7 Things I Have Learned From Role Playing Games
I know I am good at a few things and in other areas my skills could use a little work, (just ask my wife) but there is not much about role playing games that I am in the dark about. Not trying to jump on board the brag box, but I might as well when I get the chance.
I started playing Dungeons and Dragons with the original box set in 1979. Since then, I have played dozens of different games. I have run games, been a player, I have even designed my own game called Serial Killer Systems. The later has been around for nearly 20 years and has several book series based on the game and Hell, two of the series are even published.
I could go on, but let us talk about what being a participant in my favorite hobby has helped me learn over the years.
- Prepared me to deal with problems.
Role Playing games are all about problems. You have limited resources and hopefully a few allies. Next thing you know you are presented with a series of problems, sometimes almost unsolvable ones and you are expected to use your limited resources and wit to somehow accomplish the impossible.
I always found Speculative Fiction, as well as myths, to be a reflection on real life, just more exciting. The dragon represents your unpaid bills. The horrible robot destroying your ship in the middle of your trip to planet X is your supervisor at work you do not get along with. That serial killer stabbing everyone at the high school camping trip is a hidden image of the day to day horrors we often face, but try to hide away from ourselves.
I think role playing gamers attack problems in a different manner than some people. Instead of a linear path, they are more likely to do off the wall things or use materials and processes that no one else would have thought about or at least not right away. Also it reminds us that as long as we are alive, we are still winning.
- Prepares us for disasters/emergencies.
This is similar to the above, but worthy of mention in its own right. Emergencies and disasters can strike when you least expect it. However, if you have been role-playing through what you would do during in emergency for the last few decades, you are probably quite a bit more ready than the average person.
Face it, role playing games are all about emergencies. If you think the head of the basketball team is more ready for the zombie apocalypse than that nerdy guy that hangs out in his basement all day, think again. One jokes about it over a few beers, while another is planning it out to the smallest detail beforehand. One guy will just head into the fight swinging a bat, the other has already collected a hundred galleons of water and moved all his equipment to the second floor of his house before destroying his staircase.
- You can not do everything yourself and teamwork is what wins the day.
Again, people tend to think that sports provide all the team work training a person could need. Sure, maybe some people have different strengths, but in the end most sports are people just running back and forth chasing a ball.
In gaming we are either using our limited resources to try to vanish a powerful foe or trying to solve a puzzle that the game master stayed up all night thinking up in order to make the character’s life miserable. In both these instances, team work is the key to success. And it is not just one type of success that happens over and over again, but new and more difficult challenges every time the group gets together.
- How to create on the spot and improvise.
This might be more of a Game Master than player thing, but one of the real joys, when you can pull it off well, is creating something out of nothing and make it sound well polished. You get even more bonus points when it also fits in with the history of the game well.
We are not always ready for every event. Maybe when I was a teen I could hammer out a game for as many hours as the actual playing would last, but as an adult with twenty things going on at once and about twenty free minutes to complete them all in, when I find out that people all want to game at the camping trip tomorrow, I might just have to wing it. The good news is that sometimes just winging it and pulling it off makes gives you more satisfaction that running a well prepared game. And remember the players do not have to know a thing.
- Building a realistic world.
This might be more important to some than others, but as a writer, being a game master first was invaluable. Creating complex character complete with motivations was second nature to me long before I wrote my first chapter.
You write a book and might have 30 characters in it. Yet one must also keep in mind that writing a book can take a long while. Then we have read throughs and edits and then more edits and then some more edits. So figure those 30 characters after the first write through are all you have. Say that takes a year. Compare this to even a monthly game. We have maybe eight player characters and an equal number of allies. A game might also have eight long term villains. But each month there could be as many as thirty of fifty new villains to smash. So we have 24 + (say 40 x 12, which = 480) When you compare a year to tighten 30 characters versus coming up with roughly 500 in the same time, well you get the idea.
This does not even go into creating the world itself. I am not saying one is harder than the other, but gaming sure greases the creative wheels for other projects that came come later in life.
- Prepares one for the plotting manipulative world we often live in.
We need to be realistic. In this world of mostly have nots all fighting for the shrinking pie, many people will not consider playing fair. Gaming helps you prepare for this. Not only does it help you to identify such people, but also allows you to sink into a character and play ‘the game’ any way you see fit. Some do not wish to enter into this Micavillian frenzy, but even if you do not care to, you still should be able to identify when it is happening and be able to do enough of the plotting dance to keep yourself safe.
Unless you live in a cave, people will screw with you in this world. Dealing with liars, cheats, and back stabbers for years in a game gets you prepared to deal with them in real life. I am also an actor and I can play a role. I can be any type of person I wish to be. Think you know the real me…well, you better think again.
- You do not need to spend a lot of money to have fun.
Yes of course multiple pizzas, soda, and then perhaps beer could be involved with a game, but if I was hanging out with my buddies and watching television we would be doing the same thing anyway.
For about the price of one hockey stick or video game, a person could have just about all they need to start up a game. Hell, once you learn a system, you barely need the books anymore. Finding a cheaper way for a bunch of people to hang out and have this much fun would almost be impossible these days. Games can last a whole day and they are free! So chew on that big business and hand over those books and dice I bought in high school because I am about to get all chaotic evil on your ass.
So enjoy your game and have a few critical rolls on me.