Friday, December 1, 2023

On Hobby Best Practices - Part 1

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Part 2 >>

Part 1 - Record your hobby experience

In four large cities with communities of early D&D adopters Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Boston cross-pollination proceeded quite rapidly. Each of these major cities boasted lengthy pedigrees in both science-fiction fandom and wargames, and each supported several independent clusters of dedicated players. None, however, was very close to the midwestern roots of D&D, where the influence of the game's creators might hold greater sway. In keeping with hobby best practices, these coastal groups began publicly recording the state of their campaigns and hosting visitors unfamiliar with their ways.The Elusive Shift, Jon Peterson. Emphasis mine.  

    This is the first in a series of posts regarding what I consider to be best practices when it comes to one's hobby. In this case - tabletop RPGs, but I hope this advice is broadly applicable to other hobbies as well.

Lets begin with one of the examples from the quote that inspired this - recording your hobby. The simplest way to do this is, of course, to just start a blog on a free blog platform like blogspot or bearblog or whatever, and write about your game and your experience in it. This is a big part of why I started this very blog myself.

But, what should you write? Well that depends on the hobby in question. In the case of TTRPGs I would say there’s a few things that are worth covering.


    Session reports! You’ll notice there’s a lot of these on here. I write session reports for two reasons. One is to simply have a place where I can store notes about the events in previous sessions of the game I am running, and two - so I can write my observations about the gaming experience and what it’s made me think about since it happened.

That latter one is, I feel, the more valuable of the two. It is what lets others understand how you practice your hobby. If you’re a referee, talk about your decision making and the process through which you organise or run your game. How do you stock dungeons? If you only run existing modules, how do you pick which ones to use? How do you keep track of your NPCs? What about keeping track of time in the game?

Are you a player? How did you handle a certain situation that the GM presented in your latest session? What long term plans do you have for your character(s) in the campaign, should they survive to see them come to fruition? Are you playing using a more complex system involving a lot of moving parts - how do you navigate it? Do you have any “builds” that you think have worked in the game? Any curious or clever ways in which you or your fellow players solved a situation in the game?

All of these above are things one can and should write about, I think. Writing about what you feel about the gaming experience, what you like and don’t like, what works and what doesn’t is important. For me personally, it allows me to actually think about the events of the game. Not the campaign, the game. About why I decided to resolve a situation one way, instead of another. Thinking about your hobby this way is what leads you to deciding what it is you like or don’t like. It builds actual taste. And simply knowing what you like, and why you like it will put you ahead of so ,so many people out there.


    Write theory. If you already have plenty of practice with your hobby, and have gathered a good amount of useful information, knowledge and tricks of the trade? Share them with everyone else so that other hobbyists may learn from them.

This is the biggest thing that helped the OSR take shape as it did - people blogged about games, and about how to run games or play games. And it was born out of actual practice, like all good theory is. There are so many elements of this niche of the hobby that started their life on blogs, by having people write so that they can share their experience with others. And doing it for free, too. But we’ll get to that point later.


    Write criticism. TTRPGs especially are woefully lacking in decent criticism. Be it reviews of products or what have you, things are….rather dire. Everything is either reading ad copy at you, or if you’re lucky someone reading through an adventure module and telling you how it feels. There’s nothing wrong with that, but playing TTRPGs is a hobby of doing things, not simply consuming media. Real, honest and valuable criticism comes from actual play (see below) and I would love to see more people writing about things they’ve run or played in, and giving an honest opinion on what worked and what didn’t.

There are issues with this, of course - in small circles like TTRPGs (let alone something even more niche like the OSR or Storygames) people tend to more or less know each other, and so it can feel a bit awkward to write a review about how another fellow hobbyist’s project is just kind of bad.

And that’s true…but conversely, this is part of being an adult. Taking criticism when it is given honestly and earnestly and without malice, and learning from it. And, hopefully, emerging a better hobbyist in the process.

Fourth and Last

    Just write about whatever is on your mind! This is probably the least important, but still valuable to keep you in the habit of recording and writing about your hobby.

You of course don’t have to just do a blog at all. Maybe you have a YouTube channel, in which case you can record videos about all of the above mentioned topics! Or maybe you write a newsletter that you send out to people. Or you want to go proper old school and take the atavistic route, writing, printing, hand-stapling and distributing small print run physical zines with your writings in them.

The actual medium matters only a little. The practice is the important part.

In the next post I will talk about introducing others to your hobby.


  1. This post really resonates. I just started a blog on a whim and this makes me feel like even just jotting down my game-related thoughts is worth it.

    1. It makes me very happy that people find these posts useful and an inspiration to write, think and share more of about their hobby with others!

  2. Great post - I particularly agree with the writing of session reports - I started out with just writing what happened for continuity, but increasingly write longer & longer notes on how aspects of the session went (especially what of my prep was useful) and how I can do things better next time - I don't share this info though as I don't really want the players reading it and my blog right now is where I put our house rules to share - is that daft?

    1. Thank you! While I do get what you mean about not sharing info that the players might be in contact with, my solution has been that my players don't really bother reading my blog (hah!) and so they don't see this stuff.

      But even then I try and be pretty open about my own observations of how a given session goes, since as a referee I still am a player in the game. Obviously I am talking more about observations about method, procedure and what i felt worked or didn't, while avoiding giving away too many secrets or information to the players where it would ruin their fun.

      As for it being daft - I don't think so. I do think, as I said in the article, that the observations stemming from play are probably the more valuable element of writing about our hobby, but obviously it depends from person to person, and in your case you clearly are more comfortable with posting house rules than your thoughts.