Monday, April 21, 2014

Your Approach Matters

As a player, even when the game is completely on rails, you have the ability to show who your character is and make things into more, or less, of a story as you see fit. The way you do this is with your approach to the game. If you approach the game as a story to be told and RP'd through, you will get a story out of it. If you approach it as dice to be thrown at mechanical and tactical challenges, then that is what you will get out of it. Today I want to talk about this, ways you can do it, and why it matters.

Star Trek Online and the Rogue-like Genre of PC Games
The two best case examples I have for what I am talking about from both a player and game perspective comes from the currently free to play MMO Star Trek Online and the Rogue-Like genre of games.

In Star Trek Online most of the missions, at least the missions I have found so far, can really only play out one way. Generally speaking you get the mission with the story leading into the mission, you go to the system, you have a space battle, you beam to the planet/base, you have a ground battle, and you resolve the plot. It's easy, it's entertaining, and it works. Not much room for creative play, right? Well yes and no. See, during the mission the player is given choices at times. You can sometimes hail the enemy ships and tell them why you're here and give them the offer to surrender. They rarely, if ever, do but the fact you can give them the option is cool. Why? Because from a story point of view it means that the player is deciding if their Captain is the type to sucker punch and go in guns blazing, or do they try to talk and only fight as a last resort? The choice is yours to make and it can be important.

With Rogue-Like games there is always a community telling stories about their games. Rogue-likes are fairly notorious for being very hard and also fairly straight forward on what is going on. There isn't much plot going on in the actual gameplay. And yet...people make stories for their games. There are entire sections of reddit dedicated to these stories, and every playthrough can be its own story full of heroics and tragedies depending on how things go. The point here though is the story is only there if you make it be there. Otherwise, it's just a dungeon crawl really.

In A Table Top Game
How does this apply to a tabletop game? Well, the obvious part is that even with a straight dungeon crawl you can be telling a story. The plot might be basic - a group of adventurers invade the to recover treasure - but it is still there. However, if you want there to be a story it is as simple as giving your character one.

What that story is ultimately is up to you, but whether your adventurer wants to be rich, is funding an orphanage, or just looking to not be bored you can play it differently. Other players can react to that, and before you know it you are injecting a story around even the most basic of meta plots and adding that to the story.

But why does it matter?

You Determine Your Level of Involvement
More than almost any other hobby, table top RPGs will give back exactly what you give in to them. This is why so much advice includes the phrase "as long as this is fun for you" in it. If you want story you can add it in. If you don't want story yo can ignore it and approach the game as just a series of challenges.

The more you put in to something the more you will get out of it. Taking time to describe what you are doing, to make quips, to give story elements to things will yield those story elements being there for others to enjoy and to play with and pay back into. Taking the time to focus on the challenges, fights, and tactics will also yield more enjoyment out of that and more efficient victories. Either way, the more you put in the more you get back.

Why does that matter? Because it means that you are ultimately the final arbiter of just how much fun a game will be for you.

It Also Tips The GM Off
How do you let the GM know you want more story portions in their game? You engage with the story portions. How do you let the GM know you want more complex tactical shenanigans? You engage with the tactical shenanigans. How you approach the game will let the GM know what you are interested in and thus let them guide the game down a path that can be fun for everyone.

In The End
In the end, regardless of the kind of game you are in you can add the elements you like and enjoy them, even if only on a personal level. This is also a good way of letting the GM know what you want. In the end though, it is up to you.

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