OK gang. Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, here are the shenanigans of Skyrim. Got it? Good.

It has become a truism in tabletop gaming that “this hobby isn’t like a video game.” We’ve got to say that to one another because, if you’re anything like me, you spent your first ever game of D&D talking to random bar patrons. I can’t imagine where I got that idea from.

It’s important to remember that, for newcomers especially, Tabletop Role-Playing Games (TRPGs) are an unfamiliar genre. Not everybody has the benefit of Laurel’s experience, growing up under the table as her dad’s group lobbed Robotech missiles at one another. We’re swimming in a vast ocean of media, surrounded on all sides by film and television and social eating Twitch streams. Is it any surprise that newcomers rely on what they know when they first get behind the wheel of a Level 1 character sheet? For many gamers, trying to emulate a Computer Role-Playing Game (CRPG) at the table is an inevitable first step. As veterans of the hobby, we should make sure that’s a step through an open doorway rather than into a brick wall.

Remember: None of this comes naturally. You pick up genre conventions by dint of slow experience, more so in TRPGs than other forms of media. The fragmentation of the hobby—every group having its own micro-culture—means that one game of get-your-feet-wet D&D Adventurers League looks nothing like your buddy’s fancy new Dungeon World campaign. For some of us, the cheeky shenanigans of “put a bucket on the guard’s head and steal some stuff” may be hilarious hijinks. For others, it’s an unwelcome immersion-breaker. But what its’ not, and what you shouldn’t let it become, is a reason to shout “bad wrong fun!” like you’re a freaking body snatcher.

Question of the day then. Have you ever encountered TRPG newcomers who tried to treat a pen and paper session like a CRPG? How did they deal with the culture shock? How did you? Let’s hear it in the comments!


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