Metagamers Anonymous is a young podcast that I discovered while sifting for gold on iTunes. Lo and behold! I found it. These guys, and girl, are knowledgeable, well spoken, and creative. Their bi-weekly podcast has become one that I find myself waiting for.
A little while ago, I wrote them an e-mail, I’m posting it here for all to see…
In previous episodes, you’ve brought up the concept of “organic
roleplaying,”and, indeed, this seems to be a key principle in your own game
play. While this is a valuable tool around the game table to be sure, I feel
that “organic roleplaying” tends to reward those on the player’s side of the
screen more often than the GM.
Now, before you send me a “Dear listener, Please go [smurf] yourself” letter,
please allow me to explain.
Most of the time, players are experiencing the game world and all of it’s events
through the eyes one character. This means that every bit of role-playing
energy that the player puts into the game is being used to define the emotions,
attitudes, actions, and reactions of one individual, as opposed to the GM, who
is responsible for what goes on in the heads, hearts, and hands of everyone else
in the game world. Because of this, it’s more difficult for a GM to become as
deeply rooted in one character’s persona than it is for the players.
So what then, does a GM get out of a game with “organic roleplayers?…”
…The opportunity to take advantage of another gaming concept…”dynamic
While a GM may be hard pressed to get down to the nuts and bolts
of every NPC’s emotion and motivation, he can use every descriptive tool at his
disposal to create a vibrant and immersive world around the PCs. The GM’s reward
for having good roleplayers is that he can tell a story and be confident that
his players will pull every but of excitement and fun out of any tale he tells.
It’s my point of view that, the more believable and dynamic the world and it’s
inhabitants, the more fulfilling the game.
That’s the concept that’s been bouncing around on the ping pong table of my mind
lately… player immersion. If immersion is the ball, then “dynamic
storytelling” and “organic roleplaying” are the paddles. It’s been my
experience that, while player immersion is a simple thing to define, it is not always
an easy thing to execute.
So here is my purely hypothetical question:
Which is more important to achieving player immersion, organic roleplay, or dynamic storytelling?
Once again, great show! Looking forward to the discussion.
The on-air responses and discussion can be found on Metagamers Anonymous Episode #7.
With the exception of their divulging of a weird furniture fetish, admitting to using Facebook in a manner in which, I’m sure, Mark Zuckerburg never intended, and something about a gazebo, the discussion went pretty much as I expected. Some tug o’ war occurred between the two sides, both with valid points. However, ultimately, I think they came to the same conclusion that I did….
RPGs take place, almost exclusively, through the cinematography of the minds eye. Therefore, a GM can “dynamically” tell a story until his lungs collapse, but, if he does not have receptive players, he may as well be reading them a grocery list. Conversely, a good organic player can allow his or her character take the wheel, steer, and role-play Tic-Tac-Toe if they set their mind to it.
But we’re talking about immersive role-playing. Throw out the dice and rules, and you get down to the quick of what our hobby is about…
playing make believe.
In the imagination of a child, it’s easy for a pencil to be a dragon-smiting holy sword, or a small patch of dirt in the backyard to transform into an arid wasteland that travelling heroes must cross to save the world. While a good GM can keep his players well stocked with pencils and dirt, he can’t give his players the sight to see them for what they really are. Only the child inside can make full use of such valuable tools. Children are, hands down, the most immersive gamers, even if they aren’t as refined and rules saavy. We were all there at one time. As role-players, most of us strive to reach, in our games, that point of full immersion we used to achieve so effortlessly as children. With that goal in mind, we’ve quantified every aspect of “make believe,” and in turn, those rules and the fiddly bits of whatever system we may be playing, can keep some of us rooted in the world in which we exist, while the immersive gamer soars in the world that they imagine.
It seems to me that player immersion exists with or without dynamic storytelling and organic role-playing, these concepts just help us achieve it by giving our inner 9 year old more things to play with.
With that bit of conjecture, I must go. But, you can all rest easy tonight, as I have recently purchased a new pencil sword and, as soon as I don my
beach towel cloak, I’m off to save the world…..again.
– The Nondenominational GM