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Dr.Bedlam

How Did You Learn To Play?

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I have a question for you, if you're interested, and if you're willing to answer it. You can read my rambling explanation, or just skip to the picture of the d20 below if I'm boring you.

So I've been reading some blogs, blogs of Big Time Game Writers and Designers, right? I like to keep up on the history of the hobby, even while it's happening.

And I have discovered a thing: The Older Cousin Model.

Y'see, ever since D&D really started to hit the big time, the marketing people have been trying to figure out new ways to grow the game, grow the market, sell more units. It's what they do. Particularly under WotC, and ESPECIALLY with Hasbro. And they discovered an unusual thing.

Roleplaying games aren't like other games. A child sees a Star Wars Rebels boardgame, he's attracted to it because of the cartoon show, but if he's going to play the GAME, he has to sit down, read the rules, figure out how it works. If I find a Game Of Thrones card game, I do the same thing, although it's a safe bet the rules are lengthier and more complex. But the same is true of both myself and the Star Wars child: we see the game, get interested in the subject or license, buy or are given this game, we sit down and figure it out, and try to interest our friends in playing it with us. Sometimes Star Wars kid will play the game at his friend's house first, but like as not, he'll see it on a shelf and want it, without ever having played it before.

 

5900511011180-1-xlpreview.jpg.5e76ac7511d9083aa5a8fe52b30d97c0.jpg....................but not RPGs.

 

Apparently, based on market research? Nearly all RPG players are taught to play by an actual human, THEN start jonesing for their own copy of the game. They have to catch the fever from existing RPG players before developing an interest in the hobby form. Apparently, AFTER you've mastered an RPG, THEN you might develop an interest in other RPGs or RPG genres, and you might, upon mastering D&D, get interested in one of Fantasy Flight's Star Wars RPGs, or a White Wolf LARP, or even just Pathfinder or Starfinder, and you might buy a copy, read the rules, and start your own game...

...but statistically, MOST of us apparently started out as acolytes at someone else's table.

 

dd_illo_h_2016.jpg.0a028899c1d53718212145bf42338b0f.jpg

They call it "The Older Cousin Model," in that most of us learned it from an older cousin, a sibling, kid we went to school with, whatever. The point is that most of us were TAUGHT, as opposed to doping it out ourselves. It's a social phenomenon as opposed to seeing it on a shelf or in an ad, and that apparently complicates the marketing of the product.

And that got my attention.

Y'see, I doped it out myself.

I was all of like, eleven, and reading this magazine, Rolling Stone's College Life, because, hey, college was far cooler than anything MY peer group was doing, right? And there was this article on this game that was sweeping the country's college campuses at the time, Dungeons and Dragons, where you could take the role of a barbarian or wizard, go slay dragons, become more powerful, have a magic sword, accumulate gold, build a castle... anything you wanted. The nerd equivalent of a permanent floating craps game in the dorm's TV room. It caught my interest, and the next time my immediate ancestors chose to visit civilization, I picked up a Holmes Basic Set at Spencer's Gifts... and there, all my weirdities began. Upon learning how to play the game, and finding others who were interested, everything else followed. Cool college guys used miniatures? Plainly, miniatures must be obtained... and painted. Some of these people play other games by SPI and Avalon Hill? Hm, this should be looked into. Hey, other RPGs like Traveller and Runequest? Investigate!

 

But I had to work it out myself. I taught some friends to play afterwards, and the game took on a life of its own after that... but I was the one who lit the fire.

Upon thinking about it? Everyone else I ever played RPGs with? Either I taught them, or they already knew... having been introduced to the hobby by a friend or relative. Apparently, being a gamer is more a contagious paradigm than one imposed by one's environment or advertising.

d20_geek_swag_classic_round_sticker-r60c86ec2169449b8991f726a21f95262_v9wth_8byvr_324.jpg.be165c7b617de987baf68972eccec18a.jpg ...and this is what brings me to come bother YOU people. How did you get involved in RPGs? How did you learn to play? How did you develop the interest?

Was there an older cousin, sibling, friend, role model? Were you influenced by marketing or advertising? Trip over it at a comic shop? Encounter a screaming mob of beardos, flinging dice and invective at each other?

I'd like to know.

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 My younger brother had a friend from school over the house to play - he was around six at the time. The friend's older brother, who was old enough to drive, had gotten roped into bringing the kid over to our house to hang out.

Needless to say, the older brother had brought his D&D books with him, and was working on something to kill time while the young'uns did young'un stuff.

I asked him what he was doing, and it led to him running the three of us through a game of Blue-Box Basic.

 

I was eight, and the other two were six, and we were already hard-wired into late '70's/early '80's movies and tv - bad action movies, bad horror, bad sci-fi, and bad fantasy. It was our Grand Theft Auto...  ::D:

I spent all my leftover starting money on torches and oil so I could set things on fire.

