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I always play roleplaying games with the same friends. We have a lot of fun, but I'm always a bit frustrated by the fact that they always resist when I propose to try new roleplaying games. Even trying different editions (like Blood and Smoke instead of Vampire: The Requiem) is opposed by some players without much argumentation.

I'm most of the time the guy that will GM new roleplaying games, often after a lot of argumentation and persuasion. After some games and campaigns with that new game, they will grow accustomed to it and even try to GM it sometimes. Because of it, I'll rarely play a roleplaying game for the first time as the player and without knowing every rule by heart.

Others do GM, but mostly either the same games they've known for years or games that I made them discover.

How can I:

  1. Make them more willing to try new roleplaying games?
  2. More willing to try to GM new roleplaying games, without having tried it with me as GM beforehand?
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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd love to hear if anyone else has more luck with this than I have. I have enough trouble convincing others to run a single game, let alone DM a campaign, let alone DM a new system :P \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Mar 30 '15 at 18:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do other members of the group already GM other things, or are you the sole GM? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 30 '15 at 18:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Other players GM, but mostly either the same games since years or games I made them discover... \$\endgroup\$ – Heschoon Mar 30 '15 at 18:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Realistically both playing a new system or asking someone to GM are big asks on their own, let alone asking them to GM a new system. In general you should expect if you are pushing for a new system at your table that you will be the GM for the introductory campaign. \$\endgroup\$ – Joshua Aslan Smith Mar 30 '15 at 19:00
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I've had similar challenges, both with getting group buy-in to try new systems and with getting people to feel comfortable GMing anything at all.

My solution was a long-game process of changing the "landscape" of how people at the table viewed their role in the game. I didn't set out to deliberately address the challenges you're facing, but it's accomplishing your goals. Here's what I did, but please keep in mind that it was a lot more organic and unplanned than I'm going to make it sound. What I'm describing was a haphazard evolution over about four years.

I've been engaged in a long, slow process of crafting the gaming environment so people feel more empowered to influence the game as players. This means asking them for more input and giving them jobs traditionally left to the GM. We were playing D&D 4e, a game with a great deal of fiddly bits, and I needed to pass off as much of the burden as I could: from designing NPCs and choosing plot points to tracking initiative and debuffs in combat.

As a side effect this demystified the GM's role because I opened it up for analysis and participation, so when the time came the leap to GM was less daunting for my friends. They knew what it entailed and they'd seen me get help with it from the group so they knew they wouldn't be on their own.

In addition to giving players more agency in campaign design and making the GMing process more transparent, I groomed one particular friend (who was already more proficient with 4e mechanics than I) and accompanied him in preparing a short game in the existing system which he ran on nights I was too burned out to run things myself. By focusing on one person who I knew possessed ready potential and was game to try it, I had practical lines of action beyond begging folks to GM sometimes. When he was ready and he ran his game, it was fun! He made mistakes and we didn't care. There were glorious TPKs. This further clarified that GMing is not an elite or perfectionist role, and that I was not guarding it jealously: it's just another role you can inhabit as someone who plays RPGs.

Then (and at this point we'd switched systems to Fate, which is much less prep-heavy) I invited others to run single sessions of our main campaign. It was low pressure because they already knew the system and the setting, and I'd been engaging them in the story-design process for some time.

(As a side note: we switched to Fate at the end of a two-year campaign in 4e. We felt like we'd basically "done" 4e, and the transition was smoothed by using the Dresden Files RPG. We'd all been reading the Dresden Files novels, so enthusiasm was high enough to overcome trepidation about a radically new system.)

Roughly simultaneously I started running one-shots of simpler systems when we didn't have all our participants for the main game. That let me introduce them to new systems without sacrificing main-game time to do it, so they felt less resentful of the change. When I couldn't be there one evening, I gave them Everyone Is John to run amongst themselves. They said they like horror, so I introduced Cthulhu Dark.

Not everything we tried (like My Life With Master) was a big hit, but it always expands our vision of what gaming can encompass--and over time made us more open to jumping between systems depending on what we felt like each week. We learned that it's okay to try stuff we aren't sure we'll love: sometimes we love it, but if we don't... well, we still had a night of gaming with friends.

Recently we've reached the point where people volunteer to run sessions of the main campaign (right now we're using the Atomic Robo rules for Fate), and they ask for help to run a one-shot in a system they really liked (especially Roll For Shoes and Cthulhu Dark). A couple folks have stepped up with systems or campaigns they want to try out and offered to run them for us (we've got Paranoia and a zombie apocalypse game waiting in the wings). As of last month every person in the group has run at least one session of a game. Our group feels more like a group of friends who play RPGs, than like a GM who runs players through his games. That's the change you need to be looking to make.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm so jealous that I could barely make myself give you the +1 you deserve. ;) \$\endgroup\$ – user23715 Mar 31 '15 at 0:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer is so good that I am deleting my own answer. I have constantly been trapped in the "You're the DM, you run it" position in every group I play, and while I enjoy that role, there are some days I just don't want to run. Not all the time, but your post has given me ideas on how to deal with this. It does seem like a lot of work to do it intentionally, but it is still an amazing answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Aviose Mar 31 '15 at 14:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer is great because it recommends something rare that should be more common: Interactive storytelling by player empowerment. Too often I hear in DnD podcasts and in life about the GM's story, but the GM should just be the moderator for the players telling their story. The best stories will be told collaboratively. \$\endgroup\$ – aherocalledFrog Apr 1 '15 at 1:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Plus points for de-mystifying and one-shots - I was a new player who's now running my own campaign thanks to those two methods from our current GM! The Fate system definitely helps with the player agency thing as well, and I highly recommend getting your players involved in the world-building as much as possible. \$\endgroup\$ – Houdini Apr 2 '15 at 15:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ one of the key things you mention is that some of us did volunteer wholeheartedly to GM single sessions, some of the credit for that, on my part at least, was that it was Fate. for the 4E game I ran, all I ever did was run my own campaign sessions. this is partly because in 4E I would have felt I was giving myself a spoiler, or encroaching on your creativity. in Fate I had already put some effort into crafting the world itself. \$\endgroup\$ – trogdor May 24 '15 at 8:16
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Run short demo games

