I am tired. Not just tired of trying to find players who will engage with a game on its own terms, nor merely tired of pulling teeth to get people to respond to my queries for a time and place to game. My fatigue is a lot simpler:
I am tired of Dungeons & Dragons.
I spend hours upon hours tweaking the rules to my liking. I seek the input of the few players that can attend consistently. I draw maps, and stock them, and work out connections between various antagonists, both individual and collective. And what happens?
Some players never answer the text messages that get sent out. (I figured out years ago that trying to get anyone to answer a phone call is a lost cause.) The few that show up barely pay attention, and complain that the rules aren't to their liking... even though I specifically solicited their advice, and they said nothing. Having come to associate "D&D" with a fantasy version of The Avengers in tabletop form, they balk at only getting one attack per round, at not being able to cast spells and wield war-axes simultaneously, and at having to engage with the game world in a deeper way than rolling a d20 and adding some numbers to the roll.
Another (large) part of my exhaustion has to do with my campaign setting. Of the three original players who attended the first session, one of them is too busy to play any more, and the other two may never talk to me again due to some out-of-game social crap that happened. Some other players have dropped out, some due to time constraints, others as part of a temper tantrum (how dare I let their character get killed). I've spent so much time improving the maps, adding details, and trying to create a more lifelike world, but to someone who shows up for one session and then drops off the face of the Earth, it just doesn't matter.
|I originally read this comic well before I even started running D&D.|
But the engine and the upholstery are less of an issue than the configuration itself. Go to the tavern, go to the dungeon, kill the goblins, go get your reward, lather, rinse, repeat. I realize that not every game has to follow this pattern, but I keep sliding into it because it's easier for new players to understand - players who might be completely new to the very concept of a roleplaying game - and because even the slightly-less-new players are too disinterested to want anything else.
I keep sending people to the dungeon, and I now feel imprisoned, restrained, and in the dark. A fitting punishment, I suppose.
So as not to end on a completely pessimistic note, this is part of the reason I've been trying alternative games - not just different editions of D&D, different retroclones, or different fantasy heartbreakers. Games that are different inside and out, with different mechanics and different aims. Many of these are storytelling "games", and I've accepted that some of the people I game with just do not want to put in the effort required of an actual, risk-based, rule-based roleplaying game.
The game of Vampire: The Masquerade that I've been working on (in collaboration with a friend) looks promising, if the senior projects of two of my players don't scupper it before we even finish the Preludes. A modern-day urban setting is completely alien to me from a gaming perspective, and it's forcing me to stretch myself in a different direction. It's actually kind of refreshing.
I've also finally bit the bullet and ordered my copy of Unwritten, a game set in the universe of the Myst computer games. Exploration, discovery, and nonviolent gameplay are all things that greatly appeal to me, and there are even rules for creating one's own Ages. At this point, I've been reading through the PDF, and it seems very interesting. Hopefully I can find some like-minded players soon - perhaps from the group I play in, which will soon be trying a Powered by the Apocalypse cyberpunk game. Yes, collaborative storytelling is very different from D&D, but it's still something I enjoy.
The other advantage of this type of game? If the players don't engage with the setting, there's no game. In cruder terms, they have to "piss or get off the pot". Though it remains to be seen what they'll do, they have to do something, which will hopefully result in a more fulfilling experience for all of us.