#RPGaDay Day 19: Learning

Every gamer has had to learn a game that is new to them at least once. The first time may be lost in the haze of distant memory, or it might be a fresh memory of fun and discovery. Regardless, from those memories can come ideas which fuel plans for the next time. Ways and means of making it easier, or in some way ‘better’ for you to get comfortable with the different set of rules and expectations a new game will bring. The more new games you try to learn, the more and more clarity you might gain about making this process more efficient for you and each member of your group, so that less time is used learning how to play, and more is spent giving it a good run.


One thing that is important to me is that I learn to play the new game like the new game, not like one of the previous games. Shedding my habits and preconceptions is a part of the process for me. It is not always easy. Sometimes, a single line of text can make all the difference. It might not be easy, but for me, it is fun. I enjoy the process.

There are different ways to learn, and each of us benefits from particular approaches to learning. While these are not so cut and dried as educational theory can make it sound due to interference from outside factors such as expectations, or internal ones such as self-image and ego, there are better ways for each of us to approach learning specific material.

For myself, I have found that running the game with no or only minimal referencing of the book is what I enjoy most. That then becomes a goal when I am learning a game. What I have had to recognize is that the first session, particularly as my time is taken by more and more non-game things, does not need to be ‘off-book’. It is okay and beneficial to use the first sessions of a campaign to have the books open, to stop play when I want to reference something, and to engage the full group in rules look-ups and learning. It is our game. We should know how to play it.

I particularly like dividing complex games up into sections and having individual players become the go-to person for those sections. It reduces learning time, builds confidence, and keeps the conversation around the table moving. It also contributes to building more GMs around the table which is my preference. I typically tie this to specialties related to each person’s character, but this is not necessary. It is helpful, and reduces the impact of learning the game on time spent.

When I first get a game though, I read it. I read it a few times, and I make notes of how to best order its parts and chapters for learning. I make notes that help me turn instructions into actual at-the-table processes. Most often these are mental notes, but when it is almost time to run a game for the first time, especially with new people, I will make notes of those processes on paper several times as that externalization and repetition significantly increases my retention and comprehension of the rules.

After that first session, I make mental note of the areas where I felt a lack of confidence, and areas where I had no retention of the relevant rule and I address those areas until they are a part of my active memory for the group. Once that stage is reached, it is time to focus on implementation style and speed, and check for real comprehension of how it all fits together.

To reach my final understanding of a game requires time spent playing it and challenging it. It is hastened along by post-game discussions, and by talking to other people who play the game about what they do with it.

I will never feel ready enough to run a game before that first session. I almost always feel ready enough after the first session. This obviously means that I need to address the pre-game attitude, and gather feedback after game one…and later games.

It also means that I need to take a leap of faith.

Gaming is fun.

The first time I ran a game was fun. I cannot have run it well, but we had a good time.

I should not forget that.

I got better and we had even more fun.

I should not forget that either.


Tomorrow’s Question

What is the most challenging but rewarding game you have learned?



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