 

Two years later, I got the Magenta Box for Christmas, and that was How It All Went Horribly, Horribly Wrong, lol.

 

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I'm a late comer, I started on D&D 5th edition, so it's the internet age and there were plenty of online ressources I could poke around for... Mostly I checked out D20 Live and Spoony's Counter Monkey.

 

Started out DMing for some co-workers.

 

Which I thing is a thing Mike Mearls addressed recently during this or that... He said that now with all the vloggers (Matt Colville, WebDM, Dawnforged, Nerdarchy, Taking20, god knows which others) and all the games played for audiences (Critical Role, That Guy: The Game, Dice Camera Action, Adam Koebbel's games, every other live-streamed game imaginable on Twitch or YouTube), the Older Cousin model might be on its way out.

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I started talking to a guy in my high school freshman year Spanish class, he seemed real cool and after we discovered a mutual love of Dune and Tolkein and PERN, he started asking me to play D&D.

 

This guy was a junior or a senior in a first year Spanish class in a school that required three years of a foreign language, so that tells you something about the guy, academically. Which didn't occur to me at the time, but made my parents kinda nervous. Also, they didn't really believe all the Satanic Panic hype, but they did believe that all the hype was likely to attract people who DID buy into it. So they were a bit weird about this guy, which is why it took a while for me to finally say, ok, let's play.

 

So then he called me one night, maybe about 8 p.m., which is slightly Too Late for my 14-year-old self to expect random phone calls, but I took the call and we made a character. I raided all the d6s from Monopoly and Sorry and whatever else I had, and we built an elf thief. This puts us at about 9:30 on a school night.

 

At which point he insists that we play through an adventure. So, over the phone, my elf (named after a character from PERN) walked into a town terrorized by a group of orcs. I wound up killing the ogre that led them because I snuck up on him in his sleep, then wearing his body like a meat puppet and telling the orcs to buzz off and leave the town alone. I rolled any d6 needed, my erstwhile DM rolled everything else, and we talked through it all over the phone. It was fun.

 

I assume we were playing AD&D, but he could've been running Traveller for all I knew at the time.

 

My parents were really upset that I'd been on the phone until about 1a.m.

 

When I saw him in Spanish the next day, he said the game was cool, glad I liked it, then he asked if I wanted to skip class and go smoke in the bathroom.

 

So it was a while before I played D&D again. I played Vampire: the Masquerade before returning to D&D, actually. That would've been in my Senior year of high school, probably.

 

And then college is when it really took off for me. Lots of time spent in a Vampire chat room, and eventually got in on a D&D game that ran several years before the DM moved to grad school and I took over.

 

And now that DM ( the one from the long running game in college, not the guy from high school) is my wife, and I just started running a new campaign yesterday. So I guess I have something to thank that guy from Spanish class for!

 

 

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I was first introduced to D&D by my group of friends at school.   I say introduced, because it was the mid-eighties and the hysteria over the game had not quite died down yet.  So it took almost a year before I was allowed to openly play.  I was able to end-run the system and was able to slip Star Frontiers in the door, though. This actually helped calm things down because the realization that role-playing can also be good had set in.

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My Dad moved the family from CT to NH for work.  I knew the son of one of his coworkers, Thom, from a company picnic.  They happened to live in the same complex that we did.  Thom had a friend Phil, who also lived in the complex.  Phil had the game, I think after he had played a game with is older cousin.  So we played, mucking up the rules quite a bit, especially after we moved up to AD&D.  The worst mistake we made had to do with the XP tables in the DMG.  The table read something like: Ogre: 100xp +2/hp.  Meaning defeating the ogre would net you 100xp +2 cp per hit point that the ogre had.  We were reading it as gain 100xp +2hp for your character.  That's how we ended up with characters with hundreds of hp.

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I became aware of the existence of AD&D in my first year of high school (private catholic school for boys, we still had priests/brothers as teachers back then) in the early 80s. Some of the kids were playing it during lunch break. Though I didn't play, I would read through entries if the Monster Manual. The school even had a weekly after school D&D club, but because of bus schedules, I couldn't attend them.

 

Note that I *did* have an older cousin that played AD&D, but he lived in another city, and I only saw him during the holidays.

 

By my third year of high school, "Choose your own adventure" books were the local craze. I borrowed a few, then bought a few with my allowance. Those  were my source of RPGs for several years. Note that I was also a huge fan of the D&D cartoon.

