56 thoughts on “3 of the 6 games listed are not RPGs. I”m not sure I see how that helps anyone get into RPGs. (But I”m willing to…

  1. Netrunner is a weird choice, but the other non-RPGs (which typically incorporate a lot of play-acting) make sense to me. I don’t have a lot of experience with Mysterium, only had it described to me and it sounded like there’s roleplaying going on so maybe not, but the various werewolf games I’ve played in always have people roleplaying their characters.

  2. < ![CDATA[Netrunner is a weird choice, but the other non-RPGs (which typically incorporate a lot of play-acting) make sense to me. I don't have a lot of experience with Mysterium, only had it described to me and it sounded like there's roleplaying going on so maybe not, but the various werewolf games I've played in always have people roleplaying their characters.]]>

  3. Actually, no, Netrunner makes sense too – playing a single character, developing their abilities and equipment, against an asymmetric opposition? That makes sense too, it’s just not usually what I emphasize about RPGs.

  4. < ![CDATA[Actually, no, Netrunner makes sense too - playing a single character, developing their abilities and equipment, against an asymmetric opposition? That makes sense too, it's just not usually what I emphasize about RPGs.]]>

  5. < ![CDATA[Werewolf is actually pretty good advice. Netrunner, no. Risus OH HELL NO. Mysterium I'm not feeling, not sure where they're going with that. Collaborative creativity? Dunno.]]>

  6. As far as I’m concerned this is worlds better and has me feeling way more chill than every post I’ve ever seen that has said, “My (whatever) has expressed interest in playing RPGs for the first time so obviously I’m going to run D&D for them.”

  7. < ![CDATA[As far as I'm concerned this is worlds better and has me feeling way more chill than every post I've ever seen that has said, "My (whatever) has expressed interest in playing RPGs for the first time so obviously I’m going to run D&D for them.”]]>

  8. I don’t know the not-RPGs mentioned from Adam. They could be great! I just find the idea that someone new to RPGs should spend time playing games that are not RPGs as some sort of prep exercise (like what John said above) to be pretty ridiculous.

  9. < ![CDATA[I don't know the not-RPGs mentioned from Adam. They could be great! I just find the idea that someone new to RPGs should spend time playing games that are not RPGs as some sort of prep exercise (like what John said above) to be pretty ridiculous.]]>

  10. Bret Gillan More than a few commenters on the article* suggested 5e. I didn’t see anyone (besides me) suggest the idea of asking the newcomer what they might want to play. I don’t know why that’s never an option.

    Oh, and I hear you. Comment plussed.

    * Yeah, I read the comments.

  11. < ![CDATA[Bret Gillan More than a few commenters on the article* suggested 5e. I didn't see anyone (besides me) suggest the idea of asking the newcomer what they might want to play. I don’t know why that’s never an option.
    Oh, and I hear you. Comment plussed.
    * Yeah, I read the comments.]]>

  12. Huh. Now I’m tempted to start a G+ community aimed at helping newcomers with genuinely useful advice, maybe one topic per post, plus answering questions.

    But I’m guessing there are like a billion of those already.

  13. < ![CDATA[Huh. Now I'm tempted to start a G+ community aimed at helping newcomers with genuinely useful advice, maybe one topic per post, plus answering questions. But I'm guessing there are like a billion of those already.]]>

  14. I’m confused about why folks are confused. Sure, there’s lots to disagree with on this list, but the author has a list of things she sees as hurdles to overcome to get into RPGs and has made a list of games, whether RPGs or not, that directly approach those hurdles.

    Reading between the lines:

    1. RPGs require improvisation. Fiasco is almost entirely just a structured theatre sports-type improv. Play it to practice improvisation.
    2. RPGs have a lot of rules and are often asymmetrical. Netrunner is arguably a more-approachable game than the standard RPG that also has lots of rules and is asymmetrical.
    3. RPGs require collaboration and interpretation. Mysterium thrives when the players work together using their limited resources efficiently.
    4. RPGs require working with strangers (at cons, anyway, or if you’re trying to join a pre-existing group) and sometimes requires precise spotlight management. Werewolf teaches those skills.
    5. RPGs often have idiosyncratic ways of working backstory details into characters. Risus has a structure for that, without having a lot of rules complexities and interactions. I probably would have suggested Fate Accelerated for this spot, but that’s a preference.
    6. Honestly, this one is perplexing to me. Mouse Guard is a great RPG with an accessible theme and the rules are well designed to teach a certain style of play, but if you’re going to just recommend it for that, then it doesn’t match the rest of my list.

