My (Current) Gaming Pet Peeves

(Just realised I’m posting this on Free RPG Day, which could be a whole entry of its own, but remember to support your local games shops!)

Overall, I think I maintain a pretty positive outlook when it comes to gaming, and I definitely try to keep my contributions to the hobby upbeat and constructive. But now and again, you just need to let loose with the things that get under your skin a bit. So, with only a small amount of further ado, here are my current top 5 pet peeves in TTRPGs.

That ado? Well first, read this imagining my big Geordie tongue rammed hard into my cheek. This isn’t calling anyone out, or indeed, trying to be rational. It’s just a bit of a vent. Second, yes, there will be one here where I complain about people complaining. Deal with it. You’re big enough and clever enough to know what I mean. Don’t be that person…

So, with that said:

(Dis)Honourable Mention: One Dice Set People
In a world where people thought you could sell people a D&D partwork based on the ‘offer’ of dozens of sets of colour coded dice, there is zero excuse for anyone but the most early game new player to rock up to a game with only one set of dice. Especially if that game requires multiple rolls of the same dice type. Just get more dice – it doesn’t make you a ‘dice goblin’, it just makes you prepared. And if you don’t have enough dice, just roll the same one over and over again – do not fish around asking other players to donate their dice. What a waste of time. Speaking of which…

1. Dice Towers
Who invented these monstrosities? What actual purpose do they serve? They take up table real estate and slow the game to a grind as the one dice set people (who cannot bring another set of dice, but can bring a bloody dice tower) send their dice down the thing, one at a time. You inevitably have to put them into a dice tray of some sort anyway, as the dice can come out of them at quite a lick and scoot off across the table into the under chair netherworld. So just roll the dice in the dice tray! Pointless. And I have seen online a dice rolling gun, where you load up a canister of dice and then shoot them out. That’s not going to end well, is it?

2. People who don’t do their homework
This is actually my #1 long term peeve and one that I am growing increasingly intolerant of in my old age. If you are required to do a tiny wee bit of thinking or planning between sessions, and then expect everyone to wait while you do it at the start of the session, you are just being a tool. Level up your character, sort out your aspects, choose your spells, make your experience roll – whatever is needed, and then come to the game with a good, readable character sheet, the dice you need, a pencil, an understanding of any rules pertaining to your character, and a load of great ideas for the game. This is, in my opinion, the LEAST you should be doing. Because you know who doesn’t just drop everything and pick it up again at the start of the next session? The GM. And don’t give me that people have busy lives and can’t find the time to do this – no-one’s so busy that they cannot find 10 minutes in two weeks to choose a new spell. Pull the other one…

3. The RPG Click Bait News Industry
It would be most gratifying if the RPG news sites could just be better at their job. But they are not, and many RPG news places are filled with grinding article factories that just fill the internet with absolute nonsense. Today I read an article that was getting all pearl clutching because the new D&D character sheet gathers the skills next to the related statistics, rather than in an alphabetical list. It went on for paragraph after paragraph, debating with itself about whether this was better for experienced players, but bad for new players. It’s the same energy as the people who said that Daggerheart was too maths heavy (this is me, laughing in 1980s FGU games), that the colour of a book cover is an abandonment of some ancient publishing tradition, or that a product has been ‘slated’ because one person on Twitter didn’t like it. It’s exhausting trying to filter the real news from the miasma of bullshit. Of course, RPGs are by no means the only hobby to face this – anyone who is a fan of football will no doubt be able to decipher headlines like ‘£25 million Newcastle player speaks out on possible £120k a week transfer target for old club’ with aplomb. 

4. Dungeons and Dragons: The Obsession
Adjacent to the last one is the absolute obsession that people have with D&D, and its downfall. It’s comical because of the absolute lack of any internal consistency. For example, News – WotC lay off some staff? Reaction – let’s boycott D&D! Outcome – sales plummet, hurrah! Consequence? More staff are laid off… oops.

We have lived for DECADES with the death of roleplaying being constantly trailed on whatever communications medium was popular at the time, but just now, we have a burgeoning hobby thanks in no small part to the success of D&D. However, we cannot have success that crushes small press growth (looks at UK Games Expo this year and winces at the numbers…) or keeps people locked into the D&D bubble (because no one in history has ever branched out have they? Oh no, never) or is controlled by capitalist profiteers of evil corporations (if you think you’re winning the war against capitalism by getting someone to buy a pretend-elf game off then you need help, my friend…) or is becoming too ‘woke’ and needs to be protected (seriously, no one wants your protection, you asshats)

Don’t like modern D&D? Don’t play it. Don’t buy it. Don’t read about it. Or be more positive and actually introduce people to new games (or indeed, old games) – no, don’t just tell them ‘OTHER GAMES ARE AVAILABLE!!!’ but introduce them to them. Run demos, write up game APs, promote their good points, be an ally to the games. You don’t build one thing up, by tearing another thing down.

There are PLENTY people who like D&D and it’s growing. Our D&D club numbers have doubled in two years, at what should be the tail end of this edition’s life cycle. These players could not give one solitary fuck about suggested rules changes, what someone tweeted, whether two blokes in Wisconsin agree on the design of orc teeth in the art or the colour of a font. They just want to play a fun game with their friends.

The D&D discourse is 99% noise to 1% signal and it needs to just stop. 

5. And finally … Game distribution in the UK
I remember when it all worked so well. I would look on a Friday at the Esdevium preview pdf and see what was being released that week, and then on Thursday I would waddle down to my local games shop and pick up the things I wanted. Like clockwork. And if it wasn’t in that week for some reason, it was certainly in the next week. Good times.

Now? It’s an absolute shit show. I live in Newcastle, which is about as far away from anywhere as you can get in England and it shows. We can wait weeks, if not months, for something to appear on the shelves of Forbidden Planet or Travelling Man. I’m not talking about obscure indie stuff here – I’m talking about Modiphius, Cubicle 7 and Free League books. 

What makes matters worse is that in many cases, the books have appeared in other places, like Leisure Games or Dungeonland or Patriot Games. So do I get them mail order? No, I really want to support my local shops, but sometimes I cannot. This goes double when it comes to indie games. Hunting down copies of some games is definitely more Indie-ana Jones…(sorry)

That’s if it makes it to the UK at all? So many small press games and increasingly the indie-adjacent larger publishers like Evil Hat, aren’t hitting shelves, or take months after release. If a product has been kickstarted it can be even worse. 

And again, we are not the only people affected by this – I know that the situation with Games Workshop when it comes to big sets can be precarious sometimes too. It’s just all round annoying and makes planning anything really quite hard!

So there we go.
You want another one?

Heavy Books

This is a very personal one, but I hate the move that has happened to big, 300+ page hardbacks as the default gaming form, especially with heavy gloss paper, creating really weightybooks to sit and read. I just don’t have it in me anymore to sit with one of these behemoths, trying to read a book that feels like a weightlifting exercise. Looking on my shelves for an example of this I give you things like Vampire 5e, Soulbound, the Dragon Prince rpg and Wrath & Glory. All so big and heavy as to render them almost impossible to practically read casually.

Big kudos here to Chaosium for their new Pendragon books, printed on heavier, matt paper which somehow is lighter but feels stronger. A bit like the deceptively light old WFRP 1e book that looked like body armour but weighed about the same as a Milky Way bar…

Right, that’s that. I’m done. Vented and calm. Thank you for reading and listening. I don’t particularly care if anyone disagrees because like I said, I’m not being 100% serious, but you do you!

I shall almost certainly come back with my Top 5 Best Things About Gaming, for karmic balance.

Love to the family…

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