Friday, April 29, 2022

Changing Your Mind

I've often mentioned that, in my younger days, I inherited a number of prejudices against particular roleplaying games from the older gamers I knew at the time. Consequently, there were some RPGs about which I held decidedly negative opinions for a long time and it would be years before I re-evaluated them in light of direct experience rather than simply trusting the word of others. Mind you, I can't blame all of my gaming prejudices on others; I was – and am – quite capable of unthinking disdain all on my own.

Fortunately, I'm also capable of changing my mind from time to time. I can think of several RPGs I once viewed in a bad light for which I now have affection. Chaosium's RuneQuest is an example of this, though perhaps not the best one, because I think RQ is a game that's generally held in very high regard. That I didn't think much of it says more about my own peculiar initiation into the hobby than it does about anything else. No, when I think of a game about which I've wholly changed my original opinion it's not RuneQuest but Rolemaster.

My early experiences with Rolemaster were not positive ones. They left me with a deep dislike of the game, which I deemed too complicated and unwieldy for play. This was not a carefully considered opinion based on lengthy engagement with Rolemaster but instead a shallow reaction to a few sessions that proved uncongenial. I spent the next several decades firmly believing that Rolemaster was simply a terrible game and unworthy of my (or anyone else's) time.

That all changed a few years ago, when a friend of mine offered to run a Rolemaster campaign for me and several others. My friend was quite knowledgeable about Rolemaster, having run it for years. He assured me that the game wasn't nearly as complex as it seemed and that I'd enjoy myself. As it turned out, he was absolutely correct. I had a blast with the campaign and was very glad I'd had the chance to see Rolemaster in a new light. It's still far from my go-to game for fantasy roleplaying, but I now recognize that my earlier feelings toward it were misplaced. In the hands of a good referee, it's every bit as fun as any other RPG.

Has anyone else had a similar experience? Have you ever done an about-face on a roleplaying game of which you'd previously thought poorly? What changed your mind?

24 comments:

  1. James, I think a key component here is "In the hands of a good referee." The closest experience that I've had to an about-face might be Call of Cthulhu. It's not as if I hated the game, it was the people that ran the game that gave me a bad taste in my mouth. Later on I decided that CoC has to be a good game, my experience just wasn't great, and of course that was the case.

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  2. Not really the same kind of experience, but the lead-up to D&D 4th edition had me pretty solidly convinced that I was going to hate the game because it was clearly such a departure from everything that had come before. Didn't help that WotC was hyping it up something fierce, far more than they'd done with d20/3.0, and that made it feel kind of hollow.

    Thankfully, the FLGS ran some demos when it came out, and then most of my current 3.5 group decided to try it at home, and I discovered that the game, while a departure from D&D to that date, was also a huge improvement in many ways and remains my favorite edition to this day. Glad I didn't let mistaken preconceptions cost me that experience, especially since it would have also cost me 13th Age, King of Dungeons, and probably Lancer as well.

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    1. 4e is definitely a great tactical game with the simplified areas (eg: blast) and moves (eg: pull).

      i think at some point we're going to see a resurgence of interest in it and making hacks of it.

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  3. The closest I've come is returning to OD&D and AD&D after giving up on D&D in 1990, and trying out BX for the first time.

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  4. Mörk Börg. I thought of it as a joke game until I played in an online game.
    I still think of it someway as a "joke game", but a different kind of joke.
    So much did I change my mind that I'm currently running a play-by-chat on Discord.

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  5. Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls

    The 5th edition boxed set of T&T was the 2nd fantasy rpg (and 4th overall) that I ever owned. The 96 page rulebook was an unimpeachable masterpiece of concision in my opinion for decades. When Fiery Dragon Productions did the 30th anniversary and 7.5 edition boxed sets I was unimpressed. When I heard about the Kickstarter for dT&T and its 300+ page rulebook I scoffed.

    But then I picked up the the T&T Adventures Japan FreeRPGDay offering out of curiosity. And I liked it enough I looked up some T&T groups online. They got me interested in the new rules/changes enough to pick up the dT&T rulebook. And despite it's girth I have to say I like the new rules and additional material an awful lot.

    Yes, those additional pages bring extra rules. Yes, those extra rules added some complexity. But few people probably played T&T more in the 30+ years than its creator Ken St. Andre and some of them solved problems that I didn't even see except in hindsight.

    Ultimately dT&T took the place of the original in my 'gaming heart' once I actually took the time to look into it.

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  6. In the hands of a knowledgeable referee, i think there is no bad and unplayable game under the sky. I even had my players play with Powers & Perils (Avalon hill) rules for more than two years, and i made them love it because i thoroughly studied the rules before embarking on it. And you know that everyone out there would fain deride and despise it.

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    1. FATAL?.... For the most part I agree, for every game published there are GMs who have the interest, temperament, and skill to run a good game with the rule set.

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    2. P&P was better than Tales From the Floating Vagabond, I'll give it that much. But only that much, and only because it's nice to see "fain" used properly in a sentence.

      The cover of The Fantasy Gamer #6 was a bit mean-spirited, though.

      http://www.warehouse23.com/products/SJG30-2386

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    3. I am going to start a long prepped P&P campaign in the next two years or so, so I am glad to see my intuitions about the game (that the game is eminently playable) confirmed.

