Thursday, January 31, 2013

Escapism

Peru Ubu in the comments post of my Intractable post writes,

"It's not easy even in real life to admit that there's things you just need to accept; I suppose the question lies in whether you want a brutally realistic game, or if you're willing to let things slide in the name of enjoyment.  How escapist are you willing to let your game be? (No offense, it appears you'd be less flexible on the subject than I might be.) ..."
Rarely have I ever had such an easy question to answer.

I want my game to be incredibly escapist.  I want the player to transcend the rules and demands of their earthly self ... I want them to forget, in that moment where the game is happening, what they want their character to do or what they imagine for themselves is the point of the game.  I want them to react to the game emotionally, violently, furious at the monsters, terrified at their own death (where they are ONE AND THE SAME with their characters), railing with vivid righteousness in their cause, laughing maniacally in the acts of their own brutality, screaming, shouting, seizing the dice in frenzied impatience, screaming at the bad result when it comes up, crying out in triumph when the walls come down ...

See, I don't care if the emotion I wring from my players is pleasure or not.  The easiest emotion to be had is pleasure.  Pleasure can be gotten by giving them a few gifts, or having some mild instance of good luck go their way.

TRIUMPH is not mere pleasure.  Triumph is the profound mix of relief and success that can only be gotten after the harrowing of the human soul, through misery, pain, doubt, uncertainty and most of all, DESPAIR.  There is nothing so rich and rewarding in the playing of a game that the manufacture of emotional transference from despair to triumph.  Until the party believes, wholly, with their complete heart and their complete certainty that they can never win no matter what they do can they ever truly feel the godlike resurgence of absolute, unfathomed TRIUMPH.

If it is easy; if it is serving the party's needs; if it is a joking, mocking, silly romp through moronic rooms, tramping between the rails of a pedantic, cliched ideal of a DM's tour, then the triumph at the end is the worst sort of footnote to the worst sort of escapist crapfest.

I'm not building a rollercoaster here, where your character gets a little thrill on a ride that's guaranteed to leave you alive at the end ... I'm building a terror house where there's every chance that in the next five minutes the YOU that you've been, fighting and suffering and investing in my world all these many months, even years, will be stone cold DEAD beyond all hope of redemption.

Yes, you're freakin' right I want it to be escapist.  If you're sitting on your ass still thinking of yourself and your character as being different entities, that's NOT escapist.  That's masturbation through proxy.

Now, you want to come and run in MY world?

7 comments:

Dani Black said...

After reading this: "where they are ONE AND THE SAME with their characters." I had to link to this: http://media.chick.com/tractimages67491/0046/0046_03.gif

Dani Black said...

I think the worst part of the whole tract is how Marcie's character, Black Leaf, didn't get a saving throw to avoid the poison trap. But -- hey -- that's just me! LOL

joe said...

A good adventure should end with the same glowing feeling of release and elation one experiences after surviving a plane crash or good sex.
The end to every campaign should be satisfyingly bittersweet.

Creating that finish does not fall squarely on the DM, the players themselves must share the load.

JB said...

Escapism: one of the Three Pillars making up the foundation of the game.

[you've really been on fire this month with your posts by the way...the only reason I'm not commenting on all of 'em is I figure you'd get tired of the puffery]

Butch said...

I think what Peru Ubu is getting at, though, isn't whether you can lose yourself in the game, but rather the tug of war between realism and, I guess for lack of a better word, playism.

We all want to lose ourselves in the game, but when players talk about realism they often are asking: do I have to track every copper spent? every ounce carried? every calorie consumed?

Some players love doing that; some don't.

It would be far easier to allow players to assume that, for example, they spend some predetermined amount per day. Let's say 1 g.p. per day. You're not actually spending a gold coin every day, of course; it represents the provisions you buy in the market before you leave town, and eat in the dungeon; the tolls and tariffs paid at various bridges and walled cities; the cloak that has to be replaced every year or so. Round it all up and let's say you're spending 1 g.p. every day just to maintain the status quo as an adventurer.

Is this realistic? No, but it's much easier to play this way.

If your question is, "Does Alexis play this way?" The answer is no. :)

Alexis said...

Oh, I know what Peru Ubu is getting at. That was obvious.

And I know you get this, Butch. But I wrote the post to destroy the whole argument Peru's question implies, the argument that's been on the net and has existed prior to it for decades now: Does the game HAVE to be serious?

I don't merely argue that I play that way. I am arguing that every player in every game everywhere who doesn't get the chance to play this game at the highest level, the one I just described in this post, is either,

A) Cheated
B) Very unfortunate
C) Too dumb fuck stupid to care

I argue that D&D has been in the bi-wing and strut phase long enough. It's time to build propellers, so we can learn enough about the game to build jets.

People who want to fly kites need to get the fuck out of the discussion.

Steve said...

Excellent post. "Escapism" all too often gets reduced to retreating into humdrum pleasantries that we can't afford in daily life. It can just as well be a retreat into savage excess and danger where few people in their right minds would willingly go in real life. Terror and desperation transport you away from suburbia and office drudgery quite effectively.