The Joy of Role-playing

Monday, 10. May 2010

When we speak of role playing, probably more people today think of computer or video games: Final Fantasy, Elder Scrolls, Zelda, Phantasy Star, Ultima, or online games like World of Warcraft. My general feeling is that these are well done games and very entertaining in their own right. Yet there is still something lacking in them and their rigid constraints; Imagination.

Our vaunted computers have taken away one of our prizes; the ability to exercise our mind and visualize environments. The original pencil and paper gaming in whatever form; Dungeons and Dragons, Shadowrun, World of Darkness, Palladium, Heavy Gear, Traveller and many others have no such limitations. The only borders on your character lie in what you can imagine your character doing, and what the storyteller will allow you to do.

With a well told and played story, everything comes together precisely where it needs to be. The grace of a novel, the drama of an opera and the action of a movie are all present where required. The brain visualizes all of these from the sources it’s given, and fills in the rest of the details itself. Precise detail in a lot of cases isn’t required or even wanted, as the mind will adjust the detail level to exactly what it needs to be.

In the case of a picturesque landscape, the entire scene is taken in as needs be, the details of the trees and wildlife out in the distance. There is a castle of white stone on the edge of the horizon, visible but far away. Grass grows all out through the distance being blown by gently by the wind with the slight smell of pine and perhaps a wisp of smoke in the air.

In fights the action is where the focus will be, the narrowly dodged sword and the keenly delivered strike that fells a foe. A second later and with another slice blood runs down your skin, the clash of steel rings in your ears and battle cries can be heard all around. The rest of the background devolves into somewhat a blur and a haze as you frantically struggle to survive and keep your friends alive. The rest of the detail is purely that, secondary.

Be it as a storyteller or a player the action and flow is often entirely unpredictable; heading in directions no one expected possible by means of a last second, yet brilliant idea. Often you’ll find yourself nearly on the floor with laughter. Sometimes you’ll find your blood curdling with rage by a last minute betrayal or loss of a friend. At the end, you’ll find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat waiting in anticipation until the next game, nervous to find out what happens next…

That my friends; is the joy of role-playing.

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