|Siegfried having a normal day by Wilhelm von Kaulbach|
There are a lot of reasons people play RPGs but I'm convinced that the most basic is this: we are story-telling apes. While everyone encourages children to use their imaginations and play, once we get forced into adulthood, the emphasis changes. You have to be a responsible person. Playing gets lost in the mess. The thing here is that the people we are at the age of 8 when everyone tells us to use our imaginations are still there when we hit adulthood.
That is where drama and gaming come in. Two subjects very close to my heart.
An RPG* can be set anywhere. A character can be anything. Anyone. There are systems for those who adore number-crunching and systems so loose they consist of two rocks and a piece of paper. A game can run for a couple of hours or years. They're all valid and what they have in common is the notion of interactive story-telling.
This requires actual communication between the referee* and the player or players and thus is not the same as a computer RPG. However hard it tries, no programming can be completely responsive to the suggestions of a group of players. Another human being can.
An important point to make here is that RPGs are not competitive in the sense that there is a winner or a loser. It is not players v GM*. While it is entirely possible for your character to die horribly, such death should be the result of story. And dice. Did I mention dice?
You can have skills coming out of your ears. You can be equipped for all known situations. You also have to have a little luck. Chance comes into it. Dice. They represent the quirks of fate. If you try to do something with an outcome that might have unpredictable consequences, you or the GM roll some dice.
All that sounds very pompous and optimistic for something that is just plain fun, but they are important things to note. A lot of GMs tend to forget this in the face of a set of monsters that resolutely refuse to save their own sad-sack-selves by rolling above a 5. A lot of players tend to forget this when they come up with a wonderful plan that falls flat on its face.
At a practical level, this means that I've somehow managed to talk Suze into letting me GM her through character creation and a solo adventurette. We're doing this via the ancient mechanism of email until she finds her sea-legs.
So far, I've introduced her to the notion of rolling dice to create a character and offering her a choice of skills and background for this character. We're working our way through the ruleset for Stars Without Number - which is sci-fi based. The system is as new to me as it is to her, but I've figured out a lot of game rules before and this one is streamlined and easy to learn.
Today, I'm going to look at her PC (player character, not personal computer) and get her on the road to adventure. I've no idea what will happen along the way. Finding out is most of the fun.
*Role Playing Game
*Also known as the GM or DM - short for Game Master or Dungeon Master