Tuesday, July 14, 2009
FRPG is like a rope
Fantasy Role Playing Games can be many different things to different people. Much like the fabled blind men who each examine a different part of an elephant, each player comes to identify some aspect of the game that they favor and believe that is what defines the game. Much like the blind men, FRPGers often argue their view vociferously and with righteous indignation. If you don't believe me, take a peek at Enworld. The history of the FRPGs are well documented elsewhere. For my purposes here I will just remind that the roots are in war gaming. Most FRPGs retain an element of war gaming in the combat and relative complexity of the rules. FRPGs usually are focused on a particular milieu: swords and sorcery, middle ages, pirates, Victorian horror, modern spy, and martial arts just to name a few. And of course the element of role playing; where you create and play a character in the game. There are dozens of relatively popular games and hundreds of relatively obscure games. Each has its strengths and weaknesses and each caters to a sub group of those vociferously righteous gamers depending on what they favor. There is a broad continuum of games that should be able to meet the desires of the gamers style and milieu. With that out of the way, I can now talk about me. My name is Barad the Gnome and I play fantasy role playing games. If you play, you will likely relate to this -it feels like coming out of the closet. Grown adults do this? Where is the game board? Do you dress up? How do you win? Then the strange looks. Part of the problem is the marketing. Who in their right mind would pick up a game when the back of the box describes it as a table top fantasy role playing game. Oh, right, those greasy haired kids with no social skills who are hanging around in the basement. What style do I like? I certainly like the blend of the war game with role playing and favor certain milieus, but I have a different take on the big picture of the game. You see, I like the story telling, and story building aspect of the game. The dungeon/game master paints the background and gets the story going, and the players act out the parts. The only scripts they have are the personality traits of the character they have created. Immerse yourself in the environment. Solve the problems with muscle or wit. Exalt over your victories, and plot revenge over your defeats. I prefer to think of it as a Story Telling Adventure Game. Is that a better marketing tactic than FRPG? Maybe not, but for me it is the heart of the fun. It is the stage from which the player will roll the die while their character yells, "I smite the demon with my sword". So for the evening, and in our imaginations, we are heroes who have come forth from the great novels to write a new epic. So sit down with your friends around the table and let the tale unfold. There will be tragedy and triumph, danger and delights, humor and horror, all while you and your comrades create legends the great bards of old would lust after for their turn in the telling. Let the blind men waste their time with the elephant, for you see, FRPG is like a great adventure novel.