June 19, 2009

Explaining RPGs to the lay people

The other day I was at the dentist getting the umpteenth filling I need.  I'm in the process of reading Hush Hush, a book for the Unknown Armies setting.  One of the nice dental assistants asked what I was reading, and at that point I have to explain what the book is... and I think I did a good job.

It's hard explaining to someone that doesn't know what a tabletop RPG is not only the basic premise of how to play that kind of game, but then the setting you are reading.  And then do it in 3 minutes before you dentist drills a hole in your tooth.  At the same time, I don't want it to sound too weird.  "My friends and I circle around and one of us it the Master and he tells us when to roll dice!" So how do I explain it?

The key is to focus on storytelling.

Everyone loves a good story, and understand the magic in a good story.  Knowing this, the way I explained it was that there was one person who sets the story and a group of people who play characters in the story.  We use dice to follow the rules.  I think the assistant got the general idea pretty well before I had way too much Novocaine to talk without drooling.

I'm always afraid to mention my geeky hobbies merely because people have a tendency to associate with them with the people who obsess about their hobbies.  We all know who I'm talking about.  That guy (or gal) who spends all day taking meticulous notes about their favorite show/movie/game and waste a big amount of their money of collectors items.  It's also not rare for them to not have good social skills and for them to not shower regularly.  I try not to associate with people like that because they're usually not fun.  They're the rule lawyer at the game table, the guy who has to pwn you on your favorite MMO, and the gal whose one true pairing in her manga fandom cannot be wrong even if it's not cannon.

If you relate what makes your fandom fun in the first place, it becomes a lot more universal.  Storytelling is universal. 

I guess what I'm suggesting is if there is someone out there who doesn't get why you like rolling dice with your friends once a week, ask them "When was the last time you participated in a good story?"  It's hard to argue with that, and even harder to not understand why that's fun.

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