An Italian Perspective on American Conventions
Recently, Gilbert Gallo traveled all the way from Italy as a guest of the 41st GenghisCon held in Aurora, Colorado. Here we present to you his fast, furious, and fun take on American versus Italian gaming conventions and gamers. Take it away, Gilbert!
How to Roleplay… The Italian Way
Hi Savages! This is Gilbert Gallo, your friendly neighborhood gamer from Italy. As some of you know, this year I had the incredible privilege of being invited to attend the greatest Savage Worlds con in the United States, the 41st edition of GenghisCon. It was an awesome experience from many points of view, which broadened a lot of my horizons and urged me to become a better player and (perhaps) a better Game Master.
Today, I’d like to share with you all some curious facts about the “Italian way of playing tabletop RPGs,” hoping it could be as useful to you as attending GenghisCon has been useful to me.
In order not to be too boring, I’ll do it in a fast, furious, and fun way. So, what are we waiting for? Let’s draw some Action Cards!
Ace! Very Superstitious… Make a Spirit roll!
We all know RPGs have a “luck” factor: whether it’s drawing cards, rolling dice or, using some other “divinatory” means. To propitiate Lady Luck, most Italian RPG players have their own “rituals” or “habits” which allegedly increase their favorite character’s odds of succeeding. Most players have their own secret, superstitious beliefs, but I’ll list you the more “famous” ones:
First, you should pick carefully your seat. If the last game session was not a good one, avoid sitting in the same position.
Second, you should always use your own “blessed” dice/set of cards only. Better have a spare set, in case the “favorite” one doesn’t work as it should or, even worse, an “unlucky” player touches the set, jinxing it.
Third, you should never roll dice or draw cards if it’s not necessary. Unnecessary rolls would most certainly consume the positive energy contained in the dice or the cards.
I could go on for hours, but I will stop here. If you ask me, I obviously do not believe in such mumbo-jumbo, but since these practices don’t actually hurt anyone, performing them could only help, am I right?
King! – Take your time.
At GenghisCon, most of the games ran about four hours long. I really liked that: in my humble opinion, it’s the perfect length of time to delve deep in an adventure and bring out every single player’s abilities, Edges, and Hindrances. And there’s enough time to let the GM run the game in an easy, relaxed way. I wish I could always play adventures this long (if not longer!)
In Italy, there is not really an “average time” when you attend a tabletop RPG con. Depending on the GM intentions, it could be anything between one hour and six hours (or even more). Probably, the “average time” at tabletop RPG cons is about two hours. This incredible variety derives from the “feedback urge” that is often more pressing than the “fun commitment.” Since most of the Italian tabletop RPG con guests are authors or wannabe designers who want to test their homebrewed stuff, they often prefer to run more games/setting/rules in one single day so to have a lot of different feedback on each instead of running a long, detailed adventure. Thinking about it, there’s no point in taking a four hour slot if you suddenly realize your setting/adventure/rule set has big issues. So, what most GMs do at Italian cons is: test as much homebrewed stuff as they can with as many people as they can. Better to run the same adventure in a two-hour slot twice than to run the same adventure in full detail using a four-hour slot.
A little curiosity… Most of the Italian gamers, instead of attending a “focused” tabletop RPG con, prefer to attend the bigger, mainstream “sales-oriented fairs,” where an RPG demo game usually lasts only about an hour. I guess demo time in such “generic” fairs is so short cause publishers prefer to let as many people as possible have a “taste” of their games instead of providing every single player a full experience. That’s why, if you ask an average Italian gamer, he’ll tell you that in Italy, a game at a “mainstream” fair lasts one hour (or even less). If you ask me, imho, fast and furious is not always fun! 😉
Queen! – Tell me something I don’t know.
Many Italians only play RPGs at home and they very seldom attend conventions. The average Italian gamer wants to play “the way he wants” with the “people he knows.” That’s why when they actually attend a con, they usually want to “break free” from their usual routine. They would probably not sit down and have “a standard, regular game” (like the ones they are having at home) with random pre-generated characters in a setting/ruleset they already know. Why should they play something they already know with a “different” character and “different” people? If the game is long, that makes things even worse: why “waste so much time doing things they already do” when they could explore new worlds?
So, what “average” Italian gamers often look for in a con is: either “a brand new start” with new rules/settings or a “compelling story” told with an addictive one-shot adventure. Should they choose the first option, they will probably go for “short demos” of about one hour, so they can try many different systems/settings. The second option presumes a “one-shot” adventure where characters not “just another stereotype” but are deeply involved in the plot instead. So you won’t play “a paladin” but “Sir Lancelot who must retrieve the Holy Grail” and during the adventure you will have to choose between the love of Geneva or the Holy Artifact. Such a “different” way of playing RPGs, would be a good reason for the average player to sit down and play for as much time as is needed (even longer than four hours) because they are having a “unique” experience that you seldom have at home.
Jack! – If you pay, you can play…
Many Italians think that paying to play an RPG is unfair. Yes, they would pay the ticket to enter a con but when it comes to pay to play a specific session, the average player would most certainly refuse. I guess people believe gaming must remain a non-profit form of entertainment that should not be tainted by dirty money. However, lately there has been a change since the introduction of the D&D Adventurers League. Many Italians now play it and are happy to pay the little fees it requires.
Another big issue arises when you talk about “professional GMs”, who are now growing in number in Italy. Many Italians see them as “betrayers” of the “pure” idea of free roleplaying. If you ask me, I think that “professional” GMs who invest a lot of their time in creating compelling adventures deserve a reward, and money, imho, is the best one. If they can make a living of it, all the better.
Well, I guess those are the most important features that stand out of the “Italian Way” of roleplaying. Please don’t take these statements too seriously, because Italians are a very variegated people and the chance you could actually meet an Italian RPG player who does not agree with my statements is conspicuous.
I would really love to know about other countries’ ways of roleplaying, so if anyone knows please do tell me! Stay Savage!