Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Roleplaying - One Word

In my personal lexicon, "roleplaying" is a single word.  There is no hyphen.  There is no space between.  It does not describe two separate things merely tied together by punctuation or proximity.  It is a single word that denotes a function and an action joined so closely together so as to describe a more specific type of pursuit.  When this activity is then tied to the word "game," it describes what I have come to know over nearly forty years of tabletop hobby gaming as a pastime that means fun.  It's not the only way to have fun but there is a way to join in this pursuit that is unlike other activities, unlike other types of games.

I want to be clear.  "Role" is not just about what part your character takes in battle when playing a roleplaying game.  That is thinking too restrictively for such games.  A player character is meant to have a life on and off the field of battle.  What happens away from battle is meant to be more important and in some cases supposed to define the reasoning for why battles take place, or at least define why a player character might become involved in the first place.  Without the motivations and circumstances that drive armed conflicts they are little more than senseless violence, both for the character and the player that controls him.  That type of game is largely unsatisfying.  One might as well be playing a computer game with no human interaction or pressing a lever and waiting for the next pellet to drop.

I am also not a fan of the type of game that reduces roleplaying to a series of minor decisions based on the defined mechanics on a character sheet followed by a roll of the dice.  Too often this is a thin veneer designed to allow the letters RPG to be stamped on the box.  This design mentality is at its most egregious when it is also a way to streamline play between combat encounters.  This is fine for non-roleplaying games where the narrative is simply in place to add some flavor and context for combat but is short shrift for true roleplaying.

I'll spend more time on this and other design concepts in the coming days and weeks.  I hope others will find my thoughts compelling enough to stay tuned and even spread the word.  And remember, that word is "roleplaying."

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