Thursday, September 14, 2006

Styles of roleplaying

A few weeks ago, after boardgames (and thus after midnight), I had one of those late-night Denny's conversations with a couple other guys. The topic? Roleplaying. We had a huge outlook clash, and I'm still convinced that I came away from that looking like the opposite sort of gamer than I actually am.

I remember them asking me if, in the last RPG I picked up, if I used every rule in the manual. As it happened, I did- and it's not because I'm a rules lawyer or a Mr. By-the-Book, but rather that these wacky indie hippy games I'm playing have so few rules, and the game mechanics are honed to a point where you generally don't need to drop rules and fiat is divided between the players.

Aside: Nick, Nick, Sean, Phil, and I recently played a two-hour session of Metal Ö–pera, which rocked beyond words. The game is perhaps three pages long; I have to confess that we tweaked it a tiny bit from as printed.

Two weeks ago, over on Deep in the Game, Bankuei talks about the difference between two kinds of players- basically "Let's see how this game plays!" versus "Let's use this game to play the way we like!" In the comments, he uses a good analogy I'll use here: Imagine saying to all your friends, "Let's go play sports! Meet me in the park tomorrow, and bring your equipment!" Some folks would bring a football helmet, some would bring their golf clubs, others might bring swimming gear, and still other folks might bring the volleyball net. Now imagine everyone trying to play at the same time. Chaos, arguments, and generally no fun.

This is why it's so hard to find a good roleplaying group- people have hugely different expectations. Even given games with not-nebulous rules, players can have disconnects as their play styles clash- Bowling with pals versus tournament bowlers, or hypercompetitive players of Risk. The vast potential of roleplaying games exacerbates these problems, like a giant lens.

I've got no solution beyond hashing out how you want to play to begin with.

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