Everything starts with an idea. Except for those things that we tend to do automatically due to reflex or rote memorization, most of our actions are preceded by an idea. Some are good ideas, and some are bad ideas. The distinction between the two often rests with experiment and experience. Often we have to throw a lot of spaghetti at the wall to find out what sticks. But I don’t think there’s any greater tragedy than the idea that never sees the light of day. Think of all the wasted potential.
Every game on our shelves or in our tablets began with an idea. A premise, a concept, a new mechanic, a “hey what if we did it this way?”. These ideas were written down, hopefully play tested, revised, published and now sit on our shelves where hopefully we play them and they see the light of day. Think of that next time you play a game or read a supplement. This used to be just somebody’s idea. There is a lot of power there.
Every scenario or game world or NPC or creature or the countless other things devised by game masters begin as ideas. Every player character was originally just a concept, an idea. And somehow, through the magic of actual play these ideas become reality. Kept to ourselves they are flat and two dimensional, but shared with one another and allowed to interact, they come to life and often surprise us with what they do. But without that initial idea, that vibrant experience would never have happened.
All of these examples are powerful and profound, but to me perhaps some of the most important ideas occur in the moment during actual play. For some of us that could be improvisation and making things up on the spot. That’s not my preferred play style, but it is a valid and exciting one. For others it could be realizing that as players we don’t need to wait to be shown what to do. We don’t have to wait for our chance to insert a little dialogue. We don’t have to try to figure out what the game master wants us to do. We have an idea, and we act on it. Very often those ideas not only surprise the game master and the other players at the table, they also surprise us.
The phenomenon of play take shape in an unpredictable manner as the various people at the table bring these ideas together and the various elements in the fiction interact with one another. The game becomes dynamic and alive. No one can be sure what’s going to happen, but it’s going to be interesting. When we all have ideas and share them, act on them, and talk about them, we realize that we have truly shown up to the game.
Finally, after the dice have been put away, many times we find that we still have ideas. We have observations, questions reflections, things that we have discovered or are trying to piece together. When we share those with each other and talk about our experiences,our questions, and our theories we find that we are still engaged with the RPG phenomenon. We transcend just talking about other people or events, we talk about ideas. There is a magic there that is hard to put into words. Ideas have real impact.
I have an idea, and it’s so crazy it just might work…