  15. < ![CDATA[I'm confused about why folks are confused. Sure, there's lots to disagree with on this list, but the author has a list of things she sees as hurdles to overcome to get into RPGs and has made a list of games, whether RPGs or not, that directly approach those hurdles. Reading between the lines: 1. RPGs require improvisation. Fiasco is almost entirely just a structured theatre sports-type improv. Play it to practice improvisation.
    2. RPGs have a lot of rules and are often asymmetrical. Netrunner is arguably a more-approachable game than the standard RPG that also has lots of rules and is asymmetrical.
    3. RPGs require collaboration and interpretation. Mysterium thrives when the players work together using their limited resources efficiently.
    4. RPGs require working with strangers (at cons, anyway, or if you’re trying to join a pre-existing group) and sometimes requires precise spotlight management. Werewolf teaches those skills.
    5. RPGs often have idiosyncratic ways of working backstory details into characters. Risus has a structure for that, without having a lot of rules complexities and interactions. I probably would have suggested Fate Accelerated for this spot, but that’s a preference.
    6. Honestly, this one is perplexing to me. Mouse Guard is a great RPG with an accessible theme and the rules are well designed to teach a certain style of play, but if you’re going to just recommend it for that, then it doesn’t match the rest of my list.]]>

  16. I’m a little confused about who the article is really for. Board or video gamers looking for cross-over experiences? Non-gamer nerds of another ilk? The list is a little all over the map, and assumes too much about the potential newcomer and the purported similarities between board games and rpgs. (Emphasizing that a roleplaying game is like a board game can actually be counter-productive.) The article also assumes that board games, or things like board games, are automatically easier to grok. But in my experience, that’s just not true for a lot of people. Board games feel familiar because they have things lots of people expect like competition and well-defined goals; however, the rules overhead in many board games (Netrunner included) is much higher than in many RPGs. I mean, maybe if you’re comparing it to something like Rifts or Pathfinder, but who would suggest those as entry-points into the hobby for someone without a stated preference for lots of crunchy rules systems?

    I think a better approach would be to customize the suggestions to the player, as Mark suggests above. Yet given the conceit of the article is about being as broad-based as possible, I think you need to select six games that cover as wide a gamut of styles as possible to suss out what someone might like. Fiasco is a good choice here for something more improv-ish. In the D&D realm, if you don’t want 5e for some reason, I think one of the D&D board game implementations is a decent choice — something like Wrath of Ashardalon. (HeroQuest is what helped get me into roleplaying. And yes, I know this seems to contradict what I said above, but the game is very close to the full-blown rpg, nicely covers a specific style, requires no GM, and is only one choice amongst six. Or, you know, you could just buy them the 5e Starter Set, which is pretty damn good at ramping the players up slowly.) I’d also try to cover a spectrum of genres to show the newcomer there is more to rpgs than your traditional fantasy.

  17. < ![CDATA[I'm a little confused about who the article is really for. Board or video gamers looking for cross-over experiences? Non-gamer nerds of another ilk? The list is a little all over the map, and assumes too much about the potential newcomer and the purported similarities between board games and rpgs. (Emphasizing that a roleplaying game is like a board game can actually be counter-productive.) The article also assumes that board games, or things like board games, are automatically easier to grok. But in my experience, that's just not true for a lot of people. Board games feel familiar because they have things lots of people expect like competition and well-defined goals; however, the rules overhead in many board games (Netrunner included) is much higher than in many RPGs. I mean, maybe if you're comparing it to something like Rifts or Pathfinder, but who would suggest those as entry-points into the hobby for someone without a stated preference for lots of crunchy rules systems? I think a better approach would be to customize the suggestions to the player, as Mark suggests above. Yet given the conceit of the article is about being as broad-based as possible, I think you need to select six games that cover as wide a gamut of styles as possible to suss out what someone might like. Fiasco is a good choice here for something more improv-ish. In the D&D realm, if you don't want 5e for some reason, I think one of the D&D board game implementations is a decent choice -- something like Wrath of Ashardalon. (HeroQuest is what helped get me into roleplaying. And yes, I know this seems to contradict what I said above, but the game is very close to the full-blown rpg, nicely covers a specific style, requires no GM, and is only one choice amongst six. Or, you know, you could just buy them the 5e Starter Set, which is pretty damn good at ramping the players up slowly.) I'd also try to cover a spectrum of genres to show the newcomer there is more to rpgs than your traditional fantasy.]]>

