I am the door, none shall enter the dungeon but through me.
Doors are underrated. It doesn’t matter if the door is literal or figurative, they represent powerful elements in the role playing game experience.
The characters being stuck unable to get through a door is practically a cliché. Few things can be as frustrating to players and their characters then being unable to get through a door. It doesn’t matter if that door is an actual door, or if it is a metaphor for something else they are trying to do. It can be equally as frustrating for the game master if they have convinced themselves that the characters must get through that door in order for play to proceed, or for play to proceed correctly. Doors can certainly be barriers, but unlike a wall, the locked door can represent frustration and a choice made for us. It might as well be a wall, except we know that it is a door and it mocks us. We must except our inability to open that door and turn another way.
Doors can also represent temptation. Once again that closed door is almost like a wall but not quite. It represents that tantalizing possibility and mystery. What’s on the other side? Should we open the door? Is it worth the risk? If we don’t like what is on the other side can we shut it again? Risk, reward, and the unknown all hold hands as we stare at that closed door, just beckoning us to try the handle. Many times in the RPG experience we stand before those real or metaphorical doors with a choice to make.
Sometimes once we open it we can close the door or turn back and go through it the other way before the consequences become too great. Other times it’s much more like “The Price Is Right”. We can only choose door one, two, or three. Once we have made our choice, there is no going back. Such literal or figurative doors can represent the consequences and relative permanence of the choices we make as we engage with the fiction.
Doors in whatever form they take are wonderful decision points. Not only do they present us with a choice to make, but they can present us with barriers to those choices and the impermanence or permanence of the consequences of those choices.
Perhaps the most powerful door of all is the one left unopened. Maybe we chose not to open it, or maybe we were unable to do so. In either case the mystery of what is behind it remains. We leave the door behind and go a different way. Perhaps we never think of it again, and perhaps… every so often we wonder to ourselves “what if?”