#RPGaDay2021 – 11 – Heavy

Today’s entry options for #RPGaDay2021 probably seem like a peculiar set of choices for an event rooted in positivity and praise for the roleplaying game hobby. With a selection starting with wilderness, and including heavy and despair, plus what might be a plea to listen, it might seem like the darkest day, yet. However, to take a journey through the wilderness of over-used phrases for a moment, without a view of the darkness, how can we appreciate standing in the light? With this in mind, I have chosen the prompt ‘heavy’ for today as it is a word that comes up more often in complaint than in praise – even if it is not regarded as being especially troublesome on its own.

Day 11

LISTEN to the Casting Shadows blog instead


As most of those reading this blog know, heavy and Light (or the inevitable lite) are terms that get used to describe the amount of involvement required of a player from a particular system. A highly-detailed system with more than a step or two in a given moment of outcome resolution will tend to be described as ‘heavy’ – especially if the system does not employ a unified resolution method. The more a system requires of us to remember, the heavier it seems.

There’s that word again!

The Usual Suspects

The typical defense of heavy games is rooted in their capacity to inform the group about details of outcomes which can inspire imagination and drive description. The offense typically relies on a pretty damning line of attack, that being the critics themselves are too old, too busy, too forgetful, or too intimidated to try such games. If the games do not get played, and do not get played because they are or are perceived to be ‘too heavy’ then that is a fate worse than death for those games. This is especially true when the impact of word of mouth in this hobby is taken into consideration.

Are these game then doomed? Are they on the way out, to be replaced by leaner and lighter games?

Looking around, I am pleased to report that no, heavy games are not going anywhere. Heavy can and should remain a descriptive term not a pejorative one.

But wait, there’s more!

One thing that I have noted over the years is that people do not always recognize the best way to approach new problems. It often takes some trial and error to get it right. Others are mislead by ill-intentioned or well-meaning advice which is not suited for them, and once again can fail to recognize the need to experiment with possible solutions.

There are those among us who not only prefer the approach taken by heavy systems, some of us find it uncomfortable or unsatisfying to play without their support. Learning to feel confident, interested, and satisfied with a lighter or full on light system takes time, adjustment of expectations, and experience with interpreting what the system delivers in order to understand what their role is as a player.

Conveniently, this is no different than what it takes for a player used to light games to get into a heavier or heavy one.

One key that I can provide is that in either direction we have to take things in stages. We can benefit from recognizing that our perspective and expectations have been shaped by the games we have played before and that that background will be leading us astray in terms of the new game as often as it lends us a hand. We can benefit from recognizing that new things take time and reflection to learn. We can also benefit by remembering that learning to play an RPG pays off in fun and camaraderie and the first time we ever learned one will typically be harder than subsequent attempts. We don’t have to go from no knowledge and from a point of separation from the hobby. We get to go from some knowledge to a different perspective within the hobby. Even if we only play the new game for a short while, the experience pays off repeatedly as we add more and more new games to our repertoire.

Another key I can provide is that lifting heavy things, over time, changes our perspective on our own classification of heavy. We may even come to recognize that point of balance that will enable us to carry far heavier things than we thought, with far less effort. Best yet, the more we take on the effort to add more weight to what we carry – we not only enable ourselves to learn enjoyably in controlled stages, we also enable ourselves to expand our carrying capacity.

If we get in enough reps, we may even get an approving look from that secret RPG fan, Charles Atlas.

In Our Play

  1. Going toward a heavier load
It is not as heavy as it looks, but it looks really, really heavy

2. Going toward a lighter load

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