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Friday, September 8, 2017

Learning How to Play Tabletop RPG's

I've been playing and DMing RPG's since 1980 or so.  Anyone who grew up playing in that era, regardless of the game or hybrid mix of systems they played, learned how to do so in one of only two ways.  The first, and most common way was to play.  Simple.  You knew some folks who played and asked them if you could join.  Then someone (the DM most likely) would show you how to roll up a PC and you joined in the fun.  Total ignorance and confusion quickly turned to understanding. It was usually a whole bunch of fun as you watched what the other folks around you were doing, and when it came to your turn, you followed suit.

Then your PC died.

It's cool, cause you just rolled another, better guy and started again.  Easy Peasy.

The only other way to learn to play/DM was to read the manuals.  This method was sketchy at best, but I guess the lone individual, first of his kind to emerge, must have had no other choice.  He would then find some willing friend to bite at the hook and become his first player.  Together they would muddle their way through and play, maybe mostly wrong, but that really didn't matter.  Point is, they played.  They had some fun.  Eventually they connected with a few other guys who had done the same thing, they hammered out what each group was likely doing wrong and right, and a consensus formed they would play at the next level.  Such was the evolution of D&D where I'm from, and it's probably not too dissimilar from your experience, again assuming you are of a certain age.

I bring this up because we don't live in 1980 anymore, and we are not the diaspora as that time before the internet forced us to be.  These days, and with the help of our advanced communication systems, we are able not only to quickly locate others of our kind and come together at the local Coffebucks to decide if we'd like to play D&D together, but those of us still stuck in remote areas where people are few and comrades far fewer can still learn to play.  Websites, Forums, and best of all Videos can quickly bring us up to speed on how the game is played.

Of course, there is no 'right' way to play.  The internet has also allowed us to debate endlessly over methods of play, styles of play, and the minutiae of the rules that we use to play.  While this may seem confusing to the uninitiated, anyone with an iota of sense and their own copy of the ruleset they desire to use can filter out the needed information from the noise and nonsense of gamer flub-dubbery.

Me?  I'm at a high level of expertise.  I am a great player, I am an awesome DM, and I am a superb flinger of flub-dubbery.  I could teach anyone to play, were I to choose to do so.  Thankfully many such people are running websites,  hosting forums, and best of all creating videos from how-to to actual gameplay.  I don't watch them, but I appreciate their value to folks new to the hobby who have no local, experienced source to turn to.  There's Matt, who has a bunch of videos I've never watched but he seems smart and intense and passionate, so you can watch his stuff.  Then there's Critical Role with Matt (different Matt.  Lot's of Matts in RPGs) if you'd like to watch people play the game in real time.  If you prefer reading to watching, just google 'How to Play D&D' and then tumble down the rabbit hole.  This last method is a good one if you have alot of time, a case of Jolt, and a multi-monitor setup for all the tabs you're about to open.

I am not a great photographer.  Probably i'm not even very good.

This is what started me down this rambling path of thought today.  I exist alone here in my cave with my cameras.  I was barely able to take a decent picture with my phone, which as we all know even toddlers can achieve with little or no instruction.

The internet has quickly allowed me to access the technical knowledge I need to use my gear.  Beyond basic usage, I was able to review the recent history of photography, the types of photography, the reasons to operate the camera in a certain way given a particular environment or subject, and watch people in real-time taking photos with the gear I owned in all types of situations and places of interest.

I may not be a good photographer yet, but now I can use my camera.  The personalities I follow online who teach photography have been great, and I've learned a great deal about the art and technology of taking good photographs.  In essence, I've learned how to play, and now the only way to advance my skills is to go out and take photos.

What I'm getting at, I think, is that it's great to use the internet to learn how to do something, but in the end you've got to get out there and do it!  Go play!  Find a game store with a weekly game, join a group using the Meetups app, use craigslist or reddit to find an IRL or online game to play.  Put the internet to good use!

Go Play.  Have fun.  Make memories.

My Friend Dean, Jamming with his Reggae Band Jah People


  1. I've taught my local group of players. I started them with 5th edition D&D and have them enjoying Call of Cthuhlu.