How and when has the perception of RPGs changed?

Hey Lich, thanks for sharing all that! It is very interesting and I do not discount your experience in any way, everything I wrote above is true, yet what you say makes total sense to me and aligns with some of my experiences as well.

The creepiness of dudes at cons or in “nerdy” pursuits is both legion and legendary, even now, and on Reddit there are subs called “RPG horror stories” and “Neckbeards” with girls and guys relating 100s of creepster stories and experiences. I also have about 5 stories myself of players acting extremely inappropriately at my games. Mostly it was stuff along the lines of being a Munchkin/Min-Maxer, an attention hog or just plain weird, and not so much creepy.

Since GMing my first game I have also made it my mission to never let this stuff slide, before I even agree to play with anyone I send them a short document (good-natured in tone yet extremely clear) of what I go for and what I do not tolerate at my table. Being creepy to women or making anyone feel uncomfortable for your own jollies is at the very top of that list, it is as clear as can be and as such there is no warning, discussion or second chance, I kick you out of the group. Done. I don’t ever want to spend time with bad humans, much less when I am trying to have fun and hosting people at my home. Especially since I started sending that document about 15 years ago, I have had 0 problems. Sometimes people do not work out in the group but that has never been due to creepyness in last ten years or more, just wasn’t the best fit.

As you say, It is truly amazing, this Renaissance in table-top (I am not talking only about the OSR, talking about the whole thing, OSR is one of several components, perhaps not even the most important one). And the beautiful thing about it, is that I think it will never go away. The huge stigma (“only for losers/nerds, satanic, difficult”) that D&D once had has been thoroughly debunked or at least gets rapidly smaller every year. With this critical mass of new players and information out there, table-top will never become super niche or obscure again. :slight_smile: As long as the internet persists, table-top will remain a large hobby with many (would be) players. But I will never forget the reputation it once had, only seven years ago I would never mention that I played RPGs on a first date or any first impression type scenario. I had learned the hard way, through experience, that talking about D&D with a not insignificant amount of people could precipitate disaster or a too long and/or very awkward conversations where you would have to try to erase a bunch of totally mistaken preconceptions and prejudice. Often, despite trying, I would not succeed at completely erasing any misgivings or even a little mistrust.

I would love for you or anyone to start playing (again)! You obviously love RPGs! So I will give some tips and opinions below that might help in this.

While Facebook is a good way to find players I would recommend you do not make an account. They are imho truly an amoral/evil company that destroys your privacy. I wish I had never! gotten an account, I did delete my account wholesale and had FB remove the data (as much as that can be done and trusted) about five years ago and it feels great. I have found players just as easily since then, on Reddit and through friends of my existing players. At most perhaps you could use a friends (if they do not mind) FB account to find prospective players and simply have them e-mail you on any e-mail address that does not feature your real name. Direct messaging or texting is also an option as soon as you establish first contact on FB.

Reddit is not great in terms of privacy either but it is leaps and bounds better than Facebook. All it is, is a very large forum with a subforum for almost anything and millions of users, which all upvote or downvote content. You simply decide which subforums you join/you want to see. If you can use this forum, you can certainly use Reddit! :slight_smile: Is very easy really. This explains it a bit more:

So if you want to find players, just go and have a look at Reddit and use their search function to look for any Subreddit (=subforum) that is only about your city or locality and see if it appears quite active. If so, you can almost certainly find players there with a few weeks patience. This is just an example, say you lived in Pittsburgh, you would just check this:

Of course “selling” the game you intend to run, if you make a Reddit post asking for players, is not a bad idea, I explain the vibe of my group, that you need 0 money to join, how we play and how much fun we have. Last time I posted one of these virtual flyers I got literally more than 15 persons who were very keen to play, all responding within days. I had to whittle it down to 3 candidates. Two of which still play with me today. All this despite putting up a few barriers to entry in my flyer/first post. Such as people needing to be very reliable and showing up on time, ideally being in our age range etc.