  18. I suppose there’s an argument to be made that the name “Dungeons and Dragons” might be enough to turn people off. The game does have a reputation, sometimes good and sometimes bad. Perhaps sidestepping that potential trap is wise? I don’t know. Depends on the person, as with all things.

    I’d also throw some more indie-love into the mix. Short, focused play experiences are what so many indie games specialize in. Why not take advantage? Based on customer feedback, I know Mars Colony’s two-player focus has helped lots of people get over the hump of feeling self-conscious because they can play with just one person they already feel comfortable with — but there are other options here. I’m not trying to advertise.

  19. < ![CDATA[I suppose there's an argument to be made that the name "Dungeons and Dragons" might be enough to turn people off. The game does have a reputation, sometimes good and sometimes bad. Perhaps sidestepping that potential trap is wise? I don't know. Depends on the person, as with all things. I'd also throw some more indie-love into the mix. Short, focused play experiences are what so many indie games specialize in. Why not take advantage? Based on customer feedback, I know Mars Colony's two-player focus has helped lots of people get over the hump of feeling self-conscious because they can play with just one person they already feel comfortable with -- but there are other options here. I'm not trying to advertise.]]>

  20. Not to be a jerk, but I’ve noticed that more I know on a particular topic, the less accurate the average Io9 article on that topic turns out to be. Through that lens, I’ve just started to assume they don’t hire people to write who actually know their topic or do any fact checking.

  21. < ![CDATA[Not to be a jerk, but I've noticed that more I know on a particular topic, the less accurate the average Io9 article on that topic turns out to be. Through that lens, I've just started to assume they don't hire people to write who actually know their topic or do any fact checking.]]>

  22. I think one of the problems with any intro advice is that “tabletop role playing game” is a ridiculously broad umbrella. Most of the time it becomes a platform for the advisor to assert their brand identity: “[My favorite game] is a great game for beginners!”

    (Not saying you are doing that, Tim Koppang. Parallel commenting.)

    And this identity is usually pretty hardcore nerd — I give this list credit for not being entirely genre stuff, but it’s still mostly SF/fantasy. Where’s the intro games article for people who want a Gilmore Girls or Moonlight game?

  23. < ![CDATA[I think one of the problems with any intro advice is that "tabletop role playing game" is a ridiculously broad umbrella. Most of the time it becomes a platform for the advisor to assert their brand identity: "[My favorite game] is a great game for beginners!" (Not saying you are doing that, Tim Koppang. Parallel commenting.) And this identity is usually pretty hardcore nerd — I give this list credit for not being entirely genre stuff, but it's still mostly SF/fantasy. Where's the intro games article for people who want a Gilmore Girls or Moonlight game?]]>

  24. Mark Delsing, no worries. It’s a valid point. If I really fleshed out a list of six, I’d try hard to cast a wide net, even including games that aren’t necessarily my favs, but that nonetheless exhibit a particular style really well (see Fiasco). Even then, my personal biases would creep in.

  25. < ![CDATA[Mark Delsing, no worries. It's a valid point. If I really fleshed out a list of six, I'd try hard to cast a wide net, even including games that aren't necessarily my favs, but that nonetheless exhibit a particular style really well (see Fiasco). Even then, my personal biases would creep in.]]>

  26. So here’s a possible explanation.

    Editor: “Hey, you do roleplaying, like that nordic shit where people fuck in the woods?”

    Reporter: “Uh. No? That… no.”

