RPGaDAY 14 & 15

Yesterday the Nintendo Switch I ordered came in, so I had to spend the whole evening sitting on the couch, running around Hyrule. I’m sure you understand. So you’re getting a little catch-up post today.

#14: Guide
One of the most enjoyable things is to introduce curious people to RPGs. I make no secret of my love for RPGs, so when someone who knows me is interested, I hope it’s easy for them to talk to me about it. Most became curious after seeing the act of playing RPGs portrayed in popular media (Big Bang Theory, Stranger Things, etc). Of course, it doesn’t take much to get me to talk about RPGs…
If they’re still curious after hearing me talk, I will offer to run a game for them. Sometimes the logistics make that difficult and I direct them to organised play initiatives that are local to them — though to be honest I am hesitant to do this, as I do not know how welcoming their local community is. And if the first experience is bad, then that sours the whole activity, even though they could enjoy it with the right group!
So I have been running games for interesting newbies. Some people jump right into the story and are deliciously receptive to the adventure, which I seriously enjoy. Some people need a bit more nudging, but that’s okay too, of course. And sometimes, some of those people find a local group, and they end up playing a lot of RPGs.
I love being a guide to RPGs for people.

#15: Door
Doors are, of course, a feature of many dungeons. Standard protocol is to check for sounds from behind the door, and then open it if it seems like the room beyond is empty. (Or to storm inside with weapons drawn if that is not the case, of course.)
But it’s also a way to obscure what is behind them. Unscrupulous GMs have used this to ensure that the players get to a certain encounter, no matter what choice they make: no matter which door of many they would have picked, all of them would have led to that certain encounter. This takes away free choice, and sounds like ‘railroading’ (a term used to describe an RPG where the characters do not have any possibility of changing the pre-determined plot, which has a deservedly bad reputation), while giving the players the illusion of choice. This is quite the debate: can you put all of your cool stuff in the path of the characters, or are you taking away the essential nature of RPGs by denying the players meaningful choices? And does it even matter if the players never find out?

I’m not so sure on what side I fall in this debate. In principle, I’m all for giving the players meaningful choices. On the other hand, I recognise that many players (me included) play RPGs to experience an exciting story.
Take, for instance, the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark. The hero is, of course, Indiana Jones. But have you ever noticed that he has absolutely no influence on what happens? It’s true: he can’t prevent the nazi’s from getting the Ark. He can’t prevent them taking it on their submarine to their secret base, and he can’t prevent them from opening it. In fact, if he had not been there, things would have progressed exactly as they did with him trying (unsuccessfully) to interfere. Does that mean he didn’t have a grandiose adventure?

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