Bards and Barbarians

So I was reading a recent post from MiddleAgedDM about D&DNext (or whatever) and he ruminates about the changes in his preparation and GMing style these days. I find it interesting because I know that it’s a conversation/thought I hear expressed often – that as we get older/more busy we lose the freedom to prep the way we used to, to play out all the little interactions we once did – that maybe we even lose the urge to DM that way anymore. We just need to get to the good bits.

I think it must be a common occurrence for gamers – and you know – you adapt so that you can keep playing. I get that. I find it fascinating because it hasn’t really happened to me. Admittedly, I’ve always been a prep-light GM anyway and I prefer systems low on mechanical interaction and high on at the table social interaction. That said, I ran a lot of Shadowrun and Pathfinder so it’s not all rules light. If anything, I find that I have the urge to prep more than I did years ago because that prep gives me a sense of comfort…

But I realized that I haven’t actually stayed the same over these last few years. My GM style may have remained consistent but my style and taste as a player have changed dramatically.

I have notebooks full of characters I played when I was a young gamer – and invariably I played one thing. I was the Wizard. If it was D&D I was a Grey Elf Wizard. If it was Arcanum, it was a Druas Wizard (or Mage). If it was superheroes I was a Dr. Fate clone. I played the wizard. I don’t think I played a fighter or a cleric until I was in my twenties – though I would be lying to say that I didn’t play the occasional thief. That did happen, like once. Heck, in the World of Darkness the only game I really enjoyed was Mage.

Then I started looking at what I’ve played for the last few years and I see a radical shift. Now I play Barbarians or Bards. And it may not be that exact character class – but that’s the character type I’m playing. I’m either a “let’s hit ‘em in the face” melee type or I want to play the charismatic “fifth man” who is that, I’m second best at everything type of character. I realized that I’ve actively refused to play Wizards (or even the magus) in Pathfinder because they are prepared spell type casters and I just don’t want to actually do all the work of picking spells. It’s also occurred to me that these days I would take a weaker passive ability over a more powerful, triggered ability any day. I also am pretty sure I haven’t played an elf in the last 10 years.

I don’t have a predictable reason why the shift happened. I still love playing (when I get the chance) and I still love the part of RPGs that is all about taking on a role and playing that character (not just a “version” of yourself). I love being a player character. But I shudder at classes that require a commitment in terms of planning each game session.

I hear a lot about how people’s GMing styles have changed over time – has anyone else experienced this radical shift in desired experience as a player? Or am I just crazy?

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3 responses

  1. I think as a player I have become much more flexible in what I

  2. I think as a player I have become much more flexible in what I play. Itend to see what is lacking in the party or try something new. In the past I was much more rigid. for fantasy it was either a “Silk” type character from Eddings’ books or a super muscular great weapon wielding brute (I shudder what the projective hypothesis would say about that). accomnpanying the increased flexibility is a lack of fear of failure, so I will pretty much do or try anyhting.

  3. So… the character types you used to play are the two I find myself playing all the time now? I think we’ve basically just said we’ve flipped styles between our two posts…

    I have a friend who approaches character creation in a similar way. He always wants to know what everyone else is playing before he commits to his character – and he always comes prepared with a bunch of characters to start any character gen session.

    My attitude may be shaped by my GMing though as I always tend to tell players to play whatever they want – balance be damned – and I’ll work to make sure the adventures are appropriate no matter what they choose.

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