have had the general joy of engaging with both communities and observe how they compare and differ from each other.

So I thought I'd take a few moments to give my own thoughts on what I think each side could learn from the other.

Note that all of this is of course gross generalization and occasional exaggeration, so if you get really mad about something I say here, just pretend I am dumb (which is probably true).

Roleplayers are better at:

Discussing and understanding play styles -

RPG communities in general are much better at articulating, understanding, analyzing and accepting different styles of play:
The idea that each player may have different objectives at the table and how that influences game writing and adventure design.

The war-gaming communities "simulation vs beer&pretzel" debates often feel like the "roll vs role" debates that RPG'ers mostly got out of their systems in the 80's.

Discussing game design in general - 

I think RPG communities across the internet are often better at discussing game design in general.
There's a wealth of valuable discussion out there about how to create interesting scenarios, GM'ing techniques, how a particular mechanic contributes to the theme of a game and so forth.

War-gamers don't lack these entirely but they're much less common and it often feels like the wheel is being reinvented each time, due to lacking a shared vocabulary, especially once you step outside the strictly simulation-oriented.

Wider range of skills - 

When looking at wargaming blogs, it seems there's a greater degree of specialization.
The guy who enjoys building model terrain probably isn't reading a lot of history and the history nerd may not know anything about how to actually write a fun scenario.

It seems to me that roleplayers are much more diverse in their skill sets:
Whether the main pursuit is map making, adventure writing, GM'ing advice or something else entirely, roleplayers often seem better equipped at the other disciplines of their hobby.

Wargamers are better at:

Sticking to gaming - 

Now, this may differ for the odd website that rhymes with "the piniatures mage" but by and large, wargamers seem better able to distinguish their politics from their gaming.

The RPG communities online seem to disintegrate into flame wars that everyone must opine on every 2-3 weeks.

Worse, there seems to be far more people who view gaming purely through their super-liberal or super-conservative political lens, consequently becoming very bothered by "the wrong people" hence the outcry about games like Blue Rose or campaigns that assume orcs are evil.

Writing game rules - 

Hate to say it but it's true: Wargamers write much better mechanics than roleplayers do, even if roleplayers are better at talking about said rules.

This sounds like waxing my own carrot, so you can feel free to consider me the hack exception to the rule, but in my experience, wargame rules are (generally) clearer, less vague and much more likely to account for typical situations that 5 minutes of thinking could predict would come up.

It isn't even a question of "light" vs "heavy". A complex game can be poorly explained and a light game can be clear and concise.

In big part, this may be due to wargamers interacting with the rules to a greater extent, while roleplayers can often hide behind "just house rule it".
Now I'm not bagging on the group having the freedom to modify a rule, but that doesn't mean you can't write a clear rule to begin with.

Understanding the rules - 

If you watch two guys playing a wargame, it's generally assumed they both know the rules they are playing.
In an RPG campaign, its not at all unusual to have a player or two who don't know the game and never intend to.

Ever been in a group with the guy who after a year of weekly D&D games still asks what die he rolls to hit? That guy wouldn't last in a lot of wargaming clubs.

What both groups need to improve on:

Stop being butt-hurt that popular games being popular- 

Whether its a new edition of D&D or Flames of War, people need to stop moaning about it.

Popular games are popular because they appeal very widely sure.. but nobody is going to pick up Fistful of TOW's or The Black Hack as their first games  (yeah yeah, feel free to correct me with the one dude you know in Wisconsin).

If you're an indie developer in particular, the big corporate guys are your recruiters.
A guy who is wondering about miniatures gaming isn't going to buy FiveCore from me, but the dude who've played 40K and is wondering if there's anything else he could do with his miniatures just might.

So in conclusion:

Now that I've made everybody mad, I am going to go hide in my corner :-)

Agree? Disagree? Want me hanged? Leave a comment.