This week we have another question from everyone’s favorite librarian in training. The question is about tabletop gaming in general, and while I have answered it in regard to roleplaying specifically, everything applies to all Geek games for the most part.
How does one successfully convince friends to try tabletop gaming, rather than putting it off as “too nerdy”?
Tabletop roelplaying isn’t for everyone. It’s sad, I know, but it’s true. Some people just aren’t into playing pretend. Some people don’t like the rules. Some people don’t have any attention span. And some people are just wrong. But what is also true, is the fact that many more people enjoy tabletop roleplaying than you might assume. I know this, because I have successfully convinced most of my friends to try it at some point, and the vast majority of those have stuck with it for an extended period of time. I have had many friends, over many years, throughout many cities, so I see this as an accomplishment, and something I’m quite proud of.
The question then is how did I accomplish such a feat? Many of these people (the majority even) were not the biggest of Geeks. They were not sci-fi and fantasy nerds. They didn’t play Magic: The Gathering. They didn’t care who Joss Whedon was. They weren’t in a World of Warcraft Guild. They were just people. People I convinced to see the merit in tabletop roleplaying. So once again you ask, “How!?”
Nerdiness and Geekdom have a stigma attached to them. It might be hard for some of you to hear, but there is a reason for the stigma: Geeks can be flipping annoying as shit. Honestly, I won’t roleplay with most gamers. I am, first and foremost, a HOBBYIST gamer. I do it only for fun, and I don’t ever like my fun to get too serious. In fact, I don’t like it when my life gets too serious.
There are 3 types of people that I love roleplaying with:
1) People that have NEVER roleplayed before
2) People that have ONLY roleplayed with me
3) People that have roleplayed once and didn’t care for it
I target these demographics because I find them more fun to play with. They don’t have the hangups that hardcore gamers do. They don’t whine as much. They don’t try and “optimize” so they can “win” at roleplaying. They play with one thing in mind: having a damn good time.
The last group (people that have tried it and didn’t care for it), can shed some light on the reasons why people shy away from roleplaying. Most of the reasons people give for not enjoying their experience are among the following:
1) The DM was an asshole
2) Everyone took things super cereal
3) They didn’t understand the rules
4) Everyone was really judgemental
The last reason is something I find among a lot of Geeks. And let me clarify things by saying judgemental behavior is a common theme among ALL subcultures, and is not in any way unique to Geeks. The point here is that it’s difficult (and intimidating) to break into a subculture you’re not a part of. People have encountered judgement on some level, and therefore avoid strange groups and stick to the stereotypes they know and understand.
So, the first thing you need to do in order to convert non-gamers to tabletop roleplaying is be a warm and welcoming individual. I have at least a 26 in Charisma, so that helps me out a lot. Also, I’m really annoying and generally don’t take no for answer, which brings me to the second important thing: persistance. In some cases it took me a year or more to wear people down and get them to try it out.
One good trick that works is to invite a non-gamer over one night when you’re roleplaying, and be all like, “Oh shoot Jerry, I’m sorry I invited you, I forget we were playing tonight. Why don’t you have a beer and watch?” This can be intimidating for some players, and make them feel like they are the ones being judged, but if your players are comfortable with it, it works REALLY well. People get interested in roleplaying when they see others having fun doing it.
It helps to know the person you’re targeting well too. I always describe roleplaying games to potential players differently, depending on what I think they might like. For some I might emphasize character creation, for others combat, and for others acting and theatrics. You just need to know what appeals to whoever you’re talking to, and use that to manipulate them.
I feel that I should also point out that I hang out with a lot of alcoholics. People that like to drink a lot, will usually do anything once you get them drunk, and people have a lot of inhibitions about playing pretend. Beer has been my single greatest weapon in getting people to roleplay. This has one potential drawback: if you get people drunk for their first time roleplaying, they will probably always be drunk when they are roleplaying. For me, this is fine, for others this may get annoying.
To summarize, the biggest weapons in your fight for new converts are:
1) Your charming personality
2) Your unyielding stubborness
3) Trickery and deciet
4) Lots of booze
If none of this works, it’s probably not your fault. Chances are you’re just dealing with a person that takes themself way too seriously. If most of your friends take themselves way too seriously, I recommend finding new friends, preferably ones that aren’t Hipsters.
Roll it like you mean it.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Dungeon Master
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