If people are only willing to play or GM in familiar games and/or systems, try running one to three session introduction games. This will take some of the burden of off you in running a full-scale campaign for every new system you want to try, and will give them a chance to experience a "preview" of the game that might get them more interested in playing or running it.

Encourage your friends to run demo games

Once you're demonstrated the format, some of them might be willing to try it, too. These games don't have to be 100% new, either. They could be Requiem, but centered on an unusual minor covenant or bloodline. The idea is to encourage people to experiment in a format that has less commitment. Some demo games will be great fun and you'll learn some new things. Some will fall flat, but that's OK when they are over in a night.

Whether you or someone else is running a demo game, you can run them on the side of normal campaign. Next week, people can go back to comfort of the established game.

Offer to co-GM

It sounds like your group may be intimidated by trying to GM unfamiliar games. It can be daunting to have to learn a system and a setting in addition to all of normal prep work of an RPG campaign. Try easing one of them into it by sharing the activity.

You and your co-GM would both read the rules, and you would discuss and collaborate on your story. You could split to work of creating NPCs and scenes. During game sessions, NPCs would be split between you. Or, one of your could run NPCs, while the other narrated the scene and managed rolls & rules.

Consider planning this as a shorter campaign, since it's an unusual format.

Find an additional group

If you're having fun playing with these guys in the "same old" games, keep doing it. You can talk to other friends, hit up the local game store, or find an online group that might be willing to experiment with new games. Play in both groups, have your cake, and eat it too.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The demo games thing isn't a bad idea, but still does not really change the way the OP expressed they're already dealing with the problem and what they want to get away from. The OP didn't say how long they run their games for before they are adopted, but did express that that effort is necessary and was the primary concern of the them. Co-GM'ing isn't a bad option and finding an additional group is a great idea. Those suggestions specifically give a lot of merit to your response. \$\endgroup\$ – Aviose Mar 31 '15 at 14:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1, if one of my friends wanted to try a new system, but wouldn't agree to at least co-DM even a one-shot in it first, I would probably consider that rude. \$\endgroup\$ – DCShannon Apr 3 '15 at 1:53
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You could try having them watch others play a new system. As a player this has given me a taste of how the systems work and the tone of the game. There are a few twitch channels where people play RPG's, I've watched most of ITmejp's games which include quite a few different games/styles, most of which have been posted to his youtube channel as well. I'd ask your group to watch the first part of the first episode of one of the system you'd like to try and see if they are interested after that

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Make them really excited for the new system/setting

Our group was in a similar situation several times these last years. On some rare occasions it actually worked out for someone to introduce new systems and/or settings which were then very quickly picked up by other players in GM roles (if not in the very first session they still got into GMing the new system/setting very fast and not after a months long campaign).

The secret recipe: Make your other players really excited for the new shiny thing.

Players in our group managed to do this by providing a lot of background and inspirational material which gets people in the right mood. This meant for example:

  • organizing movie nights where we'd watch movies that fit the new setting perfectly,
  • suggesting books to read,
  • suggesting PC/console games fitting the setting,
  • hand out PDF Versions of the rules (or lend them the rulebook), so people can have a look at the new mechanics for magic/weapons/encounters/whatever interests them,
  • bring food or attire fitting the setting to the first/next session.

Alls this resulted in most players being quite exited to try out a new system/setting, which in turn also vastly increased their motivation to GM it.

A specific example:

One of our players wanted to introduce Hollow Earth Expedition, a pulp 1930s "lost world" adventure game set in a fictitious Hollow Earth.
To make everybody enthusiastic about the new system we watched King Kong (2005, Jackson) and Indiana Jones, and passed around adventure stories. To game nights someone brought exotic fruits. Some even dressed up in 30ies/steampunk/adventure attire.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think this will depend on the group, but for groups it works for, it sounds really effective. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 2 '15 at 15:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Man, I wish anyone in my group, self included, had the time for this. It does sound awesome, but that’s a lot of prep and a lot of time to ask for. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Apr 2 '15 at 16:13
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You probably can't... they seem like they're all resistant to change.

If you want a plan to try even though it might not be advisable:

Find a system that your group hasn't played, and one of the guys that GM'd before would be interested in. If he's a horror western buff, Deadlands. If he liked Bladerunner, Shadowrun... Something that really jibes with what that person likes, and they know enough about that they could create a game easily... Sell the game, say you'd love to run it, but can't because X, Y, and Z.

Every time it comes up, sell up the system, and balk at running it. Eventually someone will step up... you hope.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't like the defeatist attitude of this answer. Of course they're resistant to change, they're human, we don't change unless we need to. Didn't downvote because selling games to players in a targeted fashion is indeed good advice. It's just not enough on it's own. \$\endgroup\$ – aherocalledFrog Apr 1 '15 at 1:43

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