    Editor: “I want you to do a story about how to get into woods fucking.”

    Reporter: “WTF?”

    Editor: “Do you want to get paid or not?”

    Reporter: “Okay, fine. I’ll write about D&D and White Wolf, as those are the only games that any normal human being has ever heard of.”

    Editor: “Sorry, SEO doesn’t register them, and we are banning Hasbro right now. So do it with games from this approved list of names.”

    Reporter: OMG. This is the .. .what the fuck happened to free press. Can I at least list two games that I actually had fun playing?

    Editor: So long as D&D, World of Darkness, and Rifts aren’t on the list.

    Reporter: Rifts?

    Editor: I don’t want to talk about it. ::SOBS:: I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT WHAT KEVIN DID TO MY GLITTERBOY!!!

    Reporter: I cannot fucking believe this is happening. Fine, here’s an article that uses the approved lists, plus two game that I actually liked.

    Editor: Oh, someone put in a hyperlink to this Polaris game.

    Intern: Here is the first Polaris game I found on Amazon. Certaintly there cannot be two RPGs called Polaris….

    Internet: OMG, HOW DID SOMEONE COME UP WITH THIS LIST IT IS NOT LOGIC!?

    Spock: Indeed, who would have thought that click bait and pay by the word would lead to poor journalism.

    P.S. I actually like the article. I don’t agree with it, but it’s a different take than the standard crap.

  27. < ![CDATA[So here's a possible explanation. Editor: "Hey, you do roleplaying, like that nordic shit where people fuck in the woods?" Reporter: "Uh. No? That... no." Editor: "I want you to do a story about how to get into woods fucking." Reporter: "WTF?" Editor: "Do you want to get paid or not?" Reporter: "Okay, fine. I'll write about D&D and White Wolf, as those are the only games that any normal human being has ever heard of." Editor: "Sorry, SEO doesn't register them, and we are banning Hasbro right now. So do it with games from this approved list of names." Reporter: OMG. This is the .. .what the fuck happened to free press. Can I at least list two games that I actually had fun playing? Editor: So long as D&D, World of Darkness, and Rifts aren't on the list. Reporter: Rifts? Editor: I don't want to talk about it. ::SOBS:: I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT WHAT KEVIN DID TO MY GLITTERBOY!!! Reporter: I cannot fucking believe this is happening. Fine, here's an article that uses the approved lists, plus two game that I actually liked. Editor: Oh, someone put in a hyperlink to this Polaris game. Intern: Here is the first Polaris game I found on Amazon. Certaintly there cannot be two RPGs called Polaris.... Internet: OMG, HOW DID SOMEONE COME UP WITH THIS LIST IT IS NOT LOGIC!? Spock: Indeed, who would have thought that click bait and pay by the word would lead to poor journalism. P.S. I actually like the article. I don't agree with it, but it's a different take than the standard crap.]]>

  28. I feel the article must be for the reluctant curious potential gamer. My wife credits me for turning her into a gamer geek, but it was really bringing her past Monopoly to more”RPGish” games that made her interested and comfortable trying actual RPGs.

    Some barriers stop people from being interested, even though they may be curious about your hobby. I have friends that believe that as an adult they must forgo games for more mature pursuits. That’s as foreign a concept to me as my hobby is to them.

    I believe these types of games (although maybe not that particular list) can create a bridge for the curious. Using the term interested was probably incorrect and if the author is speaking to people actually pursuing interest then I agree with what most of you have said.

    Also, regarding asking the newbie what they want to play has a couple potential issues. First, as mentioned in the article, there are a lot of choices. Too many for we experienced gamers (what are you running next Gameday +Mark Delsing ?). Second, they may not know what they want. Who knew 15 years ago that they wanted an iPhone?

