One of the great things about roleplaying games, specifically tabletop roleplaying games, is that they allow you to be whatever character you want to be. Whether one is playing DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, SAVAGE WORLDS, OPEN LEGEND, or some other rpg, within the confines of the game’s genres and limitations, you can play whomever you want.
Occasionally players want to take on the role of a villain, and sometimes players will focus upon a rather humdrum character who doesn’t have a lot of motivation, but these aren’t the norm.
Most players will want to play a hero. Of course, one player’s hero might be another player’s villain, or idiot, or fool, or bully, or whatever. But still, most players want to be a hero. In a rpg that usually means being part of a group, so the spotlight has to be shared to some extent or other, but most successful roleplayers will find ways to work together for the fun of all.
Tabletop roleplaying games are basically storytelling games, so there are some similarities to fiction writing. Instead of a single author sitting down to pen a story, in a rpg the group comes together to tell the tale. The game master gets things rolling and guides things along, but the players through their characters are able to steer the story itself. The story might never end, or it might, depending upon what the group wants to accomplish and, of course, real-life constraints.
What’s unique about coming together to tell a story through a tabletop rpg is that the audience reactions are instant, they happen real-time not unlike what a stand-up comedian faces, because in a rpg the audience is also the performers, the actors, the storytellers. Because of that instant storytelling and reaction, each player is the hero of their own tale and gets to experience their own hero’s journey as it unfolds.
Thus in a tabletop rpg, we are the hero of our own lives. Or of the lives of the characters we create. This allows us to test ourselves morally by confronting the difficulties presented to us by the game master. Such games also can challenge our intellect and, to some extent, our knowledge. Tabletop rpgs don’t usually test us physically, but they can allow us to sort of play armchair quarterback when it comes to combat and the like, allowing us to experience some bare basics of tactics and strategy from the safety of our game rooms.
Tabletop rpgs are a learning tool, and they are entertainment. They are also bonding experiences, allowing us to make friends and grow socially. Sometimes friends made through role playing are friends for life, and sometimes those friends help us through tough times, and they can help us heal.
And maybe, ultimately, that’s what’s most important. Healing. Our fictional heroes, those we create for our games, they save the day by slaying the dragon or defeating the dark knight, but it can be real people, those sitting around the table with us or staring at us through a computer monitor, who can make the real difference in our day, in our lives. Those players can be heroes, and not just fictional ones.
So I thank all the folks I’ve gamed with over the years. You are my heroes.
Now roll initiative.