The loneliest preference

30 December, 2010

This a post that has been brewing in my head for a long time. In fact, for years. The thing is, my preferences when it comes to story now roleplaying games don’t seem to match many other people’s. I’m not sure they match anyone else’s to be honest, and hence my actual play experiences are less than fulfilling. I almost feel like the more I know what I want, the further I’m getting away from getting it.

About 10 year’s ago I left traditional roleplaying behind. RPGs in fashion at that time were 90s games like Storyteller. So lots of GM fiat, pre-decided scenarios with no player choice, lots of x-files, star trek and/or Tolkien’ish fantasy geekiness about, all of which literally makes me nauseous. And lots of “let’s not have the rules get in the way” or “rules-light” bullshit. In other words, it wasn’t at all difficult to leave behind. I did think at the time that it meant leaving roleplaying as such behind. But no.

In 2003 I discovered the designer forum The Forge, via the games Dust Devils and Sorcerer. Dust Devils was the first “indie” game I bought, and it did show me that games could accommodate something else besides the awfulness I had fled from. I can’t say I understood how the game worked, because it was so different. Sorcerer was certainly different as well, but the game’s premise and adaptability seemed to be able to deliver what I had missed in games so far. Could it really be? Yes, it could, at least in theory. When I warily re-joined what could be called the gaming community, except it’s nothing like a community, and announced that I was looking for other players interested in games like Sorcerer, I was mostly met by a wall of indifference. It was like deja-vu, nothing had really changed, it was being in a time warp that hadn’t changed since 1987. One helpful gamer ponted me towards another gamer that was also interested in story now games, and eventually I did, over the years, meet other similarly minded.

I also over the years read and demo’ed many wonderful games that system-wise could support the high tension, character-driven story now play that I crave, I name but a few that come into my head: Dogs in the Vineyard, Shock, Polaris, Trollbabe, Burning Empires + Mouse Guard, Prime-Time Adventures, Spione. I’ve played a shitload of them, and mostly it’s been very unsatisfactory, and often terminated mid-play because of problems with player buy-in, disconnects with the system, or simply players flat out lying up front about what they want from play.

I have yet met anyone close to my preference. I’ve met a few similarly inclined, but no complete match. So I am a crossroads, considering leaving roleplaying 2.0 behind as well.

This is me, looking back, hoping it’s just a new year’s depression.


  1. Aw shucks Per.

    I was digging the tone of your post… until it just. Ended. Is “the high tension, character-driven story now play that I crave…” the best summation of your lonely preference that you can muster? I’d like a little more flesh on the bones of those preferences so that I can really see where you’re coming from.

    Do pen a follow-up post where you tell it like it is, because I’d like to read that post.

    Happy New Year Per, and in a manly way, here’s a hug from Random Internet Guy



  2. Hey Pete, happy New Year to you!

    I am planning a follow-up, because do I really – really – know what I want or is it all just a fata-morgana?


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