Sunday 21 August 2011

Some Difficult Truths Pt 2

Continuing from here.

People don't want to play pretend.
Roleplaying is still seen by many as the domain of children. Many would feel embarrassed about posting something like "I try to sneak past the dragon and snatch the magic lamp", and understandably so. It's just the nature of our culture that this sort of play is seen as childish. So how can we ease people into taking part in such games?

Limiting choices is one option. If the player is simply choosing from a set of existing options they won't feel as exposed as if they came up with the idea themselves. Of course, this goes against the Unique Selling Point of RPGs, their complete freedom, but the two ideas are not mutually exclusive. Why not provide two options to the player and a third option of "or anything else you can think of". This will ease players into suggesting their own solutions to problems while still giving them the fallback of some GM-provided options.

Part of the problem lies in the perceived pointlessness of playing pretend. Of course, fun is its own reward, but when you're easing in someone new they might like to feel they've achieved something by the end. This is where we can draw on our knowledge of video games. Have a way for the players to win. Get to the end of the dungeon and kill the dragon, it's the classic example, and one that fits perfectly here. The game should be able to end so that your players can decide to play again, try a more traditional RPG or run their own game. If you want to be really fancy you can provide multiple goals in the way of achievements. That alone is a topic for another post.

Social networks do not normally have built-in dice rollers.
Yes, you can probably get them through an add-on or use a website like invisible castle, but why? Remember, if this idea works you aren't going to be stuck playing with some guy you know loosely through a forum and think may be a jerk. You're playing with whoever you want, so choose people you know and trust. The GM will have sole charge of the dice.

Everyone's here to have fun and if the GM wants you dead there are easier ways to do it than fixing some rolls. If you don't trust each other why are you friends again?

The smallest obstacle will put people off.
I have to register with this forum? Screw that. Download an applet? Tab closed. Visit this url? I'll do it later.

This play experience will have zero obstacles to entry. You ask a friend (through whatever medium you like) if they want to play, or they see the game happening and ask you to join, and they're in. The GM starts asking them questions and their answers are the start of the game.

People don't want to play a PbP.
So far you may be thinking of PbP games you've played in before that sound like this. I've GMed and played in a fair number of PbP games myself and I could write at length about my issues with the format. The bottom line is that they've always felt like a big commitment to me. Even if a post only takes me five minutes to hammer out at times it feels like work. I feel obliged to fill posts out with poetic description and consider whether or not I'm making the right mechanical choices. This game isn't going to require either of these. You can be plain in stating what you'd like to do and the GM and other players are sure to appreciate it. The GM, on the other hand, may be more tempted to get flowery with their writing.

Don't do this.

Writing a long post is one thing, but reading a wall of text will daunt even the most literary of us. I've talked about what I think an RPG is and is not. I do not believe an RPG is creating a work of collaborative fiction. Sure, when the dust has settled you'll have a cool story to remember and one that you might even want to write into a piece of fiction yourself. During the game is not the avenue for this. Sure, throw in a nice detail or two when you're describing the environment, but keep it bite-sized. You're not writing a story, you're playing a game. The story is a product of play, not the play itself.

People are more interested in videogames than a paper-based approximation of one.
RPGs are not going to be the best at the type of gameplay videogames excel at. Let them have it. If I want a racing simulator, action-packed gunplay or bone-shaking martial arts combat my console will provide. With even the best system and GM rolling a d20 to see if my car skids off the track is going to be a weaker representation of what I could be doing with a videogame. It's a good job that RPGs have an entirely different type of gameplay that videogames are completely unable to emulate.

I've mentioned before that the unique selling point in RPGs is the total freedom the GM and players have in their actions. A video game is completely opposite to this, even when it might appear otherwise. I'm confident that what I'm proposing will be entirely different to a videogame experience, enough so to differentiate itself in videogamer's minds. The RPG they're playing might be something they just dip into on facebook. It doesn't stop them playing their xbox all night or grinding away at an MMO. It offers something different and both can be consumed without interfering with each other. When you sit and play a videogame for the first time you think "what can I do?". When you play an RPG it's "what will I do?".

Most non-gamers would rather try this out online than commit to an evening of play.
Completely understandable. Draw them in with some online play throughout the week and then when you're all in the same room together why not play for another half-hour before you go out? If everyone's on Google+ why not play in a hangout? The game should be able to occur online and offline, with no obstacles between the two.

To be concluded next time in Part 3.

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