Concerning keeping your professional and gaming life separate, this is not a problem and a good practice anywhere online. Make sure you sign up to Reddit with an email (for privacy I like Posteo or Tutanota and stay faaar from Gmail etc) that does not have your real name or any tie to you profession, pick a user name on Reddit that could never be used to identify you, your job or location. If you post on Reddit asking for players, I always put my zip code to explain where I live and we will be playing, but I do not post any information pertaining to my real name, exact location, my job etc on Reddit or anywhere online. You simple ask people to email you for that info or use something like Telegram (my RPG group communicates via a Telegram group chat, which is exactly like Whatsapp except with better privacy, Signal is another good alternative).

Youtube, to be honest I never watch RPG playing sessions either, any time I tried I lasted five minutes since I just keep thinking: “I wish I was GMing/playing!”, “I would not use that system!”, “Why is the group so large and the combat so loooong?”,… XD But I think it is wonderful that it does entertain and pique the interest of tens of thousands of people who have never played! For them it is a gateway drug, for me, I want the real thing! I prefer to watch videos from really experienced GMs explaining their craft, their house rules/own system, their campaign setting and GM notes, those videos are far shorter, instantly applicable for me and some of them are extremely entertaining to boot.

About the women in RPG, it is honestly awesome! It changes the dynamic at the table, and I would say for the better, for everyone. My best and longest serving player at the table is a woman, she is way smarter than I, gets super into the game and her investment in turn reflects on the others and makes them also get more present, emotionally tied to the game and not afraid to show a more vulnerable side. She, and her dog she brings, makes us laugh every session. And at the same time this girl and the other two women in the group can be more creative or ruthless in combat than I could ever hope to be as a player.

What you describe, your feelings, make it plain you really want to start playing again. So just try it! Try the above. I do recognize those feelings, in those thirty years as a GM I have started writing my own rules/entire game system at least 4 times, never finished it, however this time around, I am about to!

More importantly, there were periods of 6 months and perhaps one period of 3 years that I did absolutely 0! with RPGs. Life happened, circumstances etc. But every time I would miss it, feel that pull, more and more,… I too would remember what an amazing time I had and crave both the unique social and gaming aspect of table-tops.

As I write elsewhere, I put a good RPG session on par with anything else I have done in my life including skateboarding, playing music live in front of an audience, romance, being out in beautiful nature etc etc.

Nietzsche wrote “Without music, life would be a mistake”,… I feel the same about RPG.


Thank you for taking the time to listen and to respond!

I think maybe I have seen Reddit discussions, but without understanding what it was.

Grognard, you say that just seven years ago you would not tell a new friend about your fantasy game hobby. Now you feel comfortable with it. Since you lived through this: what changed? I don’t mean the marketing and Stranger Things and all that, because that can’t be enough. I’m more inclined to think that mass media reflects a change that already happeend. Maybe I underestimate the power of YouTube videos on young people, but… something else must have changed in society to destigmatize RPGs. Any insights into the change in the culture while I was otherwise occupied?

Your experience is really interesting because it straddles the period of my non-gaming years. I also want to ask younger gamers what they think has changed.

Here’s an example. When I was in school, bullying was rampant and vicious. I mean physical punishment and humiliation. Comedies from the '80s about “jocks vs nerds” were a caricature of people’s real attitudes. If you stood out as different, you would lie low and participate in subculture creativity under the radar. By contrast, my kids today are taught so explicitly not to bully and to stand up for each other (not just by me and my wife, but by their whole school), it’s amazing. I wonder if this is part of it: that people can have “weird” hobbies publicly and not expect shaming from peers. Or maybe the category of what is stigmatized has just shifted. If any youngsters are tuned in to this, please chime in. It matters to how we think about the conditions under which people will try RPGs.

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Hey Lich, always happy to respond to interesting responses, questions and ideas! :slight_smile: That is what is great about forums, you can get more in depth, go off on tangents if desired and discussions have way more permanence than FB etc.

The 7 years thing is a rough estimate. The changes that made D&D (and in fact any nerdy pursuit) okay and often even laudable have been going on for a lot longer. When I was growing up, I didn’t know a single professional programmer, despite being heavily into computers and BBS culture around 17 years old and getting a C64 around 7? years old. Now, way more than half of my friends and acquaintances work with computers and/or the internet every day, many of them programmers, some security specialists, translators, you name it! Even more people I know use the internet for entertainment daily.