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  7. I've probably gone in the other direction. I used to be uncritically accepting of most RPGs, but now I have a much more definite understanding of what I want out of the hobby.

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    1. Hah. I'm definitely in that camp. Lots of stuff I originally likes that I think is a bit garbage. I do have a finer appreciation for features I like and don't like now. So I think I can differentiate between 'not for me' and 'just not that good'. It's also important to seperate setting and rules mechanics.

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  8. Runequest, sure, was one of them.

    But the big one was Pendragon. The first time I played it, on a forum, I wasn't impressed. It felt lilke the character traits (Chaste/Lustful, etc.) were playing my character, and not letting me do it.

    I have since learned better.

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  9. ...and online gaming in general.
    It took me a while to be won over.
    Although I probably prefer play-by-chat to videocall.

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  10. I looked down upon all things D&D (though I only had a little experience with AD&D). No parry roll? Unrealistic. XP for gold? Ridiculous. Geometric XP progression? Dumb. One-hit kills at first level? Unfun. My list went on. Today, I cherish each of these features.

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  11. Traveller.

    I've told the story before on my blog but as a kid I loved Science Fiction and really didn't get D&D-style Fantasy. I hadn't yet read Lord of the Rings, there weren't any Fantasy movies, or TV shows. Sci-Fi on the other hand had comic books like Green Lantern and The Legion of Superheroes, movies like Star Wars, and television such as Lost in Space and Star Trek.

    My first time playing Traveller I was turned off by its lack of Science Fiction elements. No ray guns, no Alien PCs, slow FTL travel, and no FTL communication.

    Many years later, when MegaTraveller came out I was reintroduced to Marc Miller's work and I realized all the amazing material and potential it had.

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  12. Had that with Traveller. Growing up in the 80s, SF was Star Trek and Star Wars. I received MegaTraveller as a Christmas gift in the early 1990s, but I found the game incomprehensible. Looking back, I get the sense that MT was aimed at people already playing the game. As a newcomer branching beyond TSR games, it didn't give me a starting point the way games like Shadowrun, Earth Dawn, Mechwarrior, and Call of Cthulhu did.

    I changed my mind over the past few years, largely through reading blogs like yours and taking a look at the Trav products that were out of print by the time I was shopping at game stores in the early 90s.

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  13. When D&D4 came out I despised it. I changed my mind with the Essentials line and when I actually had the occasion to try to run it. Now I think it's a great game, with some issues and limitations, but enormously enjoyable.

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    1. I firmly believe if D&D4e started with the Essentials line, it would have faced less resistance from old fans. It is a solid rpg, while the original core books did make it seem like an overly crunchy skirmish game.

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    2. For me one of the biggest positives of 4e is that it was fun to GM. I liked building encounters, crafting custom monsters, coming up with neat skill challenges. No other edition really made me enjoy the prep work the way 4e did, and using all that work at the table was very satisfying for me. To this day it's the only edition of D&D (or AD&D) that I'd happily run for people - although I might try to sell them on 13th Age instead.

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  14. Interesting post, James. My biggest "changed mind" experience has been with regard to Palladium Books' various games. For decades, I actively avoided them for the same reasons you see cited anytime the subject of Palladium/Rifts/Heroes Unlimited comes up online--organization, rules consistency, writing style, etc. But playing in a convention game run by Kevin Siembieda several years ago triggered a real change in my perspective. I loved the game experience that emerged from the combination of the Palladium game system and Mr. Siembieda's GMing.

    Today I wouldn't go as far as to say that the aforementioned flaws are actually virtues, but I have found that those flaws just aren't obstacles to the type of enjoyment I want out of the games. I'm glad I had a change of perspective on this, because I'd really been missing out on a lot of great game-able material.

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  15. I actually have changed my mind about D&D. When I was a callow undergraduate, D&D was the uncool, unthematic, kitchen-sink, been-there-done-that, juvenile rpg: Call of Cthulhu, Runequest, Powers and Perils, indeed anything was preferable to show my urbanity and willingness to experiment.
    Then 4E came out with absolutely transparent rules and splashy books, and I returned to the font of blessings: I now happily roleplay in a pbp 1e game and worship Dennis Laffey's old school Westmarches campaign.
    Mind you I still think Pendragon is the best (with the caveat that onl-line player rolls must be public or else the benefits of critical success tempt players far tooooo much: I quit a game due to rampant cheating...). I love the dynamics of personality traits and passions and the risks associated with them.

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  16. Actually, its Dungeons & Dragons. I got burnt out on it as a kid - all that unsociable, bad behavior in games that seems to be such a mystery to you? That's ALL I ever found in D&D as a kid. Luckily I soon found Traveller & V&V and these lived up to promises of role-playing that D&D never did.

    With the OSR though, many of them fixed all the things about the rules that irritated me and now I'm old enough to realize that if it's a good group, it can make up for a bad game. So after many years, with the right rules and the right group, I'd be willing to play a form of D&D.

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  17. For me it's Vampire.
    I generally exhibit an averse reaction to anything that gets explosively popular if I don't just happen to be involved right at the time when it takes off...
    Well, a decade or so later I got convinced into trying it out; and it turned out that the system was actually fairly decent and we had fun. I'm still not sold on the extensive World of Darkness thing - but there's plenty of material to work with and lots that can just be left out.

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