The other day, after an incredible session in her L5R game, my housemate was worried folks may not have had fun and that the session had been too weird. Her concern was that she thought maybe it was "a little out there" and that caused problems. I responded, and the group agreed, that frequently "a little out there" is where the fun is. Today, I want to talk a bit about why that is.
Gaming Is Kind Of Weird
Admit it, a group of four to six people sitting around a table and pretending to be people they're not out on adventures is a little weird. We could go on about story telling and human history and all that, sure, but the actual act of it is still a bit strange. It's one of the reasons gamers sometimes get odd looks, even from people who also identify as gamers (albeit different kinds of gamers.)
No matter how serious, deep, and amazing your game is, at the end of the day you are sitting across a table with some dice, some paper, and some other people dictating what you are doing and trying to imagine the impossible as it happens. It's ok for this to be weird. It is also fun, and can be very relaxing. But for now, focus on the weird.
Embrace The Weird
Despite the number of books that start off from aspiring and actual writers, table top campaigns are not good for books. Yes, sometimes a character will be a good inspiration point. Sometimes a plot or NPC can work well. Sometimes parts of the game can be very cinematic. However, the game as a whole rarely is and it is because of that weirdness I talked about above. Players are often very comfortable having their characters do awkward or horrible things that don't work in stories because for the players it is just a game. The other problem is that a book works with one person controlling all the pieces of the narrative to fine tune the tension and drama in a scene. A game, on the other hand, has four to six (or more if you have more players) at the creative helm and most of them aren't interested in tension peaks and lows, but in making their character attain goals and succeed.
Long story short, if you want your campaign to be a book...you need to get rid of your players as soon as they're done making their characters. However, if you go the opposite way and embrace that same weirdness that makes a campaign a bad book you can have hours upon hours of fun. Which is great as fun is the point.
See the connection yet? You need to go a bit out there. Your PCs are already going a bit out there, and everyone is trying to pretend to be who they are in game and not in real life, so when the plot also goes a little out there it can be easier to jump into. Sometimes the simplicity offered by going out there is its own reward and can bring a lot of fun to the table.
All the time?
This will depend on your group. I find, with the groups I'm in right now, that it is best to mix it up. Some times you go out there, sometimes you go way out there, and sometimes you keep it in here. I also like to mix in quiet sessions for the PCs to cool off, let their hair down, and digest all the crazy that's been happening. Other groups will vary on the mileage.
Whatever you do though, don't be afraid of going a bit out there to find a fun session for your group. Often times that is exactly where the fun is hiding.