System Matters but People Matter More

There are endless debates about the question of, “Does system matter?” Which, to me, is a bizarre debate. Of course it matters. Do the rules of the game effect the experience of play? Obviously they do. The “system doesn’t matter” people are saying “every game is at least a good game if you have great game master.” Maybe I’m obtuse; If I don’t like the game, I am not going to like it if the best game master in the world is running it. I have had more than one experience where the system was not the problem when I didn’t enjoy a game.

There are several games that I enjoy more than others. The early editions of Dungeons and Dragons, Call of Cthulu, D6 Star Wars, and Amber Diceless are among my favorites. I will eagerly play these games with complete strangers at conventions and open table events. Unless someone playing is a jerk, or the GM is truly horrendous, I’ll play through the whole session.

There are people I would never play games with no matter what they were playing. There are jerks and assholes in the world. A hypothetical greatest game ever designed by the greatest game designer ever to pick up a 20 sider can’t fix that. No game design can fix GM’s or players who are assholes. I’d rather not play than play with assholes.

There are certain games I don’t like at all. It doesn’t mean they are bad games, necessarily. I don’t like them enough to be willing to endure the experience more than once.

There’s an interesting middle ground of games that I like enough to play with certain people. For me, Savage Worlds and 5E falls into this category. I’ll play those games with certain people who I have played other games with, know well, and have a good intuition about how they would play. I would be hesitant about playing this category of games with people I don’t know. I will give a game a couple of tries just to see if I didn’t understand it or if the game master wasn’t good. Once I’ve established a game in the “meh” column, I’ll only play with close friends who are into the game.

Some game groups have playstyles I don’t enjoy. This can be one of those “opera” situations where the play is fine if that is your taste but it isn’t enjoyable to me. When there is a mismatch between my preferences in games combined with a game group that plays in a style I don’t enjoy, it can be miserable. I usually sit through the game session but bow out after that. I’m not talking about situations where people are being jerks. This is a situation where you go out with a talkative person who likes sushi and you’d rather eat hamburgers in silence. It’s merely a mismatch in personality and preference.

The number of games I would play with nearly any group is small.

The number games I would not play even with my best friends is similarly small.

The number of games that I would play with my close gaming friends but hesitate to play with anyone else is vast.

How well you fit with the people playing is at least as important as the rules and mechanisms of the game.

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