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!!

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11 comments so far

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  1. I occasionally carry gaming books to work so I can read them during my lunch hour. I work alone here but sometimes other works come by for various reasons (fixing stuff I cannot or just to pass time). They have asked me about my books and I’ve answered what they are and what I do with them. They are curious, might think I am a little weird but generally are okay with it.
    People I meet at my work are tough guys. They repair stuff and use machines. Their favorite hobbies are getting drunk and hunting. Or something related to fixing things. Reading and playing games is not their cup of tea. Still I like them and they like me and come here even if they don’t have to. They know about my weird imaginary hobby with books. I bet they are not interested in gaming but accept me as a gamer.

    Usually in my lunch hour I spend also time reading rpg websites (forums, blogs etc.) and when these workers come here they just smile: “Oh, your roleplaying stuff again.”

    I moved here in the countryside from a city. I was more academic person rather than worker. Still I am accepted here as I am. Not as good with industrial stuff, I am not a hunter or my favorite pass time isn’t chopping woods while drinking booze. Still I fit in really well.

    I like it here even though I don’t see gamers around.

  2. […] Being a Roleplayer in a Non-Roleplaying Society from Theo Dudek, Ultimate Game Master ( […]

  3. “When someone asks you a question about something non-gaming-related, turn it towards gaming”

    PLEASE don’t do this, it is one of the things that gives nerds a bad name. It causes people to think that you are obsessed, and by extension, makes gaming something to be avoided. Do we really want to be like those people who turn every conversation into a sports analogy, or an abortion debate, or a political diatribe? Because that’s what ths sounds like to me.

    Apart from that, though, I agree that we need to move past “gamer shame”. In a word where we are becoming less connected with people around us, activities like tabletop games should be celebrated, not hidden.

  4. […] Being a Roleplayer in a Non-Roleplaying Society from Theo Dudek, Ultimate Game Master ( […]

  5. I know this is a fabrication– written from the point of view of an unhealthily RPG-obsessed eternal 17-year old, so for the sake of people who may not be in on the gag, please: no one follow this advice.

    The “pick RPG-themed” names stuff only goes so far. But the reality is that anytime you see that, you’re more likely to think “this person is obsessed and over the top” and not “oh, that sounds interesting” or the like. Indeed, this isn’t just limited to RPGs. If I had an email that read “” or named my team “the white bishops” or whatever, people would think I’m just a chess geek and deliberately not ask questions so as to avoid getting roped into some drawn out discussion of chess. Same goes for people like like vampires, Harry Potter, and even sports. Seriously. It’s a hobby.

    Obviously, no serious person would go to a fantasy football draft with a “made-up” player in an attempt to plug the awesomeness of role-playing. That’s stupid. (“For my first pick, I’m going to take the running back Fab Recashaun.” “Uh, dude, that’s not a real player. What are you talking about.” “I know! I’m role playing!” “Leave.”)

    And “aleactoric lifestyle”?? For real? Man, this 17-year old really boned up on his SAT words!!

    Anyhow, point is: yes, don’t be ashamed that you play a game. But holy hell! Don’t ever be like the kid portrayed in this fake blog. The stereotypes portrayed here (wearing a stupid d20 necklace, relating everything to D&D, etc.) only hurt the hobby.

  6. @Lance – Actually, people often respect the beliefs of others EVEN MORE because they seem “obsessed.” People who are clearly firm in their beliefs may initially “scare off” outsiders, but actually, they are far more likely to respect an “obsessed” gamer in the long run than they respect some wishy-washy gamer who says “Oh, I used to play D&D… in college… now I don’t have time anymore” or “Oh, yeah, D&D, I play board games once in a while, ha ha, how about some Settlers of Catan?”

    Thanks for your comments about my vocabulary, I won’t list my SAT scores here because I don’t want to seem lordly or supercilious. Although you may (?) disapprove of “SAT words”, you should know that the biggest single contribution to my vocabulary was in fact the 1st edition Dungeon Master’s Guide and Player’s Handbook, from which I learned many words such as “dweomer,” “reagent”, “doxy” etc. The point of my post is, if you are lucky and smart enough to be a roleplayer, DON’T HIDE IT! DON’T BE A HALF-HEARTED, HALFWAY, WEEKENDS-ONLY GAMER, BE A FIERY HOT OR ICE-COLD 100% ALL-THE-TIME GAMER! Casual gamers are like the lukewarm water I spit out of my mouth! :0==

  7. @”Theo” thanks for your reply. Re “obsessed”, I will disagree. I’ll also argue that plenty of “gamers” (such as the group I play with) are happy to play for a few hours once a week (or so). But I also watch sports, I run, I have a full-time job, play chess, and other things besides. I don’t “hide” my gaming, but I also don’t bust out saving throw/orc/fireball/die-rolling/etc., comments in unrelated contexts. As Brent above noted, it just plays into stereotype and turns people off. Why not go all out and wear jeans with “ironic” (or game-themed) t-shirts all the time, skip showers regularly, grow a goatee and pony tail, and live off of pizza and Mountain Dew?

    I don’t think I’m doing a disservice to gaming by buying products from publishers and playing games I like on a somewhat regular basis with people I like.

    Re vocabulary: I agree completely. I’m must older than you (or, this fictional character), but I actually grew up on 1e and learned a host of words from the game– as well as concepts like government types, probabilities, and so on. (And my GRE scores were almost perfect.)

    In any even, I having a debate with a fictional kid isn’t the most interesting thing to do in the world, so I’ll leave it at that. I just wanted to offer an alternative view in the event that people were reading this and thinking that bringing up D&D during marketing strategy session would be an awesome idea. It’s not.

  8. @Lance – I don’t grow a goatee because I do not have to shave yet, although IMHO I also think a smooth-faced GM may be more inviting to newbies. I don’t understand why you harp on my enjoyment of fictional literature, maybe you think GMs should not read prose fiction, but in that respect we must agree to disagree

  9. Well, yes, the image you post looks like… well, maybe your 14 year-old daughter? I’m not sure. But obviously “you” are not growing facial hair. I have no idea how newbies might react to a new GM. It probably depends. If they’re 15, then someone like “Theo” might work. If they’re 27, then no, “Theo” is probably not going to be particularly inviting.

    As for fiction: dude, this is your warped creation. I don’t know if it’s selling you more books or otherwise satisfying some sort of psychological need. Good luck with it.

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