This is another post mostly directed to myself, but also to a lot of the other players out there who I know struggle with things like this. To put it bluntly, we have the tpoic of this post. When you're playing an RPG, what are you afraid of? What is it that is making you play the game 'safe'? What is stopping you from making the decisions that you want your character to make but know you would never make them in their place. Today, I want to talk about that.
The big fear that I think a lot of people struggle with is losing. Now, I'm not talking about losing the game. Most of us understand that RPGs aren't really won or lost. However, that doesn't mean we can't win or lose. This type of decision making can be seen very evidently in Bioware RPGs where you have to make choices. Often times a lot of people will make the choices that keeps them from losing a member of the team, keeps them from losing the respect of an ally, or keeps them from losing some item that they want. This same line of thinking can be present in table top games. We make the safe decisions because we want to play the char safely so they don't lose something. Maybe it is respect; maybe it is an ally. Either way, we fear losing something. Most notably...
The 80s and 90s were a rough time for gamers. GMs went about slaughtering groups with a reckless abandon that almost wiped all the players off the map - or so the stories say. Only now, after years of coddling and caring do we start to see the number of healthy and mature players thrive again. It is almost time for the next great hunt...er, I mean...death is a real threat in RPGs. Losing a character, especially a cherished one, can suck. It is another reason to play safe. After all, if you don't piss off that smug Prince, or punch him in the face, then his guards are a lot less likely to run you through, right?
RPGs have a lot of choices in them by their very nature. As human beings we tend to believe that there is almost always a right choice and a wrong choice. When playing a game, especially because it is a game, we also tend to have that viewpoint. As such, knowing that there is a wrong choice, it is often best to instead make the safe choice. Why? Because while it may still be the wrong choice, a safe choice will at least mitigate the damage caused by taking it. That mitigated damage, sometimes literal damage, then means you have a better chance of not dying or losing as the game goes on.
Finally there is just the fear of being in the spotlight. When you're in the spotlight you are the center of attention. All eyes are on you. Every mistake is magnified for everyone to see, and for at least a brief bit of time the continuance of the game hinges on your shoulders. That's kind of a big deal to some people, and the fear of that moment, being on the spot like that, is enough to make them hedge their bets and never do anything truly outrageous.
The point of all this is to address the fears that plague us. I'm not sure what it is that stops me as a player at times, but I'm sure it is one of those things. Very likely a combination of not wanting to be wrong and the fear of the spotlight personally. However, it isn't until we can list our fears, or whatever is holding us back, that we can address them. That is why I want to know what stops you from acting out at the game table. What keeps you from acting the way you think would be really cool? List them off in the comments.
The challenge then is this. The next time you are a player in a game, if only for one session, try to just throw your fears to the wayside. Who cares if you steal the whole show? Who cares if you get your character killed? Who cares if you lose a trusted ally? The point is to go out there, do stuff, and have fun. New characters can be made, alliances can be reforged, and having the spotlight isn't supposed to be that bad. The best part though is that you'll also leave an impression with the other players. They'll be talking about what you did and how fun it was. Even if you fail, just having the guts to go out there and do it will be an impressive feat in and of itself. Trust me, I've seen it in action with others. That fearlessness is one of the cores for being a great player, and frees you to have even better and more interesting characters.
So, let's give it a try!