  29. < ![CDATA[I feel the article must be for the reluctant curious potential gamer. My wife credits me for turning her into a gamer geek, but it was really bringing her past Monopoly to more"RPGish" games that made her interested and comfortable trying actual RPGs. Some barriers stop people from being interested, even though they may be curious about your hobby. I have friends that believe that as an adult they must forgo games for more mature pursuits. That's as foreign a concept to me as my hobby is to them. I believe these types of games (although maybe not that particular list) can create a bridge for the curious. Using the term interested was probably incorrect and if the author is speaking to people actually pursuing interest then I agree with what most of you have said. Also, regarding asking the newbie what they want to play has a couple potential issues. First, as mentioned in the article, there are a lot of choices. Too many for we experienced gamers (what are you running next Gameday +Mark Delsing ?). Second, they may not know what they want. Who knew 15 years ago that they wanted an iPhone?]]>

  30. It does seem kind of weird to need to build up to RPGs by playing other games, like RPGs are a decathlon that you have to train up to. But I guess some of the Big Boys on the Block would seem that way. A maze of weirdness asking you to understand a million crazy rules while at the same time loosening up and playing pretend, possibly with strangers? Sure, coming at it out of the blue and trying to grok Pathfinder, I can see being like “oh my god I wasn’t ready for this, if only I had some way to train up to this.” But video gamers aren’t coming at it out of the blue; the video gaming world as we know it was heavily inspired by tabletop RPGs in the first place. To them it’d just be like: “you’re playing a video game, but there’s no computer, so the display and controls are verbal, there’s a dude who does the work of the game engine, and we use a physical RNG and our algorithms come from a book. The written down algorithms are a hassle but on the up side, we have infinite content, whatever we can think of and describe can be there. DLC from your brain, man.”

  31. < ![CDATA[It does seem kind of weird to need to build up to RPGs by playing other games, like RPGs are a decathlon that you have to train up to. But I guess some of the Big Boys on the Block would seem that way. A maze of weirdness asking you to understand a million crazy rules while at the same time loosening up and playing pretend, possibly with strangers? Sure, coming at it out of the blue and trying to grok Pathfinder, I can see being like "oh my god I wasn't ready for this, if only I had some way to train up to this." But video gamers aren't coming at it out of the blue; the video gaming world as we know it was heavily inspired by tabletop RPGs in the first place. To them it'd just be like: "you're playing a video game, but there's no computer, so the display and controls are verbal, there's a dude who does the work of the game engine, and we use a physical RNG and our algorithms come from a book. The written down algorithms are a hassle but on the up side, we have infinite content, whatever we can think of and describe can be there. DLC from your brain, man."]]>

  32. Ed Heil Anyone determined to play PF has a bunch of entry vectors, like their intro set or their card game.

    And yeah, video gamers will already understand the basics, and other people are better off staying the hell away from PF.

  33. < ![CDATA[Ed Heil Anyone determined to play PF has a bunch of entry vectors, like their intro set or their card game. And yeah, video gamers will already understand the basics, and other people are better off staying the hell away from PF.]]>

  34. Kelly Johnson I’m thinking less about asking the hypothetical newbie about specific games, but more about the kind of experience that interests them. “I really love Game of Thrones on HBO. Is there a game like that?” I feel like that’s a better starting place than “Here’s six games you need to start with before you’re allowed to make your own choice.”

  35. < ![CDATA[Kelly Johnson I'm thinking less about asking the hypothetical newbie about specific games, but more about the kind of experience that interests them. "I really love Game of Thrones on HBO. Is there a game like that?” I feel like that’s a better starting place than “Here’s six games you need to start with before you’re allowed to make your own choice.”]]>

  36. I have found, repeatedly, that it’s the hypernerd subject matter of mainstream gaming that’s a far greater hurdle than procedures or math. Honestly it’s insulting the intelligence of those folks to suggest they can’t add a number to a die roll. It’s even more true when you assume that it’s an experienced facilitator taking inexperienced players through the process.

    I’ve walked, gosh, hundreds of never-gamed-before folks through their first game. I just don’t make it about mecha or orcs or overcomplicated backstories.

  37. < ![CDATA[I have found, repeatedly, that it's the hypernerd subject matter of mainstream gaming that's a far greater hurdle than procedures or math. Honestly it's insulting the intelligence of those folks to suggest they can't add a number to a die roll. It's even more true when you assume that it's an experienced facilitator taking inexperienced players through the process. I've walked, gosh, hundreds of never-gamed-before folks through their first game. I just don't make it about mecha or orcs or overcomplicated backstories.]]>