Thursday, December 8, 2016

My Life as a Gamer: Razorfist's "Make RPGs Great Again: A Rant"

Yep, I'm giving Razorfist time on my blog again, because he's talking RPGs and I like what he's got to say- so listen.

Sure, he's talking videogames, but the same applies to tabletop RPGs. In a field still dominated, more than 40 years after first publication, by one game--Dungeons & Dragons--with only a handful of also-rans worthy of mention (Shadowrun, Traveller, RIFTS, Call of Cthulhu, Pendragon, GURPS, HERO/Champions that aren't licensed from other media (e.g. Star Wars, Robotech, Star Trek) and more dead end than a Choose Your Own Adventure book it's also long past time to not only define some shit, but to fucking enforce it.

So, let's define shit: A RPG is NOT a storytelling medium. It's derived from wargames, so it's built around those conceits: objective-based problem-solving, from which you use imperfect information filtered by perspective limitations when employing limited resources to do so. In short, it's a fucking sandbox where you determine what you want to do and how you do it, and you're working with sad or bad intel and only what you've got with you.

The injection of narrative logic into a problem-solving, wargame-derivative medium is the first big mistake a lot of people--including the so-called "professionals"--make. Once you introduce narrative logic, you inevitably have to fuck with player agency (including denying it altogether, albeit under an illusion of choice), which is the same error videogames make (for technical reasons, usually). Why accept a false limitation?

I'll tell you why: most people are long-habituated to be passive in their entertainment. RPGs, like real life, reward pro-active people who take charge- they encourage the bold, the daring, the entrepreneurial, in short leaders. And guess what? Most people are not leaders. If there is a fatal flaw to be had, there it is.

All of the changes made to RPGs to make them more mass-audience friendly also make them more passive-follower friendly because, quite frankly, that IS what most people are and will ever be. The few who rise above this are those who see the leadership potential and step into the role. Until we stop bullshitting ourselves and face up to this, the problems at all levels that tabletop RPGs suffer from--and have for decades--will endure. Shit games, shit players, shit cons, shit business- all endures until you face up to the reality of what this fucking medium IS and DOES. Once you do, shit unfucks itself overnight.

Let the videogame RPGs be passive-friendly. They have to; the technology demands it. Tabletop? Let it be bold: "Show up with a plan or not at all." So what if this means the scene shirks? This the age of the Internet; so long as you have a decent connection, you're good to go and can play as you please. (Yes, even with your crazy homebrew; Tabletop Simulator and a VOIP app of some sort will handle your shit like a champ.) If you want to take on a challenge, belly up to the bar and break out the dice because here fortune favors the bold willing and able to Git Gud. Only a Souls game approaches what tabletop does natively. so embrace that shit.

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