 

It's when I hit college (circa 1989-90) that I found we had a games club. Eventually, I played AD&D for the first time during a weekend tournament (knowing nothing about the system), and then joined a D&D game where I finally learned the basics. Afterwards, I started reading through the books. Then 2e AD&D came out and I bought the books, played more, DMed, world building, etc. The club had a subscription to Dragon magazine and a budget to get new material (D&D, Battletech, World of Darkness, Call of Cthulhu, Paranoia, Car Wars, Palladium Robotech, Rifts, tons of other smaller titles), so the early 90s were my golden age of RPGs.

 

When I hit university, I didn't bother with their own games club as I had a regular group to play with, and the new craze was Magic the Gathering (and other CCG derivatives), which I never got into. Mid-90s to late 2000s, I had pretty much the same group (multiple campaigns), and we went through different editions of D&D (and Pathfinder, and Hackmaster).

 

These days, I don't have a regular, but the board game café in town has RPG nights, which is a perfect place for newcomers to learn about the game. So a bunch of us veterans become "older cousins" for new players.

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3 hours ago, Mad Jack said:

I was eight, and the other two were six, and we were already hard-wired into late '70's/early '80's movies and tv - bad action movies, bad horror, bad sci-fi, and bad fantasy. It was our Grand Theft Auto...  ::D:

I spent all my leftover starting money on torches and oil so I could set things on fire.

 

Two years later, I got the Magenta Box for Christmas, and that was How It All Went Horribly, Horribly Wrong, lol.

 

 

Dang, MJ, you make it sound like "How I Got Hooked On Heroin!" ::D:

 

1 hour ago, BlazingTornado said:

I'm a late comer, I started on D&D 5th edition, so it's the internet age and there were plenty of online ressources I could poke around for... Mostly I checked out D20 Live and Spoony's Counter Monkey.

 

Started out DMing for some co-workers.

 

Which I thing is a thing Mike Mearls addressed recently during this or that... He said that now with all the vloggers (Matt Colville, WebDM, Dawnforged, Nerdarchy, Taking20, god knows which others) and all the games played for audiences (Critical Role, That Guy: The Game, Dice Camera Action, Adam Koebbel's games, every other live-streamed game imaginable on Twitch or YouTube), the Older Cousin model might be on its way out.

 

You make me feel like an idiot. I never once thought about online resources. There was no ONLINE when I got started...

 

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33 minutes ago, Dr.Bedlam said:


Dang, MJ, you make it sound like "How I Got Hooked On Heroin!" ::D:
 

 

 Nah.. More like somebody walked up to a budding pyromaniac playing with matches and handed them a flamethrower....

 

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1 hour ago, Dr.Bedlam said:

 

You make me feel like an idiot. I never once thought about online resources. There was no ONLINE when I got started...

I... what?
Maybe I phrased my stuff wrong because I'm congested as all hell right now but I don't think I ever said or insinuated people were dumb for not using the internet to learn D&D in eras where the internet didn't exist/wasn't as widespread/didn't have expansive video streaming service for you to actually watch how the game's played....

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26 minutes ago, BlazingTornado said:

I... what?
Maybe I phrased my stuff wrong because I'm congested as all hell right now but I don't think I ever said or insinuated people were dumb for not using the internet to learn D&D in eras where the internet didn't exist/wasn't as widespread/didn't have expansive video streaming service for you to actually watch how the game's played....

 

No, no, no fault of yours! YOU were totally right, and your phrasing was fine!

 

I just feel dumb for not thinking "gee, you could look up a tutorial online!"

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Hmmm, have to think about how I got into the game, in all honesty, so I think I'll blame my dad for lighting the pilot light, and then friends (who were the kids of a United Church minister, that was heavily into the horror movie scene, of all things! ^_^).  Dad had the first edition DMG, PHB, and Monster Manual, and let me look through them when I was younger.  Fast forward to high school, where I found out about PBEM (play by email) campaigns, and promptly joined a few.  3E / 3.5E was all the rage back then, and I picked up the new system, kind of enjoyed it, but always wound up borrowing books from others for such....  Around the same time, my friends were wanting to start up a Rifts campaign, and since I had picked up a few of the books out of curiosity anyways, we got something going.  It was fun, it had a lot of interesting moments in it (including my favourite, myself, a Mystic Kuzniya, playing VOLLEYBALL with a tank that was slowly leaking radiation into the cab, just to allow the other, slower party members to escape, and then I hoofed it after them), and it's the one I miss the most.

