#RPGaDay2020 4: Vision

RPG-a-Day 2020

I have a pronounced vision of how RPGs should be run, which (as is commonly the case with visions) can be the reason for game sessions either really coming together or just being a frustrating experience. I haven’t really put it into concise wording yet, but in short, I am convinced that RPG sessions should focus purely on the sections that matter for the story.

I’ve known many groups who will run an RPG like a simulation: they want long backstories for all characters, so that they can feel that the characters have organically existed in the world, and they want to deal with things step by step. I’ve run games where the characters wanted to confront the big bad guy, and they would narrate every tiny step from being at home base to travelling to the big bad: they’d have a long in-character talk about what they just decided on, and then they would want to narrate walking out the door, buying all the necessary gear, stumbling over a branch, and twenty other things before even reaching the front door of where they were going.

My vision for RPG sessions boils all of this down to only the stuff that matters. Does the discussion between player characters matter? Okay, then talk that out if you want to. You’ve decided to confront the big bad? Okay! Tell me the what and how of the matter, and I’ll decide if there’s anything interesting inbetween. If I can’t find interesting conflicts, then I’d much rather go right to the scene where you’re in the throne room face-to-face with the big bad, guards strewn behind you—now what?

Don’t get me wrong—I don’t mean to imply that I only want to skip forward to fights, but I would want to skip forward to conflicts. Your player character wants to talk to their spouse, who has been cheating on them? Okay, tell me the how: are you angry and want to confront them? Okay, next scene you’re in the middle of your shouting match. Are you vindictive and do you want to hurt them? Okay, next scene is them confronted with the discarded underwear of your one-night-stand, strewn across the living room. Are you desperate to make this work? Okay, next scene is three therapy sessions in, and your other goal is within hand’s reach but you’ll have to skip out on your therapy session to get it, after having just promised you’ll do whatever it takes to save your relationship—what do you do?

It’s this vision of gaming that I strive for when I lead games. It’s tough to do, because I need to be really on point to keep selecting the interesting conflicts. It’s also tough because you need to be sure that all of the players are into that idea as well. It’s incredibly tough, because as a storyteller, you also need to be really aware of what your players believe is interesting about the game (hey, maybe they are into detailed shopping sprees for supplies?). When it all comes together, however, when it really works—it’s pure magic.

12 thoughts on “#RPGaDay2020 4: Vision”

  1. Skipping to the interesting stuff is vital — I play RPGs to do cool things, and endless wandering along a maze of twisty passages that are all alike doesn’t add to the coolness. If you’re going to have quantum ogres, might as well just immediately go there.

    I’m sure you’ve seen the Princess Bride movie, but did you read the book? (The book is much better.) There is a passage where the writer discovers, upon reading the actual book, that his grandfather skipped a few chapters that detailed all kinds of boring political stuff with the words: “And what with one thing and another, two years pass.” I try to incorporate that mindset in my games: skip to the interesting stuff where the players can have meaningful choices.

    1. Exactly! I never did read the book, actually. It’s one of those books that is on the list but I haven’t gotten to yet. I guess I should give it a read, then!

  2. I like the helpful information you provide in your articles.
    I will bookmark your blog and check again here frequently.
    I am quite certain I’ll learn many new stuff right here!
    Best of luck for the next!

  3. I was wondering if you ever thought of changing the page layout of your blog?
    Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.

    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better.
    Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or two images.
    Maybe you could space it out better?

    1. Thank you for the feedback. I am pretty focused on textual transmission, and usually I don’t think much about adding pictures. Would you have any suggestions on how to space it out?

  4. Hi great blog! Does running a blog such as this require a massive amount
    work? I’ve no understanding of programming however I had been hoping to start
    my own blog soon. Anyhow, if you have any recommendations or techniques
    for new blog owners please share. I understand this is off subject
    but I simply needed to ask. Thanks!

    1. To be honest, it took next to no effort to get up and running. WordPress pretty much does all the work, and my webhosting service offered WordPress as a one-click install. In fact, the biggest struggle is just to regularly write something! I have the ideas, but I haven’t made a habit of sitting down and writing regularly.

  5. My partner and I stumbled over here coming from a different web page and thought I should check things out.
    I like what I see so now i am following you. Look forward to finding out about your web page repeatedly.

  6. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time
    a comment is added I get three e-mails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove people from that service?
    Thanks a lot!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *