The Heart of the Matter

Over the years my gaming friends and I have put a lot of thought into the idea of the perfect game. At first this discussion focused on game systems, settings, and genres. While we still happily debate the pros and cons of different games, mechanics, and systems, we soon realized that the game itself is only a small fraction of the game experience. That thought lead us to the realization that the experience was the most important aspect of the game and started us thinking about improving that experience.

Roleplaying can, and often does, invoke a total spectrum of emotions from profound joy to deepest sadness. The game can fill your soul with equal measures of both heart-pounding excitement and paralyzing dread. Elation, sorrow, anger, and love all can find their place at the gaming table. These emotions combine with planning and teamwork, group camaraderie, and the desire to experience an exciting story that becomes so much greater than the sum of their parts.

New Party 1

So I began a slightly different journey in my gaming life. I started considering the way in which we play games, where we play them, and most importantly who we play with. At its core our hobby is a socially interactive experience. Like many social interactions the quality of the experience is directly related to the nature of the relationships between those participating. I realized that for me the reward in the hobby comes from sharing my passion with the people at the table (and with others through our RPG Alchemy community). That lead me directly to pondering the idea of who I share that kind of passion with.

At the risk of sounding arrogant, pretentious, or even elitist I’ve come to realize that fully sharing something as intimate as my passion requires me to completely invest in the relationships I have with the players at the table. I have to look at each relationship and decide whether or not that relationship allows me to bring my best game to the table? Does it allow me to embrace a full-spectrum of emotions? Does it allow me to be the GM I want to be when I sit down to game? And equally important, does the relationship afford the other players the same.

All of this has led me on an interesting and exciting journey. Sometimes the journey is difficult, like when you have to tell someone the relationship isn’t working out (I wrote about this for Gnome Stew). That is a difficult and painful process but oftentimes necessary in order to grow and move forward. But like many difficult things in life overcoming them leads to amazing things. And amazing things are the most profound and important part of the journey.

Some of these revelations have come to me slowly, over years of gaming and others have just hit me like a rogue’s sneak attack. The people you share your passions with are important because they are the ones that make for a perfect game. Choose those people carefully, the right person or people in your gaming life can make all the difference between not bad and awesome.

Final Thoughts

I would like to leave you with this thought: life is short; you only get to roll so many dice and go on so many adventures. Live boldly and don’t settle for OK. Surround yourself with those that inflame your creativity and ignite your passion. The most important thing isn’t the adventure or the even the game, but who you share the adventure with!

About John Lewis

John has been roleplaying since Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition (the old blue box). He’s a fan of games "Powered by the Apocalypse", the Cypher System, and Dungeons & Dragons 5E. He also enjoys board games and miniatures games. He prefers game mastering over playing, due to his love of world-building, reacting to the crazy things players do, and his enjoyment of improv. If he had a gaming specialty, it would be coming up with complex and interesting plot-arcs that are tied to the PCs on the fly, with little or no prep. He regularly attends DunDraCon and KublaCon in California.


  1. Vernon Jennings says:

    Two things come to mind when I read this: Family and Volunteer Work.

    As a 45 year old I don’t have anywhere near the time to game I wish I had. When I get a regular group I treat it like family. You don’t get to choose them, you have a special bond that only goes so far, and you have to learn to make the best of it.

    When you speak of passions, I think of my volunteer efforts. Your volunteer group may be comprised of very different people, but you share a passion that motivates you to strive toward a common goal. When things get intense, we count to 10 and say “Think of the animals”. (I volunteer at an animal shelter charity)

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