Four years?

September 26, 2012 at 9:00 am
filed under Blog, Roleplaying
Tagged ,

I guess this blog has been “around” for four years. Amazing.

But this brings me to a painful subject, one which I’ve avoided thinking about for some time. And that subject would be roleplaying. Specifically I mean the utter lack of roleplaying, both on this blog and in my life. There’s some irony, here, in that roleplaying was what animated my desire to start a blog in the first place.

What can I say? With the advent of D&D Next and the slow decline of White Wolf, at least in terms of their print and/or physical books, I’ve lost my taste for it. I don’t take any joy in this. But I recognize the reality of my preferences.

D&D

Some of my declining interest is a function of all the baggage D&D has acquired. The Edition Wars wore me out. 4E wore me out. I liked what it improved but there was a lot left to be desired. And as much as anything else, the fact that a large subset of people rejected it outright made it more contentious than it needed to be.

The alternative is or was Paizo’s Pathfinder. I played the Pathfinder beta in 2008, prior to the release of 4E. I thought Pathfinder itself was a smart move. But I didn’t want another iteration of 3.5E. The design philosophy included an overriding necessity to kneecap everything. 4E gave everybody +2. In 3.x, everyone must reach +0. That was a non-starter.

They’re working on D&D Next, but the only place you’re supposed to talk about it (AIUI) is on their forums. I don’t know much about it, but rumor has it they’re backtracking on a number of mechanics. Consequently my interest level is pretty low.

White Wolf

White Wolf, well, that was a slow demise over the last N years. They had a prodigiously fast release schedule — a deluge — starting in ’04 or so, which slowed down to a very slow drip by the time ’08 rolled around. As much as I love our digital age in so many respects, roleplaying books have some technical limitations. And by that I mean performance. It’s still not quite there, IMHO. So there’s that piece.

The other piece is that we seem to be in the throes of another cycle of nostalgia for the ’90s. I don’t begrudge people their preferences. But I liked the new World of Darkness and was not sad to see the old one go. In my opinion, the old World of Darkness has not aged well.

A case in point: I realized the other day that the 2nd Edition White Wolf books (Mage is what I have in mind) feature song lyrics as opening quotes for various sections. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. But it is evocative of a time which is, like it or not, over. At this point, we’re talking about V20, and as much as that’s something to celebrate, it’s also indicative of the cultural distance between then and now. Twenty years. Two decades!

And this may say more about me than about anything else, but the idealism of the ’90s is gone. Since then, we’ve lived the 2000 US presidential election; 9/11; Afghanistan; Iraq; and so much else.

Another big piece is that I’ve reached the point where it’s borderline offensive to suggest that religion, of all things, ought to be the guiding or animating force in our society. It’s a fictional setting, yes. Yet it lionizes ideas I find highly, highly problematic. If I wish to experience a sense of wonder about the universe, Cosmos is available for free streaming, online.

Now, I don’t think the folks who were originally behind Mage nor the folks who’re behind the latest 20th Anniversary Editions in any way espouse views in line with such as American evangelical Christians. But that’s the context of the now, for me. It turns out that reality is substantially more nuanced than religion versus science.

Overhead

The other piece is that roleplaying requires a lot of overhead, in the form of prep and setting it up. Somehow I just fell out of the habit, and now it seems a lot harder. Other hobbies have come to the fore, programming chief among them.

Programming is directly related to my job. And I enjoy it for its own sake.

Is this the end?

Maybe. Someone mentioned semi-casually that I had quit roleplaying. I hadn’t thought about it that way. It’s an accurate description of how it works out in practice. My last game ended in ’10, at the latest. I’ve run a couple of one-shots since then, including the Dark Sun one shot. But somehow it wasn’t enough to keep me coming back.

The irony, I suppose, is that someone has asked me to help or plan a game. The prospect of getting a new group into it is appealing in the abstract. My wife may actually run it. But my level of personal investment is pretty small. And in general my recurring thoughts about roleplaying scenarios have become more and more rare.

More and more I look my collection of books as stuff. I’m not ready to sell my books or anything like that. I think I’m too sentimental to get rid of them altogether. And I don’t think I’d get much for them anyway. So for now I’ll keep them, and remember reading them fondly. I still feel a spark from time to time. But as I said those times are fewer and farther between.

  • Michael

    You know, WhiteWolf does have that lack of nuance, but I couldn’t take it seriously even back in the day. I have always used their enormously fun storytelling mechanics and visions of monsters/fantasy classes and made the world as interesting and fitting to the group as it should be. For this reason I think M:tA is the best White Wolf game because it is so non-restricting. My other favorite is Changeling’s rewarding long and interesting stories made up on the spot but we never found as much to do from the fey perspective as we have as mages.

    My group has adopted the 2nd WoD’s streamlining of combat etc. but kept the extreme flexibility of Ascension and hope to be playing in such a way 20 years from now. Sadly, the frequency of play declines as we leave our 20s further behind, but the constancy of even a quarterly partially attended session or fully attended via Skype, or an annual get-together involving plane tickets and hotels and children, becomes more and more of a comfort.

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