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Extra Experience Points

Gaming in The Real World

Greg Chatham
July 7, 2000
The best adventuring parties should be thrown together like the cast of The Real World. I was the official DM of The Real World for 2 seasons, so I've observed this first hand.

I hadn't run a D&D game for a some time when MTV approached me with the job, but I was still an experience whore and I accepted. I always wanted to be on The Real World. I wanted to be the guy who played on the Playstation all day.

As it turned out, you never saw me on the show. I had to live in a cramped apartment next door with the Real World fluffers. One of them ran a bitchin' Shadowrun game.

I soon discovered that Real World cast members are just like player characters. They like a vacuum. They don't like to have histories or family members. Family members will only be used against them or killed in their stead. Family and friends, to a player, are names to be crossed off a character sheet when enemies get to them or when they get too annoying. It's only a matter of time before a player asks, "My aunt is worth how many experience points?"

So goes The Real World. These people don't have families. Most returned home from school one day to find their parents murdered by orcs and their houses burnt to the ground by bandits. Most people join the cast of the Real World because an old guy at the bar asked them to.

Players like to make things up as they go along. They like to gradually establish a character in game and then do something out of character and argue that it was in character. Then they'll kill a random party member when no one is expecting it and argue that was in character too. And one character always turns out to be gay.

Similar situations arose during my time on The Real World, both in game and out of character. Only the minority cast members came to the show with a character concept. The white kids would create theirs as the season progressed, randomly changing their alignments much like Amaya's Athasian half-giant.

Why is this advantageous to role-players? If you have a Real World party, you can run a Road Rules adventure. Road Rules plays like a series of "fetch the blue gem" quests. Adventures are mission based and unconcerned with the abilities of the party members. Each adventure will challenge the characters to do things they probably can't do. A party of 3 owl bears and a mute half-elf might be sent to win a karaