Level of engagement with the RPG hobby

Continuing the discussion from DISCORD Handles:

I think that (i.e. the difference between people who play RPGs and people who have RPGs as their hobby) would be a great show topic, actually! Sean / Bret, what do you think?

I see this difference between myself and most of my group: In practice, I don’t actually play that much more than the rest of them (we have a roughly bi-weekly in-person game). But I do play the occasional online game on top of this, regularly attend conventions (usually to try out new systems or play those systems that my regular group isn’t interested in).

I listen to a lot of RPG podcasts, follow a bunch of RPG related blogs, Facebook groups, and Discord servers, and otherwise try to engage with the larger RPG gaming community. I also back a fair number of RPG kickstarters or otherwise expand my collection.

Most of the players in my group are happy to play the game and develop their characters, but they probably don’t spend hours every week engaging with this topic outside of our sessions.

To be clear: I’m not making any value judgments here. Heck - if anything, being less obsessed with the hobby than myself is probably more healthy for folks… :wink:

Anyway, feels like this topic might warrant some coverage on the podcast. Exploring how different gamers engage with the hobby, etc.

(Thanks for the topic inspiration, @Beholdershorde !)


You sound like me. I know most of my players where I GM are not otherwise into RPG hobby; and my fellow players in the game I run are also not into the hobby.

The notable exceptions are those who also pick up the mantle of GM. THEY spend a bunch of time involved in the hobby, especially the longer they GM.

Probably something to do with having to perform and trying to do better with every game. You can’t help but search for other resources. And then in those resources they refer you to another game that sounds cool, and all of a sudden your are polygamerous…


Since this forum is a niche of a niche of a niche, I suspect we’ll find that most of the gamers here are pretty damned into the hobby. It’s not a good term, but so-called ‘Alpha Gamers.’ The folks who bring new games to the table, who usually GM, listen to podcasts, who are interested in the industry, etc., etc.

Having limited free time in my life, I decided last year to give up or limit some other hobbies so I could specifically focus on gaming… going to cons, finding a live group for the first time in 25 years, etc., and it’s frankly been very rewarding. Love what’s going on, compared to, say, the OGL days…


I too cut back on some other things to have more time with this hobby. I wanted more quality time in this hobby, so some other stuff was cut. For me it was a good choice. @Harrigan, I’m glad to hear your wanting to play in a live group. For me a group at the table is always the best. On line and other groups are good, but not quite the same to me. There’s just something about everyone being face to face that brings the game session to the next level.


My usual method of gaming remains Play by Play for a variety of reasons (deeper characterizations and stories, ability to run and play in multiple games at once, etc.), but yeah, after 25 years of basically not playing live, last year I took two very purposeful actions: started attending local cons (Colorado has a bunch of little ones rather than one big one), and tried virtual play over Google Hangouts.

The hangouts stuff was cool, but the con play clicked with me. Not only do local cons allow for playing a bunch of games a few weekends a year, but I was able to connect in with two different local networks of gamers. One is a group of GMs who rotate and run different one-shot games for one another on Sunday evenings, the other is a much larger group focused on small press and Indy games who use Facebook and Discord to schedule games. So after attending one con, I went from knowing one person locally who gamed, to connecting with like 50+ people with similar gaming interests. Pretty cool.

Now, I still can’t play that often due to my schedule, but it’s a pretty great gaming situation compared to the barren wasteland I was faced with for more than two decades. Now I’m having to look at limiting con play so I can play with the regular groups more often!


Oh, absolutely. I would imagine that most of us (that engage on a forum for an RPG podcast) are pretty far on one side of the spectrum.

One of the things I really enjoy about this hobby is that people can get pretty much whatever they want out of it, for whatever level of engagement feels appropriate for them. Some just like to show up every 2 weeks to play, and that’s it - nothing wrong with that at all. Others like to spend time thinking about their character backstories, calculating the perfect build, or other meta activities.

GMs naturally need to engage a bit more, but even there, it’s a big spectrum. The GM in my current 5e game, for example, does a great job running a pre-published adventure, and occasionally introduces some homebrew content or houserules. But I don’t think he actively follows podcasts, engages with RPG communities, buys and reads different rulesystems, etc. Other GMs will listen to podcasts, follow Youtube channels, etc. to learn new techniques and such.

Anyway, interesting topic to explore. :slight_smile:

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Glad you found an in-person group after 15 years!

I took a 15 year break from the hobby as well and only got back into it about 6 years ago. One of the best decisions I ever made! :slight_smile:

I agree that face to face games are the best. But I love that we’re able to augment this with online games now, which has allowed me to dabble with systems and play styles that my main group isn’t interested in.

Planning to run a DCC game on Fantasy Grounds some time soon-ish…


It would be interesting to explore whether different game styles or structures work better with casual groups versus groups of hobbyists. I mentioned in the original discussion that I didn’t have much luck running a West Marches campaign because the players didn’t really want to engage with some of the unique aspects of that type of game. Same with other variations on sandbox-style play. However, an open-table megadungeon campaign seems like a good match for an “I just want to show up and throw some dice for a few hours” audience.

Edit: I’m not sure what to do with a mixed group of casual and hobbyist gamers.


I just faced this exactly. I recently “suspended” a sandbox style D&D game (Swords & Wizardry base) by talking my casual gamers into joining another gamer’s 1e game, which he alternates with my own. This enabled me to run Conan 2d20 (which I’m absolutely adoring, by the way) with the two most deeply invested gamers in my group. Conan only works because these two care about games and narrative and because, like me, there absolutely is nothing else they would rather be doing with their Monday nights.

The other gamers… First, they don’t even want to commit more than two nights a month. Second… Perhaps it helps that my two gamers, like me, appreciate the lore and mythos of the Conan setting. It’s best to have commitment for this.

My spouse asked me if no one else was interested in my Conan game. I hesitated in my response. I honestly never even asked the other gamers, at least not overtly. What I did was ask, “Listen, are you invested in what I am doing with my D&D game, in the narrative that is emerging at my table, or, if it’s all the same to you, are you just coming to my house to laugh and roll some dice?” They expressed the latter. Perhaps I’m self-selecting. And I might also have selected my players because of the attention and patience one must exercise while exploring a new system. Again, it requires commitment.


Right, some games aren’t possible without a bit of commitment. The only game I’m playing in right now (as opposed to running) is a weekly Swords & Wizardry sandbox game with 4 players who are all engaged with the setting and have ideas and goals to pursue, and it’s amazing. I tell some of my friends about what we get up to, and they think it sounds fun, but there’s no way they can commit to that type of game on a regular basis. And if you can’t get the same people to show up consistently, that kind of game can’t work.


I run a 5E for 8 to 9 people every other week. Most are hard core players. It takes a commitment, from both the DM and players.

I’m spoiled. I’ve had pretty much the same group for 20+ years. The occasional addition, the odd leaving. But it’s a great group, I’m luck show up week in and week out.


Yeah, I have done that sort of organically, where my other hobbies aren’t compelling to me like RPG gaming is now. So my comic habit has tapered, I haven’t gone backpacking in a few years now, etc etc.