I think that all these things and more account for the acceptance of gaming and nerding of all sorts today: the internet as well famous, successful nerds like Gates, or Musk and becoming household names as well as exceedingly wealthy, the rise of Apple, web 2.0+ and start up culture, the ubiquitous nature of Youtube and some content creators becoming almost like Rock stars, professional gaming and the fact that the majority of people under 35 either (computer) game regularly or have a ton of friends that do etc.

Bitcoin, online Poker, Board games (Carcasonne!), Apps, mobile phones, gaming studios putting out things like SkyRim or Red Dead 2 which have bigger budgets and revenue and sales numbers than almost every movie, Disney and Marvel movies, WOW, LOL, Star Wars, GOT, LOTR being massive and on on. All that means that it is nonsensical to dislike or mistrust people who game or even RPG, after all even non nerdy people will have very close and trusted friends and family that love that stuff…

And as you say, the anti-bullying culture is a great step forward and a big factor as well. As much as I love “The Breakfast Club” film. it is so much better that society and schools are no longer clique-y. Nobody is very surprised nor thinks it weird to hear that Vin Diesel, Stephen Colbert, Aubrey Plaza, Matt Damon, Deborah Ann Woll, Terry Crews, Drew Barrymore and 100s more famous/admired people love D&D, nor would it raise much of an eyebrow in any school if a popular, very sporty person that is socially clued in also has some very nerdy interests. It might make that person more liked or relatable these days, not less.

Importantly, a huge swath of massively popular video games are heavily based on D&D, at least in terms of some of the mechanics and many tropes, all the games I mention above, but also The Witcher, Minecraft, Fallout and 1000s more. Just have a look at this list. A lot of people playing these games have no! idea how much they take from D&D, but, it does mean that if they watch a play-through or play D&D just once, that in general the tropes and basic idea is something they are really quite familiar with. To top it all off, once they give it a go they notice that D&D has infinite possibilities, choices and is a face-to-face, social, collaborative thing and that each session is different from any other. This blows a lot of people’s minds, especially if they are used to the more linear or at least finite nature of video games. I love sandbox computer games, but eventually you get to the edge and end of the sandbox.

Youtube and video games are a massive influence on people 8 to 25 and beyond.

Personally, every year that passed I ended up meeting more and more people actually already playing RPGs or very interested in doing so, men and women. It has come to the point that if a woman is dismissive of RPGs and not at least supportive of me playing, I have 0 interest in dating her. We can still be friends, but if a massive and important part of my life and a huge influence on who I am is of no interest to her at all, and if she thinks it is even a little lame, that is at least very inconvenient.

Does not mean she is a bad person, but just a lot less likely that she is my “type” or that I am hers. Of course there are rare exceptions. If a gal shares another obsession of mine like Punk and Squats or Sci Fi or Bicycles we could probably figure it out. It works both way, if a partner of mine spend a ton of time practicing to sing Opera and loves going to Opera often, and I have 0 interest or love for Opera, I wouldn’t expect her to necessarily feel like we can connect very well.

It has been a long time since I was one of the younger gamers, but I think I can answer this.

Now, just a bit more context: I don’t live in the USA and, before social media, my country used to lag a bit behind in many subcultures. RPGs was one of those. This is just to say that, when I started gaming in 2003-2004, even I was in a major city, the satanic panic was still in its death throes. Also, the lgs culture you speak about is still alien to me. I basically wasn’t introduced to gaming, but just found my father’s Red Box in the basement and started to read.

Setting up my first group was easy: I just went to my usual MTG night at a friend’s house and started speaking about this wonderful game. Finding the next groups was hard. Nobody wanted to play, you couldn’t break the topic with just anyone and in the end all the people at the table (me included) were still your stereotypical nerd weirdos (and a single girl, who was still a nerd weirdo)

I think things started to change with World of Warcraft (2004/2005). While it wasn’t mainstream, it was the first thing approaching mainstream which drove new people to the hobby. Most of them were still the kind of people you expected to play RPGs, but not all of them. After that, at the beginning of the last decade, came The Big Bang Theory. It was the first mainstream media representation of a lot of niche hobbies. As it started to gain popularity, I started seeing new faces both at my (not so) local gaming store and in the online spaces where I talked about RPGs.

