Before I left for work today, in the time I usually sit and contemplate before getting on with it, I had to listen to a diatribe from my partner. She has been looking into a D&D group that participates Wednesday nights with an eye to joining them, because lately I'm not running and she's feeling the pinch. Unfortunately for her, she has - for the first time - gotten a close look at the 'other half.'
She began running in my world in 2004, after two years of our being together. Like most people, she hadn't heard of D&D. We met in the period when I wasn't running a campaign, but when I was working very hard to solve the 'trade problem,' as I called it, a mental and experimental exercise I had worked on for several years. When I did begin to run again, she joined in, a bit unsure about whether she would like this 'thing,' as she still calls it.
Ten years later, and hungry for the thing, she went out looking for other people to play with, and found them. It's a group that I've mentioned from time to time, that have recently moved from 4e to D&D Next (being one of those groups that play-tested the game, so they are not waiting for the 'release'). She had watched three times before last night, getting the feel for it, and last night she decided to jump in.
There was something else that was special about last night. Having made friends, my partner was really anxious to sell tickets for the fundraiser in June, and to show my book around to see what people thought. It was a great opportunity, she thought.
Then she found out what D&D players are really like. Thus the diatribe this morning.
"Why are D&D players so arrogant? Why do they spend so much of their time making jokes? You'd think they'd want to play the game! And all this stupid blather about +1 this and I used this bonus and +1 that and swung to hit the creature and missed and OMG what the fuck is wrong with these people?" . . . or words to that effect.
I'm pretty inured, but of course half the things she said are things right out of this blog (which she doesn't always read), along with things I've more or less known since the beginning. Role-players are staggeringly, conscientiously, capaciously - and some would say endearingly - resistant to change. Which is a bit funny, since my partner's stubbornness is one of the things that I love deeply about her, however much it can exhaust me.
There are a number of reasons for this, some that role-players are well aware of, and others that simply don't attach themselves to thought. Many role-players began their lives growing up on the outside of things. Being on the 'outside' was infuriating . . . and once they found the game, and got on the inside of something for the first time in their lives, they can be very protective of that inside. Once inside, many role-players adopt an attitude that says everyone else can fucking sit on the outside now. Most don't know they're doing that. Most would be upset that they do that, as they remember very clearly just how much they hated being outside. But turnaround is human nature.
As to the jokes, well . . . I've thought about this a lot. I've written about this a lot. Having listened to my partner this morning, however, I've had a slight breakthrough. See, as one might expect, and without letting it go to my head (she's my partner, after all, and unaccountably biased), she kept saying, "It's not like your game." Let's not compare, however, as that's not the point here. The point is that I believe that the constant humour my partner witnessed, the general feeling of it, comes from the game being awfully boring.
The jokes really aren't that good. That is part of the reason why role-playing videos are so dismal. People make little comments, half-rated jibes, players chuckle grimly and so goes the innane tedium that possesses so many of the games. As I've said before, it doesn't happen with chess, bridge, go, poker, etc. Nor does it happen with spectators at hockey games, football games or freakin' NASCAR. Sit in the stands at NASCAR, watching what I consider the most boring spectacle mankind has managed to create, and count the number of lame jokes that are made. Because those people who have paid to get in are very interested in what is going on. Boring for me. Not at all boring for the enthusiasts.
I'm of the opinion that table-top role-players are the only participants that are bored with their own enthusiasm. It is the only possible explanation. The game as played by most everyone is so dry, so dull, so agonizingly lacking in pace that the participants themselves feel compelled to interest themselves any way they can. They can't wait for the DM to pedantically describe another hallway, or for one of the players to go around searching everything, one . . . more . . . time. They have to make a pained comment. They have to break the monotony. OMG, they have to. This game is so motherf'king boring.
I worry. I worry because one of the important sections of my book is how to deal with stress. I experience an immense amount of stress as I'm playing. Within a half-hour I am often pouring sweat. Things are moving very fast, with everyone invested, and it's a lot to handle. So I talk for quite awhile about what stress it, what it does to people, effects and so on, and how to handle it and even make it work for you.
Then I see something like this and it's like the title of yesterday's blog post: what the hell am I on about? Seriously. Here's a screenshot from the link I just posted:
I swear, I did not have to cherry pick this shot. I picked a random point in the video and took the image. This is from 1:00:23.
Look at these guys. The one in green is talking, and four of them have their heads down, completely self-possessed in whatever the hell they're doing. Run the video from this point and you'll see, they don't lift their heads. And the guy in black on the left, who at least looks like he's listening? He's actually digging in his backpack for something.
I wish I could express with words how truly un-engaged these guys sound. They sit with extraordinary lethargy, except when they rise and leave the table without comment or a word, since plainly nothing is going on, while their voices are so sluggish I swear it is as though the sound were playing at 9/10ths speed.
But I don't want to single out these guys. These guys are normal.
Admit it. D&D bores the shit out of you. You should really stop playing. Honest. You're getting old enough now, you have money, you can afford now be doing things you actually enjoyed doing. These people around you aren't that great - you could have way better friends if you just stopped playing this silly die-driven game.
When this Saturday comes around, and one of your so-called friends asks you to come around to role-play, just make an excuse. Say that you have to help your mom move, or that you've got to go to a symposium or something. Make something up. When they say that really sucks, and that they feel bad, you just role-play yourself right the fuck out of that conversation. Say it to yourself: jeez what a bunch of fucking losers.
You are SO better off without them.