It’s no secret that in general I prefer a simpler or lighter system for my RPG’s more often than not. This topic has been talked to death, and yesterday my friends and I were laughing about a phenomenon that has puzzled us. “Game X” frequently gets called fast and furious, but when we look at it, this RPG seems terribly complex and slow. Even watching actual plays of other people playing it it seems… complex and slow. Recently one of us had a revelation that a large number of the people calling “game X” simple and fast normally were playing “game Y” which can be quite a tangle of rules and procedures. No wonder they thought “game X” was fast and furious! The vast majority probably had very little to no exposure to Games A, B, C, D… etc. But this blog post isn’t about that…
The fact that I tend to prefer simplicity in my RPG‘s isn’t terribly interesting. But my motive is. What brings us to the table is fascinating to me. Ask any of us what our motives for playing RPG’s are and you soon realize that there are no right or wrong answers. Instead you find that there are a multitude of reasons or motives why people engage in this hobby. Our intentions for the RPG experience can vary considerably, and this speaks too many motivations being involved. The most important thing for any individual is quite literally to “know thyself”, And for me it’s important to know not just what I like, but why I like it.
I certainly enjoy the uncertainty involved in RPG sessions, and like anyone else I thrill to the tumbling dice, anxiously awaiting our fate. I certainly own enough dice. (But who has enough dice… Really?) Of course the other part of uncertainty is not knowing exactly what is going to happen in the unfolding fiction. However, I don’t just enjoy watching this “emerging story” from on high in the role of a creator/spectator, I really like watching it from ground level. From the perspective of my character or the characters I control as a GM. Quite literally making decisions and acting according to the motives of the character in question. If the situation is real, and the character is a real person, then it follows that the character has motives for why they do what they do. When I can see things through their eyes, and I understand who they are, then I can experience Something remarkable and very often the line between their motives and my motives gets blurred.
In my specific case, I find it harder to fulfill my intentions if the rule set is more complex. This doesn’t mean that a large complex rule set is bad or prevents this for everybody. In fact I can tell you that the more I play some of the more complicated ones the easier it becomes for me. However, I believe it tends to take me a little longer than other people.
The real point is, my primary motive of wanting to experience the motives and perspective of the character, and my secondary motives of wanting to observe the unfolding fiction and delighting in the uncertainty of the dice at dramatic or important moments, is not satisfied as much when I am operating a larger set of rules and procedures. Your mileage may vary and probably does.
But the hobby is so much bigger than just me. It’s fascinating observing people and wondering why they do what they do. What is their motive for playing this game? What are the motivations of the various characters and nonplayer characters involved in the scenario? Who are they? What do they want? Do we as players care? If we don’t, why? What are we here for instead?
When we understand our own motives it becomes easier for us to have RPG sessions that satisfy our intentions. When we understand the motivations of the other players it becomes easier to decide if we were compatible, decide what games we should play together, and come to a consensus about the expectations for play. When we understand the motives of the characters on both sides of the metaphorical screen, it becomes so much easier to play them. Things begin to make sense. Play can become seemingly effortless. It’s….fun.
That’s pretty motivating.