Fair warning: This post is going to be a bit more introspective than usual and won’t really be about any specific game. Still, it should be a fun little piece, so read on as I explore how I fell out of love with tabletop role playing games and into love with board games… then back in love with RPGs.
I’ve struggled a bit recently with what to write about here on the blog. I don’t get to play board games as much as Paddy as he lives in the big city where there are plenty of meetups, and I live in the Irish equivalent of the suburbs where there’s only really our regular gaming group. As such I don’t get to play as many games as I’d like which in turn means I have less to write about. We normally meet up once during the week and at the weekend if possible, which is pretty good considering a lot of us have partners and families!
“But Emmet, you bearded Adonis,” I hear you cry, “That’s plenty of time to play games!“
It is… but I’ve been cheating on board games. With tabletop RPGs.
For any regular readers or listeners to the podcast you may remember me mentioning that board games had replaced RPGs for me. There were a number of reasons for this, foremost of which came down to the time commitment required. As I tended to be the GM (that’s “Game Master,” the main storyteller and rules arbiter), I put a lot of time into creating worthwhile adventures and storylines for my players and wasn’t happy running games that I felt were hollow. Looking back on it now I realise I just burned out.
So I drifted away from it. For near enough a year RPGs fell away. I started to make excuses not to run games, or to even play in them. Board games saw an upsurge in our group and I latched onto them. They seemed to solve all the problems I had with RPGs: no real prep work; fun and challenging scenarios; and a self contained story that didn’t require hours and weeks of commitment. And I still got to spend time with my friends. Perfect!
I genuinely loved the games we played. I rejoiced in the narrative that sprang forth with each new game of One Night Ultimate Werewolf; I giggled away at the macabre comic tapestry we wove together in Gloom; and I damn near wet myself at the preposterous candidates that no one would ever hire in Funemployed.
Something was still missing though… Maybe it was the all or nothing intensity of a group of heroes facing down a horde of monsters!? No problem! There’s a board game for that!
So Descent: Journeys in the Dark came to the table. Even though it had its moments our previous experience with tabletop RPGs led to expectations the game couldn’t meet and, in the end, frustration for those involved.
As time went on and we played more and more board games, that tiny little evil GM voice in my head begin to whisper to me. It whispered of unholy creatures crawling from the dark to savage a town, of the Machiavellian machinations of sneering dukes, and most of all it whispered those three beautiful words: Roll for initiative.
The levee finally broke when this was announced:
I’ve always been a big horror fan and had always wanted to play or run a game in the Ravenloft setting – a domain ruled by a vampiric overlord and in a state of perpetual fear. We had also played a few games of 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons and I was quite taken with it. I began tracking the release of Curse of Strahd, checking release dates and reading interviews with designers. I read through the free 5th edition basic rules on the Wizards of the Coast website, and even began reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula to get in the mood.
Curse of Strahd was released and I snapped it up. The three core D&D books came next: the Player’s Handbook, the Dungeon Master’s Guide, and the Monster Manual. We’ve now been playing every Thursday or Friday for 8 weeks and I am well and truly back in love with role playing games.
“That’s great and all but what’s the point of this story?” I hear you chide.
The point, you dashin and astute reader you, is that I haven’t been able to write for The Crafty Players because I felt like a fraud. How could I write about board games when my head had been soundly turned back to role playing games?
It’s silly of course, considering that at the very beginning we said that this site was about tabletop gaming, not just board games. The last year or so has been like that in fact. I had it in my head that it was one or the other, that I couldn’t have both, or be part of both communities. It’s a strange way of thinking but I think this compartmentalising and segregating of different parts of the hobby known as “gaming” is what leads to a lot of the less pleasant stories we hear about – but that’s a beast I’ll wrestle with in another post. Until then, here’s a great post on the topic from I Slay The Dragon.
As much as I love board games they could never quite scratch the creative itch I had. And as much as I love tabletop RPGs they can be a huge time sink that I sometimes can’t afford. But it’s ok! I can have both! I can have my cake and eat it too!
So you have been warned! Expect more posts about tabletop RPGs in the future from me. I plan to write about what I love and what I’m passionate about and right now that’s tabletop RPGs. There’ll be plenty of board games and beer too, from myself and Paddy, so don’t fret. It’s all part of this beautiful hobby called “gaming”.
There’s my confession and my epiphany in a slightly meandering post. Tune in next week for a post about actual games!