I just want to address the first part of the statement of challenge for us playing in a foreign country. It is not just linguistics that’s a barrier but the gaming language itself. This double barrier may only be pertinent to Grognards like myself who prefer Old School Renaissance style games but I think it extends beyond my experiences.
AT 13:37 Stork addresses the obvious point:
“It’s difficult to find first time players, and English….“
“…you expect that you are going to be immersed in the culture and you’re going to speak the language the whole time…”
But there is another cultural language to overcome: the sub-culture within the culture of gaming itself. RPGs that have a rule for everything are unattractive to Polish ESL (English-as-a-second-language) speakers since their understanding of role-playing, by the large, involves rules-seeded conversations. Think of the rules as facilitating Callan method www.eslbase.com/forum/viewtopic/t-370
This practice is noticeable in bilingual games I have participated in where these D&D 3.5 games were “in Polish-English” (Ponglish) and were little more than call-to-answer broken English (let’s say lower intermediate) practice. Local English speakers are unattracted to a game so mired in call-to-answer sentence structure and limited vocabulary.
I found this out when I tried to find local RPGers to play with/sell my conversation classes. Local RPGers roll dice against target numbers. They could not fathom a game based on descriptions. If a roll was high enough to be successful, a failure due to the fact that a searcher did not state they were looking under the carpet was heretical. I did the local gaming convention talk circuit discussing how RPGs were natural for language practice only to be met with polite nods and disbelief.
How would knowing the rules facilitate language? It took me a lot of time to understand the problem – being an old AD&D 1e Grognard returning to my hobby for the first time since the late 80’s. I heard the comparison of RPGs to Monopoly many times – leading me to believe people here never played an RPG. After looking at all the rules within 5 rulebooks of 3.5, I started to understand that the locals never NEEDED to associate RPGs to spontaneous speaking.
Much of the English language terminology was kept in the local translation. For example, AC in Polish is “Armor Class.” So I could say “Armour Class” with different inflections and convey sentences without the need for grammar or proper sentence construction. The rulebook was the basis for a shared binary language that was neither English nor Polish. And here I was giving talks about the “obvious” benefits of role-play in language practice!
In my expats group, the players who favour a rules laden game have a tremendously difficult time playing the game when the onus of play is on language. These players, who speak English proficiently, suffer the same problem as the Poles who cannot envision using less than rules jargon. The group has had problems and even split because of this.
I know the argument exists about how rules-over-rulings brings in new players but I have not seen it. In fact, my experience suggests the exact opposite is happening: new players are intimidated by a game with a hundred thousand words of rules, and they leave the game. Likewise, when novice player numbers are against the veteran gamers in a group, the group splits into two fractions.
So, it is my observation that the more codified Dungeons and Dragons has become, the more disservice it has done to attracting new people into the hobby in general – and this specifically applies only to D&D because it is synonymous with role-playing games. I understand WotC was attempting to steal market share from video gamers, and that for such a strategy more rules codification is better. Only, I am convinced that tabletop RPGs cannot deliver any better value to the computer gamer than what the computer game already delivers. And for those people new to the hobby who want to try the shared collaborative fantasy of a role playing game, a verbalized game programmed into objectivity is unappealing.
So these days, when I mention D&D to prospective new players for our lonely-hearts group, I sometimes get rejected with the line “I heard the rules are complex.” But I can recall a day long ago when I did play without knowing the rules, and the player relationships were very social, and I had fun. I can tell you that this sales pitch to people new to RPGs works for me.
I wonder how hyvemynd’s experience with the Japanese has been? I wonder if anyone else can bear out my observation about D&D 3.5 (and by extension 4e) being detrimental to the hobby? I am interested to read other people’s experiences with this, recognizing that D&D is not the same game as it was originally intended. What do people here think about this? Are you as surprised by my experience, as was I?