When I was 11 years old I went to High School. All my life I’d been a bit of loner, much more comfortable in my bedroom with the door closed and the music blocking out the world beyond.
Back when I was four, my best friend was my dog, Heiko; the strongest connection I felt to my family came through playing games together, even if that usually meant defeat and frustration for me. It’s no surprise that my friends arose from the gaming hobby I had begun with my Dad.
Dad bought RuneQuest in 1980. I remember him commenting on how he’d been reading about these “roleplaying games” in the wargaming periodicals that he collected. I vividly remember his visceral rejection of that game and the ease with which I was allowed to squirrel the box away to my room.
I devoured the ideas and discovered a game that resonated with me like no other. It wasn’t about victory in an absolute sense but rather about adventure. There was a whole world to explore and you could be the hero of an exciting legend.
At 11 years old, about a year after discovering RuneQuest, we went to High School. My friends had begun to play games like Dungeons & Dragons, Traveller, and Star Frontiers. My best friend was Daniel and his house was the regular refuge for play, both before and after school most days. Over the seven years I attended that school, the roleplaying hobby was the thing that kept me sane and helped me find acceptance as a human being. In other words, the community of gamers helped me discover who I was, and that it was possible to be me without being judged.
Games, and roleplaying games in particular, have been my biggest “way in” with other people. The communities of gamers that I have been involved with over the years have been both filled with creative discovery and places where everyone was accepted for who they were.
I realise now that that’s why I have repeatedly created communities of gamers – so that everyone could feel accepted. When I was a Games Workshop Store Manager, I enjoyed the Thursday Games Night because it was a community of gamers discovering not only how to play Warhammer but also learning to accept each other. As a teacher, I have formed roleplaying clubs which allow students to discover not only fantastic realms of adventure but also how to find their own place, just as they are.
I believe it’s paramount that people learn to accept other people, just as they are. Warts and all. My favourite way to achieve this has been to create communities of discovery built around fantasy roleplaying games.
Mr. Webster’s Open Table was the evolution of this goal within the school environment. It’s a place where students from 11-18 years of age can drop in and play a roleplaying game. Because sessions are short – just one and a half hours – the game needs to be slick and fast. I initially chose Basic/Expert Dungeons & Dragons (1981) so that it was possible to create a character in minutes and get playing right away.
The Friday Night Open Table is still evolving but it has the same aim: create a community of discovery so that everyone can feel accepted while we play games. Each session stands alone but also connects to both the last and next session because the group is the constant. I’m interested in seeing people I care about having fun at my gaming table. I want to create something exciting for them to discover and explore. It doesn’t matter who we are, how we feel about our everyday life, or what we do outside of the session – I want people to feel accepted for those four hours in which we gather.
Method In My Madness
In every aspect of my life, I seek to create communities of discovery in which people can feel accepted. As a teacher, the community is the students in the classroom and we are discovering the truth about humanity through the medium of religious studies. It’s vitally important to me that those students feel accepted for who they are.
As a Game Master, I seek to create a community of gamers who are discovering interesting characters and amazing realms of adventure. It’s critical to me that each player also ends up feeling uniquely accepted through their contribution to the game.
Underneath that desire, the “why I get out of bed in the morning” goal, lie a series of actions that – when I am being my best – I am making sure I follow:
- Ask the difficult questions – sometimes they are moral, often they are about purpose, and always they involve exploring the alternatives.
- Champion the ideas that work – clarify the truth, know the rules, go with what works.
- Treat people like family – see the individual, support those who need it, welcome difference.
- Fix what is broken – bend when the rules get in the way, change what doesn’t work, provide solutions.
- Trust others to succeed – value expertise, allow people their purpose, and remove obstacles.
In gaming, as with teaching or any of my other endeavors, I feel it’s vitally important to keep these activities at the centre of how I behave.
Of course, I fail. I let myself and others down. But that’s not a reason to stop acting in the way I know is right.
And that is why I am re-focusing my roleplaying hobby back towards what matters most. It’s important to me that what I share here on my blog is focused on creating a community of discovery in which you too can feel accepted.
I hope that you will join me in this community. Game on!
This post was originally shared via my old blog, UbiquitousRat.net, on September 16th 2018. I’ve imported it here so that it doesn’t get lost but I also slightly tweaked things to bring it into 2020. I hope you don’t mind.