What to Prepare for when Changing Games

by | Jul 31, 2015 | Notes From the Dungeon Master

Hi i’m Tondi

I’ve been playing table top role playing games for about ten years and since the very beginning i’ve been absolutely fascinated by them.  I love them.  I’m lucky enough to have a regular gaming crew and have played in and run long term and short term games.  Currently my group, the Dice Heroes, we run a podcast, cycle through new games and game systems very frequently.  I live in Australia.  This is my first blog post ever 🙂

People Hate Change

This is one of those lizard brain things we are wired for.  Change can equal threat and when we are talking about threatening our precious gaming time or group that could cause issues.  So if you are are the person introducing change keep this in mind and weigh up how the personalities in your group might react, how to address that and if its worth it.

If your playing with with friends you probably won’t find this hard at all.  You’ll know each others interests, likes and dislikes.  If your playing in a group of people who have come together through other avenues you really need to consider your situation before you start shaking branches.

Why it’s Fun

The thing that I love about table top RPGs is the only boundaries are your group and your imagination.  This is why introducing new games and systems is so exciting to me.  I see it less as introducing a new set of rules and setting and more like saying “Hey friends lets play together in a land of magical pirate robots” or “Have you ever wondered what its like to play as a gun toting bear in the himalayas?”.  This new world of opportunities is a great hook for people.  Pitch it right and this will probably be all you need.

New rules don’t have to be a chore.  Unless your group is full of people with lots  of spare time that love going through rules avoid rules heavy games back to back.  What you probably will find quickly is that rules are either heavy, light and similar or not.  It’s way easier to play a game that has similar rules to another because you have a reference point.  This means you can follow something heavy with something medium but similar.  This gives you the ability to try more and more games.

The biggest benefit to trying different game rules is taking the best concepts from the games you like and applying them to your other games.  A great example of this is the Aspects from F.A.T.E.  These are basically one liners that describe important things about your character.  If you fulfil the one liner you get a bonus.  This concept is something that is extremely easy and fun to incorporate into other systems.  By taking ideas from other systems you can patch broken or missing bits in your favourite systems.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.  Without the boundaries of rules and real life your characters are legendary.  You might get bored after playing your Bard for 3 month because you’ve got your shit sorted.  You know what your doing and how to handle things.  If you play something else that character does not go away.  It’s in your mind and your less likely to remember the 14 you rolled to try attack that dragon that wanted to make you soup.  You will probably remember and glorify the highlights though, how you flanked with the Ranger and finished it with a flurry of awe inspiring synchronised strikes.  It will re-invigorate you for when you pick that game back up, especially once you start talking old war stories around the table.

The Drawbacks

It can be very expensive (especially in Oz).  Although there are a lot of indie games and digital books available now the price of entry for games can be high.  Often you will want to buy multiple books and other resources like new dice or markers.  This can be annoying but Neil gives some good advice on one-shots and the internet is a great tool for community resources.  Also there are more and more free or affordable games for those that don’t want to invest.

It requires organisation.  Who’s going to run it, do we need maps, do we have enough dice (no if it’s ShadowRun), how hard is character generation? which character sheet are you using? Is the GM going to check characters? Do we need to read the history? rules? entire book?  All this equals work and effort.  If you suggest it, prepare to run it and prepare to have the resources at hand to help answer the questions.  It’s new though so that’s a great excuse to say, “I’m not sure how to choke out this yeti in this new system.  Lets check the rules together.”.  Also if your group needs it, spend entire sessions building worlds / characters or running test battles / scenarios to get the hang of things.

What if it sucks!  This is definitely a possibility.  You will find broken parts, parts that suck and parts that don’t make sense.  Don’t be afraid to house rule things, especially if it’s a short game.  Remember the whole point of getting together to game is to have a good time.  Get feedback often and if it is sucking move onto something different or back to something you know everyone enjoys.

What to Avoid

D0n’t pull the rug out from someone else running a game.  If your playing a light fantasy game that everyone is enjoying don’t suggest a change to something so similar that the GM might wonder “am I doing a bad job?”.  This also goes for suggesting a new game right after something just started or when things are really in flow for a game.  You probably don’t mean it but it could hurt some feelings if you don’t approach the topic with care.

Don’t be cannon crazy.  A lot of games are based on lore that already exists in books or other media.  Don’t expect everyone to have the same amount of knowledge in everything and make sure you don’t build story with lore as a requirement unless everyone is on the same page.  You can really put someone off if you introduce a new rule system AND require them to watch 3 movies and a tv series to understand whats going on.

If there is a divide in opinion for a system in the group put things to a vote.  Systems are personal things for some reason.  Think about DnD edition wars for proof (4E 4eva).  With that in mind if everyone isn’t enjoying things it will effect the game eventually and really there are so many things out there you should really just try find something everyone likes.

And that’s it.  My first post.

Have fun gaming!