Monday, May 31, 2010

Why Role Playing Games?

Very few hobbies are as misunderstood as role playing games. The questions and accusations surrounding it suggest that we gamers are maladjusted escapists with no grasp on reality. Explaining our hobby to non-gamers can occasionally be frustrating and met with a certain amount of attitude suggesting we are only making excuses for ourselves.

Role playing games are no more escapist than reading a book or watching a movie but they are far more satisfying. Organized gaming groups are a socially creative activity and reinforce group dynamics. You can't succeed in most role playing games without a group, and since each character is as unique as the person playing them, motivations that differ come together in entertaining ways. It's more difficult than a video game where group dynamics is based solely on powers and weapon, in a role playing game characters of conflicting races, alignments and beliefs come together to escape traps, discover treasures or just survive a world that would destroy them all without prejudice.

In all honesty though, those aren't usually the things considered when a game is played. Usually they're just happy byproducts of a group of friends spending hours together while weaving an entertaining story together. Friends who game together have to be comfortable enough with each other to cut loose and enjoy themselves in character. We may have our stereotypes but they are the exception, not the rule. We're only human, and we feel just as awkward around the basement dwelling, energy drink guzzling recluse as the next person.

A Short Word on Story Development from the Desk of Jake.

If you have heard our original podcast you know Jake. If you haven't heard our show be prepared to hear a lot of this:

The [roleplaying] game should not revolve around whether a character wins combat, or not. The characters win, that's what they do. The point is to make an interesting conflict, this could be a simple as a unique combat with strange monsters, or it could be as deeply emotional as a fight on a flaming falling zeppelin over the last rocket pack. In general the more you can focus the battle on the consequences to winning rather than the winning itself, the better off your scenario is going to be. Creating these scenarios can be difficult as you cannot always predict the actions of players. The main thing to do here is to know what your players characters will driven towards. If you have a player who always kills the bad guy no matter what, ignoring everything save for the kill, then you know what motivates him. Understanding the motivations and drives of your player characters means that you can create a scenario that will challenge and entertain them.

I advise that the first two sessions of a game involve feeling out your players. Find out what they will do. Despite what some people will say, people usually fall into easy to identify patterns of behavior. The trick is to identify those actions, and plan for them. Give your players an opportunity to shine using the characters they have developed.