Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Actual Definition Of Role-Playing

JB at B/X Blackrazor has been writing a series of 11 posts on role-playing (this is part 10), and throughout it all I have been both annoyed and apathetic about it.

Today, he wrote his reasons for writing the series are to determine 1) What role-playing IS; and 2) How D&D informed us about it.

He also came up with three conclusions:

- Different editions of D&D place different emphasis on role-playing as an aspect of the game.
- Regardless of its relative emphasis, D&D has never prioritized the articulation of role-playing.
- Players (including DMs) are as guilty of assumption with regard to role-playing as the game designers.

I often wonder about JB.  He's not stupid.  He's a stand-up guy.  I think I'd be happy to buy him more than a few beers.  He runs a very popular blog, though it does seem to be filled with the sort of simpering synchophants I long ago poured gasoline all over before lighting a match.  Virtually no commenter there, ever, says the least sort of intelligent thing ... which is, I suppose, a reason I never see them here.

But he has been utterly, completely, indefagitably out-to-lunch with the entire series ... which has failed to reach any of his agendas because, well, he insists on describing how he FEELS about all of it.  He feels this is a good definition of role-playing, without ever saying why.  He feels the books haven't said enough about role-playing, because he has used his feelings as a measure of what roleplaying is or isn't.  And he has expressed his feelings about various writers writing about roleplaying while measuring their value against what he feels interests him, specifically.  The whole series comes off like ... well ... some you-tuber screaming about Britney.

And I am a bit sick.

Well, there's nothing wrong with opinion.  And we all have feelings.  I feel there are many worlds I'd never like to run in.  There are many DMs I feel should be removed from the table and given the operation that would make it impossible - snip - for them to roll dice.  And yes, I have many times described my feelings on this blog.  Anyone who says they haven't written their feelings on a blog is a damn liar.

The subject matter ought to be role-playing, not JB's feelings about it.  Playing a "role."  Defined as, "the function assumed or part played by a person or thing in a particular situation."

Note the complete absence in the definition of any measurable quality.  The definition does not say "playing a part WELL."  The definition does not say "playing the part INTERESTINGLY."  The definition does not say anything about the role being a part that by necessity differs from who you happen to be, nor does it give extra credit for playing a role that is startling different from who you are.  None of that actually exists in the definition at all.  Any discussion of role-playing that places any emphasis whatsoever upon any of those things is NOT a discussion about role-playing.  It's a discussion of the writer's prejudices, moral sensibilities, demands for attention and personal agenda.  Such a discussion it TOTAL CRAP ... not by virtue of my feelings on the matter, but by virtue of how the word "role" is actually defined.

Regarding the various editions of D&D and what they've offered in terms of guidelines or descriptions of 'role-playing,' that's all complete crap too.  The books don't provide any suggestions on what snacks to eat during a game of D&D either.  They don't offer anything about how to get your friends to play, or how to convince your parents its not a stupid game, or how many years you should keep playing D&D before it starts to get, well, queer.  The editions and the books that represent them don't describe a lot of things that have become de rigueur to the game.


Comb through the rules of Monopoly and find me the description of how you should gloat over the demise of other players who cannot afford your hotels on Boardwalk.  Find me the lengthy description in the original game of RISK describing how you're an idiot if you don't try for Australia first.  Get out a rule book on baseball and point to me the rule that explains how a catcher puts a batter off his swing by speaking particular words or phrases.  Find me the rule in football that describes how much balance to put on the balls of your feet based on who happens to be pitted against you, so that you don't wind up on your ass and so you do make him wind up on his.

You know where you find these things?  In playing the game.  In talking about the game.  In writing about the game.  The fact that they were not actually written into the rules of the game doesn't mean a fucking thing.  And any damn fool who spends 11 posts describing how they ought to, or discussing how the absence of same proves some damn thing about what those things are has his head so far up his ass I can't guess how the fuck he'd drink the beer I'd be willing to buy him.

JB has spent a lot of time writing his 10 posts - no. 11 to come.  I suppose he feels it is time worth spending.  But don't go there looking for answers about anything except the personality of JB.

He has failed to define role-playing (I used a dictionary).  He has failed to realize that D&D is under no obligation to inform anyone about role-playing.  He has failed to recognize that whatever the emphasis the various editions made, it is of no account regarding the manner or means by which people choose to play the game.  He has failed to realize that role-playing never needed to be a priority of the rules.  And he has failed to recognize that people, being people, ALWAYS make assumptions about everything, including roleplaying, and that at no time and in no way does it matter that these assumptions differ from the game designers, or from JB.

These things are irrelevant.  They don't relate to role-playing.  What people have said about it, or haven't said about it, or what they believe about it, is irrelevant to whether or not a thing is, in fact, role-playing.

I tell you, "My character turns left."  I have just role-played.  I have just assumed a part, essaying that the part takes a given function in a situation that has been given to me.  "My character lifts his weapon."  I have role-played again.  "My character moves to fight."  I have role-played again.  In fact, it is impossible for me to describe anything my character does without in fact role-playing.  Because it is a character.  And I have chosen to speak for that character, and describe what that character does.  It is a role I have adopted.

People desperately, pathetically, idiotically want it to be more than that, so they can use their agenda to rule how you, the player, role-play according to standards they have made the fuck up out of their own fucking heads.  They are trying to control you.  They are trying to make you feel inferior.  They are trying to make themselves superior in some bullshit fashion, having invented the measure of superiority so that it suits them personally.

Tell them to fuck off.  Tell them, "This is my character, and I will role-play it as I like."  Tell them very politely that you would appreciate it if they kept their opinions to themselves.  But don't fucking listen to them, don't fucking believe them and don't fucking think that because they've written a blog expanding wildly on their opinions that they've done something significant.


Matthew Mantel said...

Thank you for sparing me the effort of reading those posts. I feel I can safely delete them from my RSS feed now.

Antonio said...

Eh. You were somewhat more explicit than me. Thanks.

Dave Cesarano said...

Didn't read his blog, don't intend to either. ELEVEN POSTS??? Seems a bit much. Frankly, Ron Edwards' discussion of GNS and his revisions of it into "the Big Model" are better discussions of the nature of roleplaying and its variations than most of the blogosphere's output on the subject. Discussing feelings is all great, but for eleven posts? Christ Almighty!

Dave said...

I've NEVER written about my feelings on my blog... but please, call me a Statistician.

By The Sword said...

Most times, I really enjoy JB's writing. This wasn't one of those times.

I get pretty tired of the whole Badwrongfun mentality coming out of the OSR. I have been playing D&D since 1981. I appreciate all of it's incarnations. I like other rpg systems as well. I like crunching numbers and I like role playing. I like tactics and I like intricate plotlines with detailed character backgrounds. But what I love best, is sitting around a table with good friends and having a great time playing a game.

Fabio Milito Pagliara said...

right on the spot!

BurntskullCandy said...

I saw one of your other posts and now I'm glad I looked further. At first I was irritated by the fact that you were saying that the books didn't tell you how to role-play but then once you explained yourself I understood and agreed. I have a player who always gets angry if people aren't role-playing the way he wants in his little set up so its nice to hear someone else talking about it.