 

But yeah, dad was the spark / pilot light, and friends turned it into a flamethrower of deliciousness....  Doubly so because those same friends are the ones that got me into pinball, Gauntlet (I & II arcade, can't remember which one they had in the basement), JRPG games (Final Fantasy... At least from IV onwards), Secret of Evermore... Uhm...  Yeah, good folk I grew up with. ^_^

 

Haven't done any tabletop / meetup rpg stuff, let alone even PBEM stuff for a decade now though - at least if you don't include a Shadowrun campaign I joined that lasted all of about three sessions because a few things wound up being tweaked, and I'm sadly highly allergic to cats it turns out (sorry Kai, you're an awesome cat!  I'm just allergic!).  Word is when they have their own place (which is happening in the soon-TM timeframe) it'll pick back up, and/or it just might start happening at a local tabletop gaming place, which would be epic, and I'd so rejoin it.  That was a ton of fun, even if it was, uhm....  Haphazard.  Then again, hubby was a walking talking WOLF that could shift (but looooved pretending to just be a regular, ordinary wolf), I was a minotaur Decker that didn't like anyone knowing what he did (he was a wanderer, after all....  A 9' tall wanderer... WITH STEALTHY skills lol)...  Our party had two other deckers, a samurai? and something else.  It also kind of broke apart because three players were from out of town, and couldn't always make it in, but still.  Here's hoping it starts up again, and I'm looking forward to the GM/DM/Storyteller's rules-lite version!

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It was the early 80's and I was a sophomore or junior in high school.  Was big into fantasy novels at the time. A friend of a friend not from my school hit it off and began lending me books.  She was a few years older, had already graduated and for some reason my parents considered her Very Disreputable.  I was sneaking out to visit, and sneaking "junk" (as my parents referred to fiction) into the house to read. 

 

Anyway, one night I got permission to go out for a sleepover and we ended up going to a party with a bunch of older even more disreputable guys in a creepy old cabin in the woods.  They were drinking and smoking pot and.... playing D&D.  Someone put a Ranger character sheet in front of me and said "roll the dice when we tell you to."  I have no idea what was going on in the game, there was a lot of arguing and I only rolled once or twice.   It got really late and it had begun to snow and we thought we needed to leave to get back to town before the roads got bad. 

 

Well we drove out of the tree cover and into 6" of ground cover already and a full blown blizzard, but my friend thought she could get her 197? Monza down the mountain, so off we went.  Only to find ourselves lost and in a ditch half an hour later.   It had been something like 60 degrees earlier in the day and neither of us had coats or anything, but we were sure we were only a mile or so from the cabin so we were going to walk.  (Stupid idea, but we were young...)  I asked my friend to turn on the interior car light because I thought I had seen a blanket in the back, and as we were rooting around behind the seats....

 

At the top of the hill a passing patrol car taking a local policeman home for the night happened to see our light in the distance and stopped. Probably saved our lives.  He got us as far as my grandmother's house, where we spent the night on the fold out couch.  I caught a lot of crap for just being in the situation, never told my parents what we were actually doing out there.   My friend had to get her car towed a few days later. 

 

Fast forward to senior year.  Same grandparents buy my brother the basic blue box for Christmas.  The rest is history. 

 

Oh, my friend and I are still besties. 

 

 

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6 hours ago, Dr.Bedlam said:

How did you get involved in RPGs? How did you learn to play? How did you develop the interest?

Girls. 

Well, that was the initial spark anyway.

 

Much like Dr.Bedlam I had read articles in newspapers and magazines about this new fad in college campuses, D&D, where people would play adventures going through dungeons encountering fantastical creatures and making decisions that affected how the story went.

 

This was the late '70's and I was still in High school.

I was intrigued, but didn't really understand roleplaying and was much more into scifi at the time anyway.

Hadn't read much fantasy.

Hadn't read The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings. Didn't know anybody who knew anything about D&D.

 

Then one day in history class I overheard some of the cool kids sitting near me talking about getting together to play a game. Like a boardgame or something.

It seems they met and played at each other's houses regularly. It was a couple of guys and, 2 or 3 girls. One girl in particular whom a very shy and nervous Darsc really wanted to get to know better.

 

The game of course was...

Diplomacy.

 

I had no idea what the game was about but I knew I needed to learn how to play so I could join the group and get to know girls. Well one girl in particular.

 

Took the bus to the mall after school. Went to toy stores, book stores, department stores... Nobody had this game.

 

Then I remembered this one really odd store that I had wandered into once. It was full of games that I had never heard of so I'd never been back.

 

Went to the odd store and of course, they didn't have Diplomacy either.

 

But they did have this:

IMG_1400.thumb.JPG.1e3fd9e0f6fad061f551b5a1d1cf2eee.JPG

(Pic of my actual boxed set)

Bought it.

Read it.

Started reading a lot more fantasy.

Finished High school.

Found a FLGS that was putting people who were interested in learning to play D&D together with experienced DM's to teach them and after our first adventure I became the regular DM for that group. My first of many D&D groups.

 

Never did join the group of Diplomacy players.

Never did get to know that girl.

Ironically one of the guys from that Diplomacy group joined my AD&D group years later. And I did run into that girl again.

 

There's more to the story, but I think I'll stop it there.

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Darsc Zacal
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