Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Apex of Role-play

I don't see how people can say that this blog is abusive.  I simply make it clear what I like and what I don't like, then tailor the content on the blog towards that measure.  If the neighbor's dog poops on may lawn, I don't let the shit lay untouched in the interest of free expression.

I've been very deliberate about that metaphor.  The neighbour's dog is blameless.  It doesn't know any better.  The same can be said for many of the people who come and comment here.  They believe they have something of merit to say.  They say what they can the best way they know how. They are blameless when the content just doesn't make the cut.

Of course they are hurt.  The neighbour's dog is hurt when I catch it in the hindquarters with a broom. So it goes.  It is the only message the neighbour's dog understands.

Is it unfair.  I suppose it must be.  I am very unfair about considering myself to be the last and only arbiter of the content on this blog.  Frankly, I delight in the unfairness the position offers.  Having followed through upon the agreement between myself and blogger, I have been accorded the privilege of moderating comments, deleting things that I don't like and generally controlling the content on this blog.

However, recently I was told this policy has resulted in there being only sycophants that read or comment on this blog.  The former I know to be not true.  The stats plainly indicate that a fair number of people come here from sites that have universally condemned this site.  As regards to the latter, the commenters . . . well, hello sycophants.

Apparently, you don't disagree with me enough to ease the consciences of those people who "don't" read this blog because of all the abuse.  You are not taking me to task enough.  Or rather, those of you out there who dare to take me to task are being brutally suppressed and thrown out with the trash. Therefore, to those of you who wisely lick my boots, good on you, glad to have you here . . . and watch your step.

This week we had a dialogue about 'role-play' vs. 'roll-play' - and I must admit to being quite bored of it.  In fact, I find myself increasingly bored of the standard memes of role-play flame wars.  None of these things really matters.  The fellow on here yesterday defending the right to subvert the dice in order to promote role-play because it makes his game better completely missed the point, because he plays the same old game in the same old way, with the same old assumptions about what makes good game play: be interesting.  He is convinced, just as so many are convinced, that because the name of the game is 'role-play,' the most interesting thing about RPGs is the common, ordinary, day-to-day discourse between the players and the guy on the street.  As if the most interesting thing about your life is the chat you had today with the guy at the bus stop.  Or the coffee bar.  Or the five minute blather about nothing you shared with a co-worker.  So interesting.

Is this all we have?  Do our 'dreams' really come down to "I want to pretend to speak to a guy on the street and ask directions?"  Is that as far as it goes?  It sure sounds like that.  It sounds as if the 'apex' of RPGs comes when the harbour master saunters over to ask us our business.  Big whup.  I'm sure excited now.

No, no, don't bother to agree.  I already know you do.  You all know your place.

I had this stupid idea when I began playing that fantasy had something to do with fulfilling ambitions, along with the will to acquire, and apply myself to those tasks.  I had aspirations - and those weren't quite managed by bullshit dialogues that take twenty minutes of game time between me and the bartender, or me and the wench that brings the beer.  Seriously.  I've spent quite a lot of time playing this game, and I cannot imagine anything more boring than another twenty minute dialogue with another cardboard cut-out of a bartender's persona as invented by a guy who reads David Eddings. Shoot me in the head, okay?  (I know you will, you sycophantic drones, you).  When does it come about that another bartender convo has edged into the "holy crap not again" zone?  Because as near as I can tell, with some of the folk here who unwisely disagree with me, it never does.

Really.  I have four hours to run a game and I'm going to dedicate 12.5% of that time to another shit dialogue between the party and a bartender, a harbour master, a butcher, a baker or the chandler, er, candlestick maker?  No thank you.  You know how long these conversations should go on?  Two sentences.  You know how many dice I want to roll for that?  None.  Why?  Because I don't freaking care what their answers are.  I can't think of a single question that the party would ask one of these people that wouldn't simply be answered straight.  I will roll dice when a player gets physical.

The reason for that is because I don't make a village the Land Of A Million Secrets.  Villages are, you know, villages.  People grow food.  They slaughter cows. They don't have educations.  If they do know a secret about the local lord that eats little children, the party is never going to know about it from them because they don't want to die.  This isn't cheap television where everyone furtively pauses and hesitates and runs their words together and are plainly hiding something, so that it takes twenty freaking minutes to pull a plot point out of them.

Holy crap that is just bad play.

Even television manages these scenes in 90 seconds.  And since the DM wants to tell the player the plot point, why don't we just say, "After a lot of argument, the butcher tells you."  For the love of green apples in a girl's special cupboard, let's get the fuck on with the adventuring huh?

Oh, but 'role-playing' is the 'apex' of RPGs.  Yeah.  Right.   I'm just going to move over here a moment and pound my head on this table.  No reason.  When you have a lot of sycophants that agree with you all the time, you'll understand.

Now, I think every player in every campaign already knows this.  I think they know it because they sit, and wait, and wait, and sit, and listen to the one player that wants to talk to the butcher run through every . . . single . . . damn . . . facet of this conversation.  I think they know how much they just wish that we would get the hell on with things, but they don't say so, because, well, because they have bought into the argument that this is the game, because they have been told this is the game and because it is the only style of play that they have ever seen.  So it is a necessity.  Got to have role-playing in a role-playing game.  Can't have a game without role-playing.  No sirree.

Except, you know, role-playing is rushing somewhere, and fleeing, and fighting the clock, and making a choice between dilemmas, and suffering great loss, and having everything suddenly go to shit, and having to figure out how you're still going to do the thing you were going to do before that guy died and left you holding the bag.  Role-playing is a lot of gawddamn things, but most of all it is getting past all the dross and the boring and the let's-act-this-out-in-painful-detail . . . because hell, I only have four hours to let these guys find the guy that will tell them where the guy is, so they can ask the guy the one question they need to ask to get the answer that will get them past the door and face-to-face with the frightening dude who has his hand on the lever already that's going to guarantee that the thing is lost.  I don't have time to saunter and rub my false mustache and dream up clever character traits that no one right now gives a shit about.  All they care about is that damn lever and its position right now.  Character?  Character is found in whether or not the guy pulls or doesn't pull.  That's all the party cares about.

The rest of it, the stuff I see when I watch other people play, the lacklustre dull dragging blandfest that's going on when I'm sitting next to a table that's supposed to be in combat but looks like six people waiting for a job interview, is just awful.  That is what the people arguing the nonsensical particulars about role-play vs. dice-play just don't understand. They're not in the same ballgame. Hell, it ain't the same ballpark, it ain't the same league, it ain't even the same fuckin' sport.

The role-play they get themselves wet over don't mean shit.