Sunday, September 24, 2006

A small circle of friends

Once again, Bill Stoddard brings out the concept of the gaming circle. A great idea, and one of the goals that I had in the back of my mind with the formation of the Cleveland Gamers group. It is still the principal around which I would like to have a larger scale group organized but it just seems less and less possible as time goes along.

I'm not really sure what it is that the concept keeps butting up against, but (for some reason) I can't seem to get it to work. The idea of a large circle of gamers drawing upon each other for games, campaigns, ideas and general support seems to be a natural one but it just doesn't get far up off of the ground.

In the back of my head things like the Geek Social Fallacies pop up, and it makes me wonder exactly how true those fallacies really are. Maintaining any sort of social dynamic among a group of people who probably aren't the most social of individuals is never an easy task. I am not saying that is a problem with the Cleveland Gamers (the people who aren't the most social of creatures that is) but subtle issues of social dynamic do lurk beneath the surface whenever you gather more than three people together into any one location.

A small circle of friends
As a result of online discussions of roleplaying games, I've had it borne in on me that my approach, which I always took to be the obvious and straightforward way of doing things, has a number of peculiarities when compared with how a lot of people game. This is about one of them.

It appears that a fairly common social pattern among gamers is the 'gaming group.' This is a set of people small enough so that they can all play together in a session of an rpg, who meet—most often weekly, but sometimes biweekly, monthly, or irregularly—for the purpose of doing so. The meetings continue indefinitely, either as one long campaign, or through a succession of new campaigns. If a new campaign is started, it's because a member of the group offers to run it and is accepted; and depending on the group culture, either the nature of the new campaign is presented in advance and must receive group approval, or the GM throws the players into it and may face dissatisfaction, resistance, or open sabotage if it's not what the players want—and the player may feel entitled to engage in such sabotage. Players hardly ever face expulsion from the group, even if they do actively sabotage a campaign or make it not fun for other players; keeping the group together is a higher priority. New players can be introduced, but it takes some effort for them to fit in; most player groups don't actively seek new members.

I describe this in such detail precisely because it's not at all the way I do things, and when I first heard about it it struck me as eccentric, if not outright weird.

Over the last three groups that I have put together there have been a total of five people that I had never previously gamed with, or even know previous to our gaming. That is out of seven gamers that have been in those last three groups (one person has been in all three). I think that's a great thing. It brings fresh perspectives to the table and it helps to keep ideas fresh and flowing. You can't really get stale in your ideas and approaches when you're working new people into the dynamic like that.

One thing, having that high number of new players is actually intentional. I run a pretty active recruiting before I start a campaign and I really love to see new faces at the table. It makes things more fun for me because, despite myself, I am a fairly social individual. I do, on some levels, like meeting people and I consider my gaming to be a social activity first and foremost.

The trick seems to be in figuring out how to convince others that this is a viable method. If you know how to do that, please let me know.

There will be more on this topic in the future, I am sure, as it is something that is on my mind a lot.