Role Playing Games

Role Playing Games

If you don't know what pen & paper role playing games (PnP RPGs) are, read my Introduction to Role Playing Games. It should explain the basics.

I grew up when role playing games got really popular the first time. That was in the late 1970s and early 1980s in the US. Back then it was all Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D), or its simpler predecessor, (original or classic) Dungeons& Dragons (D&D). Those were still the original games for adults by the man who invented role playing games, Gary Gygax. Not what they later turned the games into in search of (more) commercial success.

When I was a kid, and later a teenager and a young adult, we always used to play with friends, usually every Sunday, sometimes also on Saturday or even in the week. Sometimes a friend would invite another friend, but it was still mostly friends. Then, later when we all grew up, it got harder and harder to find people to play with. People started having jobs, girlfriends, even families and consequently often no more time to play. And the few people who still played often moved away. Finding new people got harder and harder and eventually impossible.

Then came the internet in the late 90s and people tried connecting through webpages and online forums. But that didn't work very well either. Although sometimes you could find a few players who wanted to play, when you sat together and tried to find a date, there was always one person who couldn't make it. To get 5 or 6 people together, we could never play more than once a month, mostly even just every second month. That's not how role playing games should be played. If you play so infrequently, people keep forgetting the storyline.

Then, in 2018 Meetup came. A New Hope. Not in a galaxy far, far away, but right here in Zürich!

I immediately signed up with "SwissRPG" and with "Role Playing Games Switzerland". Those are the two by far biggest meetup groups in Switzerland for role playing games, each with well over 500 members by now. With this size, they pretty much hold the monopoly. - Or share it between them.
And it soon turned out, meetup groups have their own challenges, despite their obvious advantages. Namely, group leaders control everything and have control over everything. And if they are assholes (surprise, surprise, we are still in Switzerland!), that will ruin the entire group and experience for you. Much more so than in any other kind or type of group. And if assholes hold the monopoly of role playing games in Switzerland, what good does that do?

In SwissRPG I had the questionable "honor" of playing with Alp, the leader of SwissRPG. Alp had taken over the group from Victor in 2018, and Victor had started Role Playing Games Switzerland as a new group with about 100 members or so that followed him. Back then they were both still just local groups in Zürich. Victor had decided that he didn't like Alp. Something which this author can understand.

Before I tell this, you must know Alp is extremely ambitious and success-oriented. He wants to win, at all costs, and he's willing to do whatever it takes. It's this kind of mentality that he takes to role playing games as well as I had to find out.

While I played D&D in a group with Alp (as a player) and three other players and a very young and inexperienced Dungeon Master, Alp humiliated me in front of everyone else. He called me "stubborn" in front of some of his members who look up to him as a group leader most. I didn't look up to Alp, nor down, but apparently that's not good enough. I let the remark pass, but it didn't end there. In the next game, or the one after that, Alp made me superficial for an entire game evening. With a very clever in-game move, he grabbed a chance that presented itself to exclude me from the game. - I actually gave it to him, not being aware that we are playing not with, but against each other (which is really not how role playing games should be played).
Alp took the entire party and purposefully ditched my character, while he led the rest of the group to complete the adventure, turning me into a superficial bystander that wasn't able, or rather allowed to play. And it became clear from the context that this was fully intentional. Alp enjoyed that clever little move a lot. He didn't apologize and the situation could have been fixed very easily. By this kind of treatment Alp encouraged others to treat me in a similar fashion. Following the example given by the leader of the group, others soon started making snide remarks and insults in my direction as well. I left the game and concentrated more on Victor's group, Role Playing Games Switzerland.

But Victor didn't like an idea I had, about allowing Dungeon- and Game Masters to collect tips for their work, as an effort, to get more people to be DMs and GMs. I proposed the idea to help his group with the shortage of Dungeon- & Game Masters. It was something I had seen in Canada. Because Victor didn't like the idea, he started deleting everything I said in the group chat. Regardless of what I wrote. He even instructed his moderators to do the same. One time I came back from vacation and said something like "Hello everyone! I just got back! :-)". And it got deleted. No apology, no explanation. After the third time this happened I signed off from the group chat.

Role playing games are a great escape from reality. And in reality here in Switzerland, I already have to deal with assholes a lot more than I like. So what good are role playing games if you have to deal with assholes just to be able to play them? Not much good to me. When I play role playing games I want to be among friends and enjoy myself. I don't want to have to deal with assholes when I play role playing games, and even less, when I volunteer as a Dungeon- or Game Master. So I started my own group in the fall of 2019, "Mark's Role Playing Games". I invited a few people I had met in games, and a few who I thought might be interested in my new group. Someone must have told Alp about this, because Alp promptly kicked me out of SwissRPG. Which wasn't entirely unexpected, naturally, after what he had already pulled off at the game table.

Well, "Mark's Role Playing Games" wasn't successful. It only got about 20 members, tops. The problem was and is, both SwissRPG and Role Playing Games Switzerland already had over 500 members each by then. And naturally, everyone who wants to play role playing games gets much more opportunities to play (different games, with different people), the more people, or member there are. Who cares if many don't participate in events and many are either very young, very inexperienced, or both. If you look at a group and it says 500 members, that it. That's the group you will join, not the one that says 15 members. So everyone joined the biggest groups, SwissRPG and Role Playing Games Switzerland. It's just the monopoly effect. The bigger a meetup group gets, the more people want to be in that group, and the harder or more impossible it gets for new groups to start and get members.

So after a few months when it became apparent, that no matter what I did, people were not willing to give me or my group a chance, I cancelled the group in April 2020 and instead created two new groups. I figure, if people won't join "Mark's Role Playing Games", no matter what you write, because they think it's just another RPG group like the existing ones, I might as well write in the group name what the group is about, and what makes my groups different than SwissRPG or Role Playing Games Switzerland. So that's how I created my two RPG meetup groups "Swiss Dungeon- & Game Masters Union" and "MatureRPG Zürich".

Naturally, people are still too lazy to give these groups a chance, SwissRPG and Role Playing Games Switzerland apparently offer anything people want out of an RPG group. I guess people either put up with a lot more than me, or they just don't notice what's wrong in those groups. And naturally, I'm pretty sure ambitious Alp and Victor will take great, great pains not to make the same mistakes again and treat other people like they treated me. If they would, I'm very, very sure they would not have several hundred members for long. Likely, the number of members would be reversed. So I guess they learned.

Anyway, you can't change people. If people think Alp and Victor are cool, that's fine by me. After what they pulled on me, anyone who thinks they are cool guys can keep that opinion. I guess I just have a different perception about what's cool and what isn't. At least my groups now say in their names what the groups would be about, if anyone cared about the things I care are about. Such as sportsmanlike behavior, free speech, and fair and respectful treatment, among other things.

See Meetup Groups about the groups that I started.

- Mark