Hello again all! Didn’t think I’d make it to a second Monday musing did you? For shame, I take this all very seriously and I seldom lapse into not posting for about 2 years. (Lets be fair that’s only happened once so far.)
So Friday night saw the resurrection of another one of my hobbies/ongoing projects, the return to regular RPG sessions with one of my local groups. A few of us hunker down in a select location (usually with some unhealthy snacks/drinks) and roll crazy shaped and numbered die (D2, D4, D8, D10, D20, D100 etc) in a bid to escape reality for a few hours. Why you ask? Because it is fun. Expected something more complicated and thought-provoking? Sorry that’s the bulk of the reason I do it, I get a kick out of it and hopefully the other players do too. I’m a relatively new GM when it comes to ‘In-Person’ games as I’ve only run 2 groups in the flesh (Deathwatch/Black Crusade), although I’ve run a few groups with various people online over the years using programs like Roll20, Skype etc. I’ve found the difference to be quite significant in terms of how groups operate and there is certainly a lot more to think about in person as I usually find that I can’t quite prepare for everything the group will want to try to do (plus it’d be no fun for me if I wasn’t surprised occasionally.) but that’s a discussion for another time.
After I left my Black Crusade group on Friday night, again the first session in a long time, probably not amazing GM’s-manship but we got through it…. I think. I got back to thinking about RPG’s, specifically the good old-fashioned Pen ‘n’ Paper variety. What makes them so attractive to people to play for some and not others? How much do we draw from real life in our characters? Do we consider a different roll of the die? Do we ever re-think or regret our decisions even in a ‘fantasy’ setting and how hard do some choices hit home when all is settled? Awash with questions, I did the only reasonable thing I could do. Wait until Monday and blog it on here. I said it was reasonable…. I didn’t say it wasn’t incredibly lazy. I started off by thinking about why I started playing them and I don’t look to other systems to scratch that role-playing itch…..
Eons ago…. (even blogs can be dramatic) people didn’t have all the niceties of technology or modern gaming at best they maybe had pong or space invaders, instead there was only Pen ‘n’ Paper role-playing games, which allowed people to create the truly unique stories and the fun game-play that was craved. Now after countless years, people still gather to play these games which almost seems impossible in our current technological environment. I mean look at us now in 2015 with the likes of Skyrim, Mass Effect, Dragon Age and so many open-ended RPG’s behind us, we have a vast wealth of options available not to mention so many other online platforms, in which we can create our own characters and play the games in our own way by making our own decisions (whether they be bad or good). So why do I feel the need to sit at a table with a few other people and imagine all this? I mean I could just be playing it on a screen right? As mentioned the easy answer is fun, my more complex answer is that I enjoy the break from reality it gives me, but even beyond that there is more to it, so much more and that is one of the best points.
Lets look at Mass Effect, now I could name ‘Commander Shepard’ whatever I wanted and I can even make him look/play however I want, but beyond that and sometimes including that, most of our choices/options are set in stone. Sure we have some decisions to make but we are limited to far fewer options/combinations and ultimately the confines of the games environment and setting. Now let’s go back to our lovely friends: Some Dice and Pen ‘n’ Paper.
Sure it’s visuals suck and I question whether it really is 1080p, but there is so much more available to us, we can create our own backgrounds, histories, character traits and personalities, hell we can even create our own setting thanks to a lot of open core rule-sets. By giving up this ‘visual’ aspect we can achieve something better, and when done in a group, leads to something truly wonderful an experience in storytelling like no other available. I’m not saying the game can’t have maps and character art etc, but by expanding our minds and sharing these experiences/ideas I usually will find very little need of them. The key element in all of this is the ability to craft and take part in stories much bigger than ourselves to play the hero or villain you always wanted to be, to make those tough or fun choices that would never be available to you in the real world or even in video games, some might call this ‘Escape from Reality’ sad or weird but honestly think back, and I’m not even talking about thinking back to your childhood, think back a few months, maybe even weeks or days ago, didn’t you wish you could be someone else? You could be the guy who saves the day or the one who strives to create a better world, the guy who is great at parties or hell even just some dude who gets kicks out of killing dragons? (That guy who didn’t have to show up to work is a popular one.) The ability to become anyone, anywhere, any when is powerful and a lot of fun with a good GM and a good group of friends.
The social stigma that comes with these games (the immediate thought of the socially awkward basement dwelling Dungeons and Dragons ‘Nerds’) truly needs to be abandoned or updated, I’m not saying the socially awkward don’t play, I’m just saying that is not the end result or how you should be thought of for playing. At the end of the day they are a fantastic way to tell or live a story and allow a group of friends to spend time hanging out and doing something that can occupy a good six or seven hours without even getting moderately stale or boring. It doesn’t deserve the weird social stigma that comes attached.
In conclusion, give it a shot, whether you are a budding GM or an eager player with a head full ideas, roll the dice, you never know, you might just find it’s a critical hit.