Remembering the Basics

I assume that if you are reading this that, at one time or another, you have had to try to explain your gaming hobby to someone else. When it comes to role-playing, my answer usually comes in two parts and the first goes something like this:

Think about Cowboys & Indians or Cops & Robbers. Each player pretends to be someone else and that they are struggling in some conflict or adventure. But all to often the most exciting part of that, a fight, boils down to something like “BANG! I hit you!” “No, you didn’t!” which is no fun–and that’s why we use dice.

The rules can be as simple or as detailed as we like. The key is that everyone who is playing agrees on what rules to use and on what sort of game they are playing.

That really doesn’t get into why we play, but it provides a point of reference for what role-playing is and a very quick, but obvious, reason for having rules at all. The implication that role-play has structure is important to get across from the beginning. For some reason, Most people think it’s less silly after that.

Sometimes people ask why role-playing is fun and this brings us closer to the truth of why I do it:

I don’t think that there is anyone who hasn’t dreamed of being a performer in some way. An actor, a singer, a comedian, a writer… They all put themselves on display in one fashion or another and they get recognised for their achievements.

Role-playing can be like that. You can be the hero of the story. You have creative input over what happens, an element of chance to help build tension, and you can be challenged in ways that you aren’t in everyday life.

While you are at the table, you are that actor making a movie. You can pretend to be someone who you aren’t and do fantastic things.

Besides, who doesn’t want to pretend that they are a Jedi or that they are Indiana Jones/Lara Croft every now and then?

As a player and as a DM, I like having this conversation because I talk about my motivations as a participant rather than discussing the nitty-gritty of how RPGS are run.

Every role-playing game, regardless of its mix of narrative and tactical challenges, is built us pretending to be something and someone who we aren’t. Players embrace that concept to varying degrees but this truth persists through every edition of every RPG ever made.

Do I need a blog post to say this? Not to you. Yet it comes to mind every time I talk to a curious onlooker but it doesn’t cross my mind when I sit to play, run, or right a game. I think that it should.


~ by Hunter Rose on September 16, 2011.

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