Who Am I To Be Writing About Turning Geeks Into Superheroes Through Tabletop RPGs?
When I started writing articles for Coaching for Geeks, I decided I wanted to continue with an article about helping folks bring out their own gaming superheroes. But I think it’s worth talking about me and where I’m at, so that you get a better idea of just how I hope the articles can serve the both of us.
I’ve been into the tabletop roleplaying game hobby since the early 90s, and now I’m a member of Coaching for Geeks because after all that time I still feel that I have a lot of levelling up to do.
My First Tabletop Roleplaying Games
My first exposure to the hobby was the same as so many of my age group (I turn 41 in a few weeks): “The Red Box,” otherwise known as the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set, which a mate of mine owned. The first RPG purchase I made was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness.
For years, I tried to make the game sessions match the high I got from buying and reading RPGs and sourcebooks and looking at pictures of cool machines (like those in Cyberpunk 188.8.131.52., Mekton II and Mekton Zeta, RIFTS, Robotech and Macross II, Bubblegum Crisis, Jovian Chronicles and Heavy Gear). This impossible aim made me spend much more time nose-deep in sourcebooks than sitting at a table with friends, not to mention quit and re-join the RPG hobby more times than I care to remember.
Despite my location in Cairns, a small, tourist-focused city in Australia’s tropical North East, I’ve been getting a fair bit of gaming in lately. In the last couple of years, I’ve been game mastering a campaign of Deathwatch, the Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay game which enables the players to step into the powered armour of the Emperor’s finest, the supersoldiers known as the Space Marines.
I’ve experimented with the D&D derived Pathfinder and its Lord of the Rings-meets-Star Wars sequel, Starfinder. I’ve taken a stab at InSpectres, the awesome indie game of ghostbusting for fun and profit. Just recently I’ve discovered what might be my RPG sweet spot, Atomic Robo, a game that uses the FATE rule set to tell modern day stories of Indiana Jones-style action scientists.
I’ve also had some time on the other side of the GM’s screen. A friend introduced me to Dungeon World, a game that takes a fresh approach to raiding dungeons and fighting dragons, and I’m looking forward to playing in a game using the Tales From The Loop rules that one of the fine game masters for the online convention JackerCon is running in a couple of weeks.
Tabletop Stories Are Fun, But The Folks Are My Focus
Moreover, though, I’ve been playing for a great assortment of folks, including an old friend who moved to the UK and one of her solid mates; a Canadian podcast maestro; his brother, who’s slowly getting into the hobby; an American author of urban fantasy novels. Some Cairns folks even asked me last year to introduce them to Dungeons & Dragons, for which I bought the fifth edition Starter Set.
And it’s on those folks that I want to keep my focus. As gloriously as the rulebooks for the roleplaying games present their rules and worlds, they’re nothing but wishful thinking without a group of people having fun. I want to concentrate on the folks I’ve enticed around my table and making sure I’m entertaining them equally as much as I’m entertaining myself.
Why do I want to become a superhero at this hobby? It feels like it’s my thing, the thing that I can do for people that really beings out everything in me. It combines everything I’ve already been doing and/or loving: writing, voice acting, fantasy and science fiction. I can even turn my podcasting skills toward recording and posting actual play.
A Lesson In Podcasting about Tabletop Gaming
Do I have lofty goals? Well, yes, sort of. In this era, it’s possible to turn a love of RPGs into a serious thing. Look at Matt Mercer and his players on Geek & Sundry’s Critical Role, Matt Colville and his YouTube gaming advice columns, Will and Syd of the D&D streaming/podcasting channel Encounter Roleplay. The thought of being able to bring as much of myself to the table as they do and get paid to do it is very tempting.
Still, though, I’ve learned my lesson about charging for the goal too early with Only In Death, my Deathwatch actual play podcast. My players loved the pants off the chance to be Space Marines and the podcast garnered interest and praise amongst 40K Roleplay fans on Twitter. Nonetheless, I was aiming for Patreon backing (Warhammer 40,000 is, of course, a huge franchise, with some Patreon folks earning multiple grand per month with their related podcasts and YouTube shows) instead of whether I was really enjoying the game I was running. The combination of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, whose grim darkness can be depressing, and the work of editing, publishing and promoting Only In Death saw me burn out on the podcast in the early part of this year.
For now, I feel I just need to focus on 2 things:
- Completing an “arc,” a concise unit of story like a novel, a TV mini-series or a run in a comic book, so that my players feel like they’ve had a satisfying unit of story.
- Getting a bit more experience as a regular player, with just one character.
And that’s what I want to write about for you fine folks.
After that? Well, who knows? Identifying and then taking the next steps toward RPG superherodom will certainly be worth blogging more about. Maybe I’ll even produce some more RPG content, like a stream or podcast, for a certain geek advice site of our common acquaintance?
Until then, may your adventures be compelling, your rolls nail biting, and your time around the table with your friends and fellow hobbyists glorious!
Rob Farquhar – keeping the spirit of the tabletop roleplaying game alive
He’s a writer, voice talent, event host, podcaster and presenter. See his website: http://www.robf.com.au/