Someone on Reddit in r/rpg asked what the biggest surprise of 2023 was for us.
This is the kind of thing I enjoy talking about, so I thought I’d share it here.
The biggest surprise for me this year was finding my way back into the depths of my library.
My first RPG was D&D Basic in 1983, and I’ve played ever since, tons of systems. I love it. It’s even part of my job.
But somewhere along the line, I lost the ability to pick up a module, some rules, a sourcebook, whatever, and just read it for the sake of reading it, to enjoy the prose, the box text, the illustrations, the fiction, unless I was going to play the game.
So I have entire shelves in my library that are filled with RPGs I haven’t read, but “want to play someday.”
This year, I read an AMA here from Stu Horvath, and someone asked if it was normal to just read RPG materials for fun, with no intention of playing them. He observed that there was nothing stopping anyone from doing just that, and for some reason, that’s what I, a 51 year-old Ur-Gamer from the Old Times needed to hear.
It was late in the year, but since then, I’ve gone through maybe a dozen of my books, some of them various flavors of D&D, most of them indie RPGs, all of them games I don’t think I’ll ever play, but *intensely* enjoyed reading.
The pandemic delivered a metaphorical (and practical) TPK to my group, and I don’t know how quickly or easily I’ll be able to assemble a new one, but when I do, it’s going to be one hell of a game, because I have all these new ideas and inspirations in my head, from reading systems and adventures I’ll probably never play.
When I was in my teens, I read every GURPS sourcebook I could, cover to cover, losing myself in the imaginary worlds they represented. I loved those things as much as I loved any novel. I read all the FASA Star Trek RPG sourcebooks, because I wanted to know everything I could about the imaginary world I lived and worked in. Also: blueprints. So many wonderful blueprints.
I’ve recently read The Skeletons (the players are the undead who guard a tomb that is defiled by adventurers), Maschinezeit (what if dead spaceships were possessed by Lovecraftian cosmic horrors and you went to one, anyway?), Mothership (in space, no one can survive), and about half of The Lost Mine of Phandelver (5e starter box) because I hope to run it in the new year for a small group of friends.
I have shelf after shelf of books from popular systems, indie systems, out of print systems, loved and hated systems, and 2023 was the year I stumbled into permission to read them on my terms, rather than reading them to prep for a test.
Maybe 2024 will be the year I played more RPGs than I have in a long time.