Oct. 15th, 2007

rochndil: (Default)
Good afternoon!

It's been a while, but RL continues to keep me busy.

There was a post recently to a local furry community from a user who isn't quite sure what the fuss is all about with RPGs. Instead of just responding to his comment locally, I thought it was worth putting my thoughts up here (in my infinite modesty).

RPGs have a long history, and much of my personal RPG history is recalled in an earlier post (October of 2006) here. I won't spend a lot of time rehashing the history of RPGs, you can Wiki that easily enough. What I would like to talk about for a bit is WHY.

I'll paraphrase the poster's words. He's wondering why he should take the time to get involved with an old-fashioned RPG, when he's quickly tired of the "flash-and-trash" so often encountered in current MMORPGs. If traditional RPGs were as feeble, in gameplay, as MMORPGs are, I could certainly agree with his concern.

Fortunately, real RPGs have about as much similarity to MMORPGs as Chess does to the classic card game, "52-pick-up." Now, I won't dance around the bush. I am NOT a fan of MMORPGs, for several reasons.

Relevant to this discussion, though are a few key points. MMORPGs, in general, are fairly intense graphically, but rather "light" in the actual game mechanics. Most inter-character activity is limited to typed "pop-up" messages or a list of pre-set actions. The primary in-game activity is to raise your character's level by slaughtering as many creatures as possible, often including other player's characters (and stealing their stuff). Along the way, friendships and alliances may form, but they also can blow away in the wind, as characters and players come and go from the world. Ultimately, much character "growth" simply becomes a game of numbers. The one with the highest numbers wins. How very...uninteresting.

In a traditional RPG (of whichever system), things are quite different. First off, the world, in general, is a much smaller, more intimate place. Unless the GM (Game Master) is actually running a number of different groups in the same game world, the players, and their party, are the STARS. They're making HISTORY, no matter what level they may be, or how shiny their armor is. Everything they do MATTERS. When they fail, it's a tragedy. When they succeed, it's a victory! They're building history, both for their characters, and the world they live in.

Interacting with other players LIVE in REAL-TIME, is an experience that simply cannot be simulated online (yet). You can't make faces at each other, throw pretzels at the speaker-of-bad-puns, or get the person sitting next to you a caffeine-refresher. When you roleplay with your group, you get to see their expressions, hear the tone in their voices. Properly done, they project a little of their soul into their characters, and you just can't do that through a computer screen.

And pretty pictures? How's your imagination? Just like a great work of fiction, an immersive RPG experience will fire up your imagination to render the scene in colors more vivid and REAL than you'll ever see on a RGB display. Not only will you vicariously LIVE these adventures, you'll do so with friends, who will be able to play "remember when" with you down the road.

So there are a LOT of advantages to a REAL RPG. But, no system is perfect, and there are some limitations too. Probably the biggest is logistics. You just can't jump into a session any time. People have lives to take care of, and getting everyone together can be a challenge. Game systems, generally, cost money to purchase, and take time to learn. Time spent learning a system, while often enjoyable, is time NOT spent playing a game. And, like with any group of people, there are always folks who want to be...difficult. Mr. "Oh, no, I saw your INVISIBLE spirit coming, and used this counterspell..." will be encountered, as well as Ms. "but...it says right here, on page 43352 of rulebook XXI that I CAN do that, see?" Rules Lawyer and Mr. Incredible are two of the troublesome gamer types; there are others. Properly handled (by the GM), they can be rendered little more than a nuisance though, and sometimes their strengths can actually be put to good use. Managing a game groups is a superb exercise in team-building.

What can be even more fun, though, is when the characters don't QUITE get along. Carefully handled, these rivalries can lead to the best roleplay, as long as the players keep their heads. And if not, get the pretzels ready! After all, it's only a game folks, you're all there to have FUN.

I've personally invested thousands of hours learning, playing, and preparing RPG games over the last quarter-century or so. I hope anyone that hasn't yet, will give it a try. The real thing is always better than the virtual wannabe.

Rochndil, who has played D&D, AD&D, GURPS, Champions, and finally Rolemaster since the late 70s somewhere...

May 2014

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