RPG Evolution: The Magic Bubble

Life got you down? You'll always have your gaming group ... right?

magicbubble.jpg

Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

Welcome to the Bubble​

In a fast-paced world where relationships often undergo significant changes, tabletop role-playing games offer a unique source of stability. These games create a "safe bubble," an environment where friendships are protected from the forces that might otherwise pull them apart.

At the heart of any tabletop role-playing game is an adventure. Players become characters in a shared narrative that creates a bond over time. Unlike many social activities, RPG campaigns can last for years, even decades, as long as the group agrees to continue. When jobs, personal relationships, and responsibilities can change in an instant, this commitment to a shared story can serve as a constant amidst the chaos of life.

The Fundamentals​

It's not surprising that tabletop games, with the right group, can last for decades. It requires a certain level of commitment and structure that so many institutions once provided.

In addition to the regular rhythm of showing up to play, RPGs usually require teamwork. Players are not competing against each other, like a regular poker night, but they're not physically working together, like in a team sport. It's a mental exercise of cooperation that's tested with each adventure, strengthening bonds over time.

The shared experiences of overcoming in-game obstacles can be empowering too. I'm fond of saying that players might not start out as friends when they first begin gaming together, but odds are if they stick with it, they'll be friends after -- if only because their characters will have saved each other multiple times.

Friendships thrive on communication, and RPG campaigns create a continuous, engaging conversation. Whether discussing character development, strategizing for the next encounter, or reflecting on the events of the game, players have a shared experience they can always talk about. This is the glue that keeps friends connected, even when life's responsibilities threaten to pull them apart.

Because the game is a mental construct, it's particularly welcoming to people from all walks of life. This can make gaming an appealing alternative to other activities that inherently have barriers -- if you can't bowl, you won't have much fun in a bowling league -- and means a group can cast a wider net in finding the right players.

In this way, tabletop gaming fills a void that so many other activities lack. Friendships at jobs can be torn away at a moment's notice due to company layoffs; divorces, deaths, and children growing up and moving out all bring inevitable change. But a tabletop game has its own rhythm independent of all these life changes, and if the group is committed, can be more stable too.

Careful Not to Pop It!​

The term "bubble" is apt, because as much as a gaming group is resilient, it is very much like other social bonds in that it depends on the enthusiasm and participation of its participants. These bubbles can grow stronger over time, but they are not invulnerable to outside forces either, and need to be nurtured (through repeat play) just like any other social activity. Inter-player tension can tear a group apart, and if the game master isn't happy, the whole bubble can burst.

So the next time you gather around the gaming table with your friends, take a moment to look around. You're not just playing a game; you're potentially forging life-long bonds. Here's hoping your fellow party members can help you face real life challenges too.

Your Turn: Still gaming together? What's your secret?
 

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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

JEB

Legend
We had a pretty solid core 5E group (with a number of "satellite" members) from nearly the beginning of that edition, until Covid popped that "bubble". Attempts to restore it (both in-person and online) haven't really worked out. So yeah, they can be more fragile than you'd think.
 

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Richards

Legend
I've been lucky enough to be gaming with pretty much the same group of players for the past 17 years - although a few people have changed over the years, it's always just been members of two families: my own and that of a co-worker. The only ones to have dropped out of my three 3.5 campaigns thus far (the first one lasted 9 years, the second one 5 years, and I'm 3 years into the current one) are the sons of my co-worker, but that's only because they grew up and went to college. (And they were 8 and 2 when we first started; the 8-year-old was one of our initial players and his little brother joined in once he turned 8 as well.) But we've also added my nephew once he got old enough.

Johnathan
 


When forming a lasting RPG group, I have found the big key is being hard and harsh. So many players talk about the game...and then just don't show up. It is crazy how common it is. For weeks a player will be all excited for the game. But then come game night they are "busy". And worse, they are "busy" each game night until forever. Yet, this person will endlessly talk have they "want" to game. And yet every single game night, right before the game starts they will call...again....saying they can't make the game. Again.

I've found it best to just remove people from the game and move on. You miss a game, and your kicked out. Simple, but it works. Amazingly there are people who can show up every week on time. Those are the players I want.

A big part of my house rules are hard fun and harsh like: the three second rule. When your character gets to act, you have three seconds to say your action. So if a player even does a "ummmm" for a couple seconds, I will just have there character stand confused for the round. And any confused player that wants to waste 10, 20, 30 or more minutes looking up rules and making decisions will be sent home.

It takes a lot of work, time and a thick skin......but in the end I get 3-6 groups of good players. And it's just a beyond great thing when the plan all comes together. Five players that show up to game every week. Five players that know the rules at least "above average". Five players with notes, cards and sheets. Five characters where I can go through a 'round' in a few minutes: I ask for their round action, and less then a second or two they state their action and we resolve it in the next couple seconds.

The other big part is making players from scratch. People that have never gamed before, and bringing them into the hobby. I've done this for hundreds of people. When I could not find players, I made players.

The last part is being a general fixer, and helping out people with all sorts of problems in their lives. A big one of years gone by was to provide 'kid care'. Like have all the kids of he players come over and all watch a movie.

Anything to make the game happen....
 

talien

Community Supporter
When forming a lasting RPG group, I have found the big key is being hard and harsh. So many players talk about the game...and then just don't show up. It is crazy how common it is. For weeks a player will be all excited for the game. But then come game night they are "busy". And worse, they are "busy" each game night until forever. Yet, this person will endlessly talk have they "want" to game. And yet every single game night, right before the game starts they will call...again....saying they can't make the game. Again.
That's how it was with my games in high school. You just need a very large pool of potential gamers to work with, and then you essentially conduct "try-outs" until you get compatible players.

It gets harder when your social circles shrink, often as a result of getting older, moving away from friends, etc.
 

Yaarel

He Mage
Playing in person is better than playing online. If a person relocates, it can be difficult to find or build a new group.
 

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