I’m often looked upon as some strange type of gamer as I have no interest in even trying most of the new RPGs that are published every year. This is apparently especially annoying to some RPG players as I’m willing to try just about any boardgame at least once. There are, however, major differences between trying a new RPG someone I know has bought and wants to run and trying a new boardgame someone has bought and wants to play.
With the boardgame, all I have to do is show up and play. I don’t have to invest any time or money in trying the game other than the hour or three it takes to show up and play. Rules are generally easy to learn as you play and no one expects me to purchase the game and study rules before I show up. On the other hand, most of the people who want me to try new RPG X expect me to buy a copy of the rules and at least read through them before the first session. That’s too much of an investment of both money and time for me, especially since I already have RPGs I really enjoy and of which I already own and know the rules. Unless I am very sure that I will both like the new game at least as much as the ones I already own and play, investing time and money on a new game has too high of an opportunity cause to be something I want to do.
I believe that one of the reasons I’ve never had any trouble getting people to play the RPGs I run is that from a player’s perspective, playing in one of my campaigns is a lot like playing a boardgame — you can just show up and play. I can teach a new player all the mechanics he really needs to know in 10-15 minutes while I help him create a character and then all he has to do to play in my game is pretend to be that character and tell me what his character is trying to do and I’ll report what happens, asking for any die rolls that might be needed. Players have no need to buy and study rules in advance. Actually, players have no need to ever read (let alone study) the rules unless they just want to as owning and studying the rules for the games I run gives one little or no advantage over players who never learn more about the mechanics than I taught them in their first session. In my opinion, the further an RPG strays from this “keep mechanics and play simple enough to play well without knowing the rules” principle the harder task someone who want to play that RPG is likely to have when it comes to recruiting players. RPGs that expect people to “master” their rules to play seem to strongly appeal to most hard core tabletop RPG players, but they also limit the pool of possible players to those who have the time and interest to study and master those rules — not to mention the spare cash to buy a copy of rules they may only use two or three times.
Personally I’d rather spend the cash on my wife’s medical bills and rather spend the time and effort I would spend on reading a new and very different RPG actually playing RPGs as I only have a few hours a week to devote to RPGs. What this generally means is I’m going to be playing the RPGs I already know and know I enjoy instead of trying new RPGs — but I’m still happy to try a new boardgame. I’m also often willing to try a new RPG that is just a relatively minor mechanical variation on a RPG I already know and enjoy. That’s why I’m generally happy to try a RPG based strongly on the rules of TSR D&D, the rules of Classic Traveller, the rules of TSR’s Marvel Superheroes, the rules of West End’s Star Wars, or the rules of Chaosium’s Basic Roleplaying Game. I can just sit down and play a new game based on one of these sets of rules without having to invest any time or money in them — almost like a boardgame.