What do you want out of an RPG experience?
I don’t have a regular gaming group and so there is no most-frequent source of quotes we share, so time for another alternate question, and an altogether rather indulgent one – what I want out of a roleplaying game experience.
It’s not terribly helpful to say that the bottom line is to have some fun. That’s a given. Instead, I’ll try to give some shape to what RPG fun might be for me.
I like the way that roleplaying lets us craft stories. In particular, I’m interested in the experience to create shared narratives, to build fictions collaboratively.
In a group, you’re not in sole control, but have to respond to what the GM and other players throw into the mix. I want to face challenging – even perilous – situations. And I want to be able to react and respond to them. To change the world the story is set in.
There’s an anticipation and an unknown to what you’re faced with going into a game. It affords the opportunity to surprise even yourself when you get to do exciting things. That’s something I want to get out of an RPG experience – surprise, and maybe with a bit of wonder thrown in for good measure.
Of course, I – the player – might get surprised by what occurs, but it’s actually my character that is doing the stuff. Character is interesting. It’s at the heart of what I want out of an RPG experience. I want to explore the given situation – the blank canvas, the sandbox, the mystery – with characters that have some agency to affect it.
And as a result of their responses, I want to see those characters change. I want to see them develop or evolve. I want the sense that they are on an arc and that there is progress to be had. That can happen in an epic campaign, but with the right setup, it can also happen in the confines of a one-shot.
Now, sometimes, I want to play a game that gets a bit more intense. One that lets me explore some crunchy or thorny issues. Not always, but sometimes. How the issue is presented, how it’s explored in the group fiction, and how characters react become a fascinating study. I want to see the problem differently, as through the lens of the characters, their actions and responses. You might even say I want to understand the situation more completely, holistically, or empathetically.
But then, we start getting away from the game as fun and play, and it starts to become more like group therapy. In truth, I’m probably not so interested in the cathartic value of roleplaying, at least not as a primary concern.
So, let’s keep it simple. I only really want to weave stories of interesting situations, characters and consequences.