Friday, March 7, 2014

Why Play a Table Top RPG?

I was asked this a few times since I have played them, not a common question, at least vocally asked. More than not unfortunately you see that look in a persons eyes, and they kinda think you're crazy. Not always, but let's face it due to past events, perceived state of the primary participants, and the social stigma that those two bring about, it is not the mainstream "cool" thing to do. I used to think this, and while I don't really now, I don't run around with a sign saying its a hobby of mine. Mostly its because its just none of most people's business.
This is what it seems like to some people I think.

So, why an RPG? Why not a video game or a movie? Or a book?! My answer is that none of those are interactive enough, in books and movies, you're very much along for the ride. Video games less so, but not by the margin you'd think.

It's what its all about.
So from a "from a movie" point of view, I relate it like the movie Inception. Its like a dream world, the Game Master is like the architect. And everyone else is like the actors, there are rules that dictate what you can and cannot do, and the GM hopefully has a plan, or maybe they don't, but for the most part of it, the story is driven by the characters, the GM is just sets the scenery on the road you drive down. Yes there is a story, but there is also a world outside of that that you can explore, conquer, save and or destroy. It is an escape into your own imagination, its like a movie, plus a book, plus a video game. As for a hobby its pretty cheap, you usually buy one book, more if you need them for what you want to play, some dice, and I bet you have paper and a pencil around. So that's, what? $50 for a moderately pricey set up. Compare that to video games or movies, or even books. Even more so when you consider what you can get out of most RPG books in comparison. More so it only requires friend and a place to play. And that all important imagination.

Or how about Lord of the Rings? Imagine how you would handle the quest if you were Frodo, Eragorn, Sam, Gimli, Legolas, or Gandalf? You'd do it differently I'm sure. But that story is very much what it feels like to play a long campaign in an RPG, there is a grand task ahead of you. Better get to it. But it is a book series and several movies, thus the same every time, an RPG is different. Why? The introduction of active human minds behind characters, and the addition of the element of chance, i.e. rolling the dice. It is very unlikely that two similar situations will end the same exact way. That's the idea, an unpredictable story!

What's that? You don't have a good imagination?

Pfffffffft. I bet you just aren't trying hard enough. Get a good setting, character concept, and a good story teller in addition to some enthusiasm everyone's part. That will get fixed right up. I can almost promise that. I bet you had an imaginary friend or played pretend when you were younger. It's the same thing.

What's that? You're not super comfortable with role-playing?

That's fine, it took me some time to be alright with it.

What's that? You don't have a costume to wear?

That's fine. I've never dressed up. Probably never will. I have acted out a scene with another player when the GM asked us to. It was great, we gave a sales pitch to a company president before I threw him out a 60th story window because he was corrupt. America!

What if you lose touch with reality?

Then you probably have more pressing concerns than RPGs. Oh?You're a bird now? That's cool.

Do I even need to explain this?

Now, I'm not saying that RPGs are the end all entertainment to be had, but I prefer to go do some epic stuff that sit around an watch a movie I've seen a million times by myself. They can create stories with friends, and put you in situations you've never considered before. And especially if everyone is into the game and their characters. I've interacted some awesome NPCs and created a few myself, you can even get emotionally connected to them or characters. You develop a survival instinct for imaginary friends on a sheet of paper! That's both awesome and, admittedly, kinda weird. But when you beat a bed to death with a mace because a living book just bit someone else's nose means you're paranoid because the GM has captured your imagination.

Did you ever want to be a superhero or a princess when you were a kid, I mean like towel tied around your neck running around your back yard or tea parties? This is that, as mentioned above, just with rules and other people playing too. Survival instinct isn't the only thing you can develop for your imaginary self either, you can earn money to get them cool stuff that you/they want. You are placed in situations that the real you have never or will never be placed in. Both violent, moral, or political. I mean, I've never grabbed my sword and gone to slay the dragon downtown. Have you? Nor have I met with the King and his Wizard adviser. So unless I'm missing the craziest places on earth, I think you haven't either.

A movie can do that too, no question about it! But you are given a set of characters that have set dialogue and actions, and set plot resolution. The same for books and most video games. They have their places, just like an RPG.

I just personally see the novelty and opportunity to have a whole new world (GET IT?!) to explore and affect with my decisions. That these worlds have different rules and opportunities than yours, and you and your friends can go out and do what you can, and have more influence than you might in the real world. I think that is a major draw to RPGs in itself, even if it isn't immediately recognized by the players. You can affect that world in all likelihood more than you could this one.

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