December 29, 2019

Why Did Tabletop RPGs Start with Fantasy?

Why did modern RPGs start with the Fantasy genre? Today’s post tackles this open-ended question and helps drive the conversation forward on where we go from here.

Beyond the availability of a rule set to facilitate playing fantasy stories, there is likely no one, universally true answer. But my theory directly relates to yesterday’s post about best practices keeping new players encouraged: that fantasy as a genre was a social gatekeeping mechanism in and of itself. If you loved fantasy, especially at the time Gary Gygax and his peers, then you were by default in a club of your own. And if you weren’t in that club it didn’t matter: you likely didn’t care about fantasy anyway and those that did didn’t care that you didn’t like it.

For a group of folks – i.e. those that loved fantasy – to find a community of like-minded people who could play out their own, amazing stories in a custom fantasy setting, apart from this disdain of the outside world, was likely a dream come true. So the genre of fantasy itself was its own gatekeeper: it shielded those that loved it within, and kept those that didn’t at bay.

Unfortunately, this dichotomy has led to the wide-spread proliferation of misunderstanding and misperception on what playing stories is both actually like as well as the amazing value one receives by participating. StoryTogether exists because of the philosophy that playing stories is good for the human race. Connection, understanding, friendship, community are just some of the byproducts of playing stories together at a high level, regardless of genre. We must break down those barriers of misperceptions and open the gates to the outside world. It’s imperative, especially at this time in the world, that our TTRPG community do our part in driving the human conversation forward in a positive direction.

I invite you all to be the experienced players who bring new players in and help show them everything they’ve be missing!