Things started snowballing from that. Hot on TBBT’s heels came social media, which made easier to find people to play with, as @Grognard has already pointed out. While TBBT still depicted RPGs as a “nerd” thing, its public was composed mainly of “normal” people (many of them, at least here, parents or friends of nerds, and they started to see what we did in our, sometimes literal, basements in a different light).

After that, RPGs started appearing more often in media and each time that eroded a bit of prejudice. At some point, I think around 2012, if I said I played TTRPGs, most people would understand (even if I had to rephrase it as “I play games like Dungeons and Dragons”). My parents, my friends, my friends’ parents understood what I was doing and many of them showed some kind of interest. Not all of them started playing, but they tried.

Parallel to this, we had a general reinassance of fantasy and science fiction in many media. The Lord of the Rings movies started it, but then we had Game of Thrones, the Hobbit trilogy and many more. Of the many people who discovered they could enjoy this genre, some also discovered TTRPGs.

Then came Stranger Things. They spent a lot on marketing and the Red Box was part of their image from the start. The first episode shows the kids playing in its very first minutes. This gave TTRPGs a huge boost popularity.

My feeling is that they helped a lot. They put a subculture nobody cared for right under the spotlight and the people did the rest. It helped reach the critical mass which is making so easy to just stumble on TTRPG-related content all over the internet. Gaming stores and people did a lot to keep the new arrivals in, but there wouldn’t have been that many new arrivals if it wasn’t for the popularity media brought us.

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A post was merged into an existing topic: Your experiences with people who won’t try RPG despite it likely being a great fit?

I would also add that a large number of people that are now active in the entertainment industry grew up with role-playing games and other nerdy interests, and they have become much more open about that.


This has definitely made a difference. I have the distinct feeling that at least some of the authors of Stranger Things grew up playing D&D and this is why they decided to put it in the show.


This also is illustrative of our discussion above:

What I find fascinating about this celebrity D&D get together: these dudes are adored by millions around the globe! On stages and elsewhere they have had peak experiences that almost nobody gets to experience. They have traveled the whole world, they are each ‘worth’ in the 3 Million to 50 million area and yet it is clear that at or near the top of their list of favourite things to do and even think about,… is playing D&D in some (admittedly nice) basement. XD


Also interesting read that ties into the bullying thing, about a very young RPGer getting bullied at Gen Con 40 years ago. A lot has changed, even within the fandom. ->


One perception change I’ve noticed from inside the hobby is continuing de-emphasis on “game” and “challenge” and a heavy emphasis on “collaborative storytelling”. It now seems the be the overwhelming expectation (outside of OSR) that you will hand-craft a character who will be around for the entire story and have their own personal character arc.


I certainly had that feeling in the early 2000s already, or at least people wanted to play that way, and some of the popular systems kinda promised to do it but ultimately failed (because their mechanics, even if using different dice, were as traditional as it gets).

EDIT: Forgot to add: I’m not sure the gamey aspect is that de-emphasised in non-OSR circles. Think about character building and power gaming in general.


That sounds very plausible. I’m usually late to the scene (less than a year into enjoying OSR content, for instance!) and we played 3E and Pathfinder in a very deadly rocket-tag manner with a lot of optimization on both sides of the DM screen. When I said the “game” I meant more on the terms of clear failure and win conditions and a high degree of challenge. I agree that there is definitely more game mechanics to fiddle around with on modern RPGs.

I never had any trouble talking about Rpg here I’m Brazil. Sure, we have the creeps and all that stuff of horrors, but that exist since 74 (rpg-wise , not generic game talking).
But now we are more open minded to changes. People talk to people all around the globe, not only about the good, but the bad too.

I talk rpg almost every class I teach (martial arts), and some students are shy to give it a try. Newer ones tend to have little patience to sit and play, or they are too tainted by videogame experiences. Some are not.

The thing is, adults now can use a superhero t-shirt and not being judged as weirdos. They can have dolls and such, and still be taking serious.

There’s a lot o battles for inclusion to be fought but here we are. Big companies talking about gender, x cards and inclusion seems a good way to start

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