Older Cousining

From July 25th clear to August 8th, my little brother is at summer camp. This makes it rather difficult to keep up the posting rate I’ve managed lately, since I actually have to generate new content instead of just reporting what happened when I took other people’s work and then did some improv acting with it.

In an effort to fill the gap, let’s talk about older cousining, since that’s gonna come up in the one article I’ve still got coming. Much like the campaign itself, the bulk of the work of explaining has already been done by some other guy, but Angry DM’s writing style is an acquired taste like coffee is, bitterly unpleasant but comes part and parcel with a very valuable jolt of energy. So let’s add a bunch of cream and sugar and turn this into the kind of drink that people say they can’t stand but in practice drink nothing else but.

The older cousin is the guy who teaches you how to play D&D, and he’s how the vast majority of people get into D&D. He sits down with a bunch of younger cousins, or his classmates, or his little brother, or whoever, and he says “hey come check this thing out” and he teaches them to play D&D. Angry’s article discusses one problem with older cousining, which is that it is inherently limited by the size of the current population playing D&D. There is a limited number of people who already know the game, and only a small fraction of them have the desire to be older cousins to new players, so your growth rate is fixed. You can read Angry’s article for details, because after this paragraph we aren’t talking about it anymore, but he goes on to complain about how the rulebooks themselves should be instruction manuals, not reference books, that can help people get themselves into the hobby, no older cousin required. I broadly agree, but we’re going to talk about an alternative solution.

The D&D Adventurers League should hypothetically fix this problem. It still relies on the older cousin method, but now anyone interested in D&D can just go and find an older cousin. They don’t need to have one in their actual family or circle of friends, because there are people in game stores who have volunteered specifically for the job of running pre-made encounters for whoever wants to play. They play by a certain set of rules and using a certain set of adventures so that a certain degree of quality is guaranteed. You still need someone to teach you D&D, but odds are that guy can be found at the same store where you bought the book.

There’s a reason I didn’t just direct my brother towards this handy resource rather than run the unorthodox campaign I’m on right now (despite the fact that I would’ve loved to play alongside him rather than be DMing). I don’t even know if it’s a League issue or just a really unfortunate coincidence, but all eight stores in my area hold D&D games on Wednesdays. Friday Night Magic works because it’s Friday. People can clear that afternoon. It is fully expected and socially acceptable for people to keep their Fridays free of important obligations as a general rule. Wednesdays do not work this way. Wednesdays are regularly busy. My little brother is not available on Wednesdays for most of the year. For a brief window in June and July he could plausibly make it to Adventurers League games, and then never again for the rest of the year. This is why I had to older cousin him myself. There are eight game stores officially affiliated with the League in my city. Eight. Why do all of them only host games on Wednesday?

Anyways, now you know what older cousining is, which is good, so you’ll know what I’m talking about when I briefly mention it in the next post.

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