Comedian John Hodgman calls himself “D&D adjacent”, claiming he bailed on RPGs as a kid because they had too much “dumb math”. So the latest Judge John Hodgman podcast, in which he adjudicates various types of disputes, might seem outside his bailiwick. The dispute is between two players in the same long-time RPG group. One player wants to spend more time RPing, exploring lore, and engaging in banter. The other player wants to rush into combat to raise the stakes in a gaming group he feels has become too safe and cerebral. They’re each appealing to Hodgman. It’s a recipe for the usual ridicule. Take a drink every time Hodgman makes a joke about them living in their mother’s basement or not having girlfriends.
Fortunately, no such thing happens (I think there’s a single basement joke). Instead, Hodgman graciously hosts a discussion about the tension between gameplay and the social dynamic, a familiar topic to anyone who plays RPGs or tabletop games. I’d even argue it’s a relevant issue for videogames, where we talk about the tension between gameplay and narrative. It’s a fascinating discussion, partly for how articulate the two men are in presenting their case. And I couldn’t agree more with how Hodgman eventually rules.