roleplaying games

Two sides of the screen

One of my friends tweeted last night about getting the opportunity to be a player in a system he’s usually the GM for. My initial reaction was “well, I prefer to GM”, but then I thought about it more. With few exceptions, I don’t get many or any opportunities to play in the systems I really like.

In person, I’ve been in a couple Fate games. One I was really getting into, but it fell apart. Another was converted from a different system and a little weird, but fairly enjoyable regardless. I played one session of Dungeon World using characters converted from a D&D game…it intrigued me but due to its place in another campaign really didn’t show off Dungeon World at all.

Burning Wheel? Finding players is hard enough, let alone a GM. Apocalypse World? Nope. GURPS? Not since 2009, excepting one short game a couple years ago that fell apart. Cyberpunk 2020? In 2011.

Meanwhile, I have been a player, but in systems chosen by other people. I’ve made it clear how I feel about FFG Star Wars. Beyond that, the system feels like one a minis company would write, and the dice system was ported from Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying 3e, a system where it actually makes more sense in-genre. We played Exalted before, which is a fascinating world hamstrung by a terrible system, made worse by a mechanically-biased GM (which is not a problem into and of itself, but is a great way to demonstrate how badly a system falls apart in short order). Shadowrun was on the list, which is just like Exalted except I like the setting more.

And some of these games I enjoyed quite a bit. The second Shadowrun game, in particular, was a trip. But all of them have been hit or miss. I don’t know for certain if being a player itself just doesn’t get me excited. The more I think about it, I get excited about systems I really click with, and in recent years that’s just not what I’ve been playing.

I like the playstyle of my online group; it’s one reason we’re all still playing together. And as I’ve said before, I’m capable of having fun in pretty much any game someone runs for me. But it is entirely possible that where I thought “I simply have more fun GMing than playing”, the reality is “people other than me aren’t GMing games I get really excited about playing”.

It’s hard to write something like this without accidentally insulting someone running a game I’m currently playing, and that’s not my intent. All of the GMs in my life are good at what they do. And right at this moment, in particular, I have a pretty good crop of games that are gaining momentum and getting good, like Mage:the Awakening and (somehow) Force and Destiny. There is nothing wrong with the games I’m playing in now, they’re all fun and I enjoy them.

At the end of the day, though, there are a vast number of new games and ideas in the roleplaying hobby that get me really excited, inspired and enthusiastic. And in my groups, for now at least, no one’s GMing these games other than me.


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