[Here’s Part 1 of this ongoing series which will appear from time to time.]

Fuzzy Skinner at Fuzzy’s Dicecapades reminded me of what my older brother, as he ran my first ever game of Dungeons & Dragons:

Don’t worry so much about the rules, just tell me what you want your character to do, and I’ll tell you what happens.

That’s it. That’s how you play RPGs. It’s all right there.

We, as hobbyists, need to go back to that, or a least adopt more of that philosophy as we move forward. My hobby is playing these games, not letting the rules (or the publisher of said rules, or a rules lawyer) dictate to me how to play.

Let the gamer lifestylists examine, analyze, interpret, pour-over, argue, debate, acquire, contemplate, complain, gripe, and purchase more of the rules as they see fit. I’m done.

Have many tabletop gamers become so reliant on the rules that’s only what they see, the rules? Instead of an imaginative world, stat blocks and modifiers? Something to be quantified, mastered, conquered?

Now, the rules are important in RPGs, but whatever happened to keep the game moving and interesting? Making stuff up if the rules seem broken or get in the way of a good time? Whatever happened to trusting the GM?

I trusted my brother to run an entertaining game, and he did. In that first game I only rolled dice to create my very first character, a dwarf fighter named Havok (I was 10), and the damage dice for my weapons (battle axe and a crossbow). He kept the rulebooks out of reach which helped with the suspension of disbelief.

If my brother wanted to keep me from playing D&D, all he would have to do is plop down the rulebook and say, read this before you play.

And yet, that’s what I’ve seen happen time and again when newbies come to the tabletop.  They see the rules and get confused, overwhelmed.

Or their first experience with tabletop RPGs is a character creation session, a session zero (oh, I can’t stand that term).  The game master has to split their attention between the newbie and the veteran players. One player looks over the newbie’s shoulder to offer advice (here, you want to put that 16 in charisma). Another player talks about their Dragonborn Fighter/Sorcerer with a 20 strength and a magic sword that can blah… blah… blah…

Tell me, how did these games get so popular again?

From now, in my games, newbies get their own session–individual sessions for each newbie if it has to be that way–before they join a regular group.

In public spaces, like a local gaming store, where newbies might drop by without notice and individual sessions aren’t possible, I might pause the game. Would a 10-15 break be out of line to introduce somebody new to the hobby without the players chiming in with their 2 cents? Maybe I’ll have pregenerated characters. I don’t know. It depends on the RPG and how high of levels the campaign has reached.

In any case, even if I have to ask a veteran player to move, the newbie will sit next to me.

Even more important: they’ll get to play the game and not sit there looking befuddled at their character sheet.

I haven’t decided on the use of dice yet. It would depend on the circumstance.

Yet I will say the magic words: 

Don’t worry so much about the rules, just tell me what you want your character to do, and I’ll tell you what happens.