I save time and just say D&D. If questions are asked at least thats a recognizable starting point and hell, maybe they will be interested enough to try it out. Even if sci-fi is their forte you may be able to pull the uninitiated in by calling Edge of the Empire: D&D but Star Wars. However, I try to be more cautious of this in a setting where people are geeks, because let's be honest, we all need to try new things and we all know that there are a variety of things, especially when it comes to games. You wouldn't mind mentioning Catan by name to someone familiar with Monopoly and Clue, instead of saying board game, so why not say Our Last Best Hope instead of D&D or RPG?
But this is all just leading to the point of today's article: trying new things. Sure, sure, non-gamers shouldn't knock 'em before they try 'em. And we should call out our indie games by name when we're talking to other nerds. But as an individual, or as a gaming group, we should explore outside our boxes. If you are into card games, great! Try a board game. Or vice versa. Into D&D? Try out Shadowrun! Been playing Burning Wheel for years with occasional forays into D&D? Why not try Monster of the Week? Hell, is Catan your go-to board game for game night? Why not grab Munchkin or Elder Sign instead? Or maybe Pandemic?
The thing is we tend to love what we love, and for that reason we listen to certain artists more than others, watch certain shows more often, and eat certain foods regularly. But this doesn't (or shouldn't) stop us from listening to a new band, watching a different show, or trying a new restaurant. And for those gamers who have been playing the same RPG game for years on end, it shouldn't prevent us from trying out a different one. Especially now!
Why especially now? Right now? Because we are in a great time to be geeks. There are lots of systems that can be your go-to, long time, epic campaign-creating system right now. Many of them have been around longer than some of us realize too. Dungeons & Dragons (whatever edition), Pathfinder, Burning Wheel, Savage Worlds, FATE, Cypher, and Shadowrun just to name a few. Anyone of these could entertain you for lifetimes. But what about other games like CthulhuTech, Mouseguard, Wield, TMNT & Other Strangeness, Dread, All Outta Bubblegum, or Paranoia?
There are dozens upon dozens of RPG games, worlds, and systems that are made to fill certain niches. Many of them are designed around shorter lived adventures and stories, with a replay-ability in what could happen and what you can do with them. Our Last Best Hope provides 3 doomsday scenarios to work with and you could play out hundreds of different "movies" with that book alone. None of them would likely take more than one night, and something new would always happen. Add in the expansion book and you still have less pages than you D&D Player's Handbook, in smaller books, and another half-dozen or more base scenarios.
Now, I am not telling you to give up the games you love, the campaigns you have built, or the characters you are emotionally attached to. I want you to just grab a different game and try it out or a night / week / month. Run an adventure in another world or with different dice. Tell a new story in a new way. It provides you with so much entertainment and a great deal can be learned about how you play by doing it. Lessons to be taken back to the game you usually play.
Besides that the whole point of RPGs is to have fun right? We can forget that in long term campaigns sometimes. Especially where things are getting serious or dark. You can always take a break and play something else (like Catan). But if you still want to role-play you can still role-play. Go google Snakes on a Plane RPG, find the reddit page with the rules, and get to playing a great session where you may not mind being reckless, loosing characters, or getting ridiculous.
It is so easy to get bogged down in what you know you like. What you are familiar with. What you know the rules for. But don't let that stop you from trying new things. You didn't always know all the rules for Burning Wheel did you? No, you learned them over time and made some things up as you went along. Want some suggestions on what to play? The internet has plenty and you can even scroll back up, click on Resources for Every GM, and find a growing list of games there.
Variety and change can be great things, though people often fear both. But sometimes you have direct control over this. One of those times is your game table. So give it a go there and invigorate your gaming group!