A war of attrition is always won. (look it up)
I've recently found myself drawing analogies between music and RPGS. I started playing D&D when I was 9. Started playing the bass guitar at 14. Being in a band is a lot like being in an adventuring party (with the singer as 'caller' I guess). I speak of small-potato bands - I have no idea what it was like to have been Fleetwood Mac, Celtic Frost, etc (tho I believe that Simon LeBon of Duran Duran has tried to exert psychic control over me for years...another story..another time...)
Some analogies ensue:
+ Run what you know:
RPG: the system you feel comfortable with, the one that already is the back of your hand. Not to say that one shouldn't use other games - but there's mostly likely one game that you know well enough to run 'off-the-cuff'.
MUSIC: Over the years I've developed some varying degrees of proficiency with a variety of instruments. There's the piano which is a constant struggle for me - it is on the edge of my ability to play it in a way that is satisfactory to me. But when I just want to play some damn music, it is not my instrument of choice.
+ Play what you don't know
RPG: this is one way to stretch out and broaden your vocabulary. Try different games, different settings, etc - try games that seem antithetical to youtr 'normal play'.
MUSIC: Listen to everything! Try to appreciate the best that each 'genre' of music has to offer. Sometimes it's hard to dig through the shit to find the diamond buried beneath - but you can always wash your hands afterwards! And once you have that diamond, appreciate it, yes - but there's something to be learned from it too.
+ Structure vs Improv
RPG: This is so contextually dependant on DM/player group style - but there's always a sweet spot to be found. Some players actually appreciate being lead around by the nose (I am baffled by this, but I have seen it happen...). Some people like to play with meticulous notes and plans for every contingency they can think of - others like to wing-it, riff, or whatever.
MUSIC: I have come to appreciate structure more and more - having been guilty of countless hours of improvisational wankery (some of it good - most of it boring). There's sometimes the magical moment when structure arises from chaos like an emergent system or something - but more and more I don't see these things as ends-unto-themselves. Improv is the woodshed, structure is the home.
+ Human Interaction/Social aspects/Group Dynamics
RPG: Gamers are weirdos. Perfectly normal people - I'm sure (I mean no offense) - but gamers are dedicated to a bundle of specific (various) interests. There's solo modules and the interior times of world-generation or 'game-think' creation sessions - but eventually most every RPGer would like to sit down at (or pace near, or loom above) a table with other like minded folks. We are idiosyncratic. This can make for some tensions (usually inadvertant), but by the nature of gaming, it seems most of us are actually interested in subsuming our own personality/ego to some degree, in the interest of play. Those of you blessed with regular consistent groups of friends and people you know well are lucky indeed!
MUSIC: The only set of people that I think are weirder than musician are people who run small record labels. Let's not start on 'the guitar hero' or (ARGAGRRGAAG!) "The Singer"... Performance brings out the best and worst in people - and barring any ideas of 'making it' in the music business, being in a band is (in most of my experience anyway) kinda a nightmare. Bandmates are like ugy smelly girlfriends that you don't even get to cuddle with...unless you're packed in the back of the van for the 17 hour drive to Missoula ...anyway - I consider myself more a craftsman than an artist and have seen ego and inflated expectation ruin more promising bands than I want to think about right now. Idiosyncatic. Generally stressed out and poor and driven by some combination of impulses to make music. Tough crowd. Of course, I haven't tried to play lounge jazz...or muzak. Betcha that would be pleasant...
800th Anniversary of the Battle of Dover
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