Friday, September 7, 2012

On Roleplaying

I played in a Google+ Hangout game recently where players were taking big chances with their characters and justifying it with "this is only a one-shot." I want to state that I appreciate the actions there characters took, I really do. I wanted to know what the glowing sword and armor did. I wanted to know what was behind the black curtain. I did. And I'm glad they took the initiative to check, because I wasn't going to be the one checking it out.

There are two sides of the same Old School coin. One side says that characters are dispensable. You know they are going to die. The game is deadly. Don't get too attached. Be prepared to roll up another character. That's all good advice.

The other side of the same Old School coin says that you are going to be careful with the character. You know that the game is deadly, so you're going to minimize your risk by taking fewer chances.  Not that you won't open the mystery door, but that you are going to look, listen, check for traps, check for runes, and they cautiously open the door when the time finally comes. By that point you have done everything within your power to minimize your character's risk of death.

That brings me to roleplaying, the title of the post. The people saying, "it's only a one-shot," and charging headfirst into danger aren't always playing the role they have selected.

I think it's safe to say that the majority of the characters we create, if asked outright, would admit that they really really really want to survive this adventure. They are not ready to die (or else they would have converted to the elfy religion before the adventure and given themselves some sort of certainty about their afterlife, but I digress with specifics from the Hangout game).  These characters want to live!  Yes, they know that death is possible. They have heard tales of the mortality rate of people who go into Undermountain (for instance). They have decided to go anyway, but they are likely going to try to minimize the chance of death.

So if I'm playing a game with you, and I'm not volunteering to touch the glowing item, or to search the magical darkness, or to barge into the room with no battle plan, I'm not trying to be difficult. I've actually gotten into my role, and I'm playing a character who wants to live.


2 comments:

Philo Pharynx said...

That's why I don't like the old-school style of playing. (I have no problem if you like it. RPG's encompass far more than my tastes, and that's a good thing) To me it feels limited, in that you can't play anything but a very cautious, nigh paranoid character or you die horribly. Games run by player skill limit the amount of feel I can put into a character. I don't know how to do much personalization in the twenty three steps to clear a door. It does appeal to my puzzle-solving and task-optimization instincts, but it takes away from my characterization instincts.

I like games that are more like action movies or pulp novels. Indiana Jones took some risks as he explored the tombs. And yes, it did cause problems for him, but it also made for a good story.

To me, having the knowledge that you can recover from most risks allows much more freedom to play different characters different ways. Some will be daredevils, some will be more cautious. Most will be somewhere in between. But having that freedom opens up a lot of characterization for me.

This isn't the same as having no consequences. The characters all want to live, they just know that there is a lot of leeway in living.

It's like driving. I tend to drive over the speed limit, but I also try to keep some distance between the cars around me. I take risks in some areas, but am cautious in another. I've had a couple of accidents, but I've survived. In some old-school high-mortality games, violating any of the rules means a grisly death. I'm glad I don't live in that kind of world.

Roger said...

You are right. We both like different things about gaming. Except not always. Sometimes I take chances, too. Usually because nobody else is willing.

However, usually I like the old school games where the Everyman works hard to stay alive and eventually becomes a hero.