Just like last year, I’ll participate in RPG-a-day: a daily RPG-related question that I will answer.
Day 1: What do you love about RPGs?
I love the unrestricted, emergent story that RPGs allow the players to tell.
Of course, every game has a story emerge through the gameplay — but in almost every board game, this is very abstracted and not at all like the fiction you’d read. For instance, Monopoly tells the story of a set of capitalists who seek to invest their money and drive their competitors into bankruptcy. But it wouldn’t make for a riveting novel, and every game of Monopoly tells the same story. That is because most games are more about the mechanics rather than the story that emerges.
With RPGs, it is (in general) the reverse: the story is like a novel or other type of fiction. And yes, the story is restricted by the mechanics of the game, but RPGs allow for much more diverse types of stories being told with the same game. And the players are an active participant in deciding the story, too!
I really like the fact that more modern rulesets have a very strong focus on the types of stories they want to facilitate, and tell you about what it is trying to achieve. That makes it a lot easier to find the set of rules that support your particular tastes in storytelling. (That wasn’t always the case: for instance, MERP pretended to tell Tolkien-like stories, but the mechanics did not support that.)