Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Social Aspect of RPGs

I've been thinking a lot about different play styles for different groups of gamers. It seems really important that everybody is on the same page when it comes to playing style. When you think about it, there are lots of variations of playing outside of the actual rules of the system.

How much roleplaying do you do? Do you talk in character a lot? How much table-talk goes on? When a rule disagreement comes up, do you take as long as it needs to resolve it or hand-waive it to keep the pace moving? How much freedom do the players have to create their characters? Do you require backgrounds? How do you feel about PCs with silly names?

These and other issues can have a big impact on the game, but aren't addressed much. Most DM advice you see focuses on rules and setting development. That's great, but RPGs are a social activity and often that gets overlooked. Really, RPGs are pretty unique as a social game because it has a continuity in story and group. Its different from sitting down to play a board game with friends. Players get invested in the game, the campaign, their characters.

I'm going to try to focus on this aspect some more in the future. I know Robin D. Laws has some good stuff to say about really bringing the social, cooperative aspects of the game to the forefront (and he has some good advice in the DMG2).

Another good post I came across just now discusses possible DM traits based on the RIASEC career path model we all took a test on in high school. I think I fall firmly in the Artistic style. I definitely look at DMing as a creative outlet. I like designing campaign worlds and monsters. I can be disorganized and chaotic. I look at the rules as guidelines for creating an experience, and I'm willing to bend them.

Its easy to fall in the trap of building a campaign without taking the players and their characters into account. I'm trying to work on that, especially since I'm new to this group of players. I also assume that differences in play style will work themselves out easily, and finding that's not always the case. Its hard to discuss some of these things up front because there isn't a good vocabulary for a lot of it, and people have different standards based on prior experience. Also, gamers in general aren't the best at social skills. I'm an introvert and hate confrontation, I'd rather not confront issues head-on. But when things bother me they build up and eventually I lose my temper. People can get very defensive about how they view their game--just read any edition war thread online and you see how hostile people get.

Anyway, this is starting to ramble. One last thing: some podcast or blog (can't remember which one) talked about the unwritten social contract of gaming, and I think it needs to be written.
The DM promises to be fair and provide an entertaining game. The players promise to respect the DM's game and respect the other players right to enjoy the game.
Something like that. Keep it friendly.

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