People are always looking for a familiar feeling; the brain learns to repeat patterns of neural activity that elicit the all-important “feel-good” sensation. This translates into every aspect of our daily activities; music, hobbies, politics, and even personal values, they are all based on what we feel is familiar and comforting, and that reflects our own self.
There is some effort needed in finding something truly different. It’s tiring and frightening. We walk naked and frail, and as beings who enjoy comfort, we strive to familiarness in our hobbies and downtime.
When I was younger, I had a tribal and egocentric mentality (typical on a young nerdy guy) I thought people didn’t know what was good, I felt illuminated in a world of fools and basic people.
But one day, having a really dense argument with my father about some random dance music, he told me “You really don’t enjoy anything, because you expend all your energy hating everything.”
I thought it was absolute nonsense. Besides, bashing bad stuff is really “fun”, how can a casual know what is good? But like everything my father says, I took it very personally, and I thought about it for many years.
A couple of years later, I decided to stop being an insufferable smartass about everything and do a little experiment. I was going to try everything and just look for the positives.
Interesting Better than “Fun”
Its been years since that day, and I have come to certain conclusions. First; it’s hard to do it. It is a huge effort to endure things that don’t click at first, or that alienate you and make you feel uncomfortable. But if you go through that first barrier, a whole universe of new emotions and experiences awaits, impossible to discover without having done the effort. I think we cannot see beyond our own biases and preferences, and because who wants to make an effort in our free time? Free time is supposed to be about “fun”.
I’m an artist, but I don’t consider drawing and painting “fun.” In fact, most of the time, it’s kinda tortuous. It’s about preparation, and research, geometric calculations, and a metric ton of anxiety. But sure is damn interesting and compelling, it makes me wanna see beyond my own capabilities, makes me wanna try something new, fail, and try something else.
The same happens with music. A lot of times I listen to some records for hours and hours, not finding any obvious pleasure. But I’m not looking for comfort, I’m not looking for something obvious, and “fun.” I’m looking for something new, a new destination, a place I didn’t know existed. And that experience, of finding something truly new, is so satisfactory, so revealing. And after the journey, you have something more in you, another thing that brings you joy.
Enjoying Everything in Pathfinder
Everything I have written so far applies directly to TTRPG. Maybe you don’t like a certain class at first, or even an entire edition of the game or you think you could have done better. Maybe you even feel that the designers deserve a visit on the forums, to be reminded of their poor work.
But in all that pointless struggle, there is an opportunity lost, a place to find something new.
In every missed dice, in every apparently weak class, or useless spell, maybe there is a chance to do something truly memorable and unique. Maybe it will not result in something “fun” but can still be very interesting and satisfying.
That session/campaign where you used Knowledge Engineering or that trait that is useless 95% of the time, the weak archetype that ended up being the most memorable character you have ever played. I’m not saying it will always be like that. Sometimes it will be a subpar experience. But even then, a unique subpar character is ten times more memorable than that build that you downloaded from the internet.
A More Positive Attitude in our Community
When I first started playing Pathfinder more seriously I was obsessed with my friends mastering the system, I didn’t want them to just play, I wanted them to master everything so we could play Rappan Athuk with Mythic rules. But time and time again, I’ve realized that is better to embrace every type of player, otherwise, you will end up with the same 2 power gamers and no one else. Inclusion is so much better than exclusion and gatekeeping. And with new people, you also find new experiences that you would otherwise never have.
RPG groups are like painting, if you only do what you like, you will never improve, and you will miss a lot. The beauty is that as your horizons expand, so does your tolerance for new things, and after a while, everything looks like a new opportunity, a chance to find something memorable and joyful.
As our tolerance grows, the ambiance gets more welcoming. The discussion more wholesome. There are more smiles and laughs, and less silly arguments and namecalling. And in that kind and welcoming space, more people feel invited and happy to join us in our nerdiness, and that is a wonderful feeling.
I’m not for a second suggesting that you like everything Paizo publishes. I certainly don’t. But with every new playtest, with every new feat and spell, an opportunity arises, a chance to make an image in the memories of our friends. That memory is not there because it is powerful or broken, or viable, it is because we did something with it. We embraced it, and we found something in it. And maybe if we embrace more the new things, and different opinions, we would have a more welcoming and kind community.
Our local community keeps growing daily. We do workshops to teach how to play the game, focusing on enjoying every aspect of the game, the defeats and the victories. It works for us, it definitely works for me, maybe it can improve your game experience as well.