Thursday, September 26, 2013

Engaging the Senses

When I was younger and played RPGs, nothing else mattered but the sound of my voice. Role-playing games have always been a conversation, but they were especially so in my teenage years of gaming. I would talk. My friends would listen. My friends would respond. I would listen. I would respond to their response, and so on.

But as I get older, I increasingly see the value in engaging the player on a level beyond just talk. I've broken out sketches and battle-maps more frequently. A few weeks ago, for what I believe is the first time ever in my RPG career, I broke out miniatures. The old me would have scoffed at a game like Star Wars: Edge of the Empire and it's requirement for funky, custom dice just to play it. Who do they (Fantasy Flight Games) think they are? I'd ask, confident I had just side-stepped what was most-assuredly a money-grabbing gimick. Indeed, younger Ed would have looked down his nose at things like read-aloud text, or even published adventures.

What changed?

The cynic is me says it's just laziness. I don't want to have to explain an entire situation to players, so I use a map. I don't want the theme, tone, and pace of the game to lie solely with my storytelling, so I rely on funky dice and other "crutches." But I think the wiser side of my gamer brain says it's a concession. I'm finally putting a firm check on my ego and realizing that a good adventure doesn't have to be all about me. I can spread the narrative around a little, to other players, to inanimate objects, and trust that the highest objective of a role-playing game...to have fun with others...will be met.

I'm getting to this point just a little behind the industry as a whole, I think. Newer RPGs, like the aforementioned Edge of the Empire, are wholly-aware of the new dimensions such props can bring. Other "new-school" RPGs, like Fate Core, readily utilize the players themselves as a storytelling resource beyond just what their character represents.

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