As I work on new campaigns and wait for D&D 5e to come out (hastily trying to finish all my uncompleted 4e products in the meantime) /o\ , I have been thinking the question that all gamers must ask at some point: how should gamers relate to the society around them?
Unless you are lucky enough to live in Lake Geneva, Indianapolis or Seattle, chances are that you do not live in a roleplaying-friendly environment. Even when I was going to school in Glendale and playing in as many as four campaigns at once, if I asked a random person on the street “What do RPGs mean to you?” chances are they would give me some answer about facebook games. Even with recent advances in the acceptance of roleplaying, D&D is still being described as “human lunacy” and stars like Viggo Mortensen, afraid of being outed, still rush to deny the slightest rumor that they are gamers. Gamers in most of America live in a roleplaying desert, a gaming vacuum. Gamers who want to play RPGs during their lunch hour, for instance, may face the hostility of their coworkers; I even know a group of gamers who played in the restroom for fear of being seen. :(
IMHO, social opportunity is essential for the psychological well being of a person. Speaking as a DM, I am always looking for a bigger gaming group (email me if you live in Escondido!!! theodudek at gmail !!). What opportunities does the non-gamer society provide? When American men get together, they usually talk about baseball, football, women and interest rates, while drinking beer and wine. These things may not generate interest in a roleplayer. He may feel isolated and alone among them. Of course, a gamer who roleplays online may meet other gamers easily. But what about traditional table top roleplay? What about LARPing? What about the personal touch, that Mark Rein*Hagen said was 1,000x more important than the cold, clammy touch of lead miniatures and computer screens??
The answer, I think, is: don’t be ashamed. Don’t be overwhelmed, and remember your mission: the conversion of people to gamers so you have more people to roleplay with! Be proud of your gaming, and soon you’ll have new PCs popping up where you least expect it. Here are some suggestions:
* leave gaming materials on your desk, in your dorm lounge, etc. If you are worried about the expense, make photocopies or printouts.
* choose RPG-specific email addresses, nicknames, cubicle names, team names, etc. “Green Dragon Design Team” is much more enticing than “Mobile Team #2″, and maybe someone will ask about green dragons, giving you an opening to talk about breath weapons, etc.
* When someone asks you a question about something non-gaming-related, turn it towards gaming! Often people don’t realize just how much they have in common with roleplayers. “Flipping” houses can be interpreted as a sort of fantasy treasure acquisition or dungeon crawl. Fantasy sports are an easy gateway to gaming; come to a fantasy football meeting and bring a new, made-up player instead of using the statistics provided by the group, or, actually roleplay a specific player instead of a team manager! Remember: anything can be a RPG!
* bring polyhedral dice with you and roll them occasionally. It’s not necessary to actually have an aleactoric lifestyle, like the hero of the 1971 nonfiction study The Dice Man, but if you make people familiar with the instruments of gaming, the rest may follow. (Players of diceless RPGs may instead write on character sheets, etc.)
* Never be ashamed of who you are. Wear the noble name of roleplaying with pride and dignity, even in the face of ridicule, slander and persecution.
The challenges we face are surely less than those that Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson faced! The grassroots of gaming have now grown all across America, and it’s just a question of making them grow, like vegepygmies. Like Richard O’Brien wrote, “Don’t dream it… be it.” Don’t be discouraged and start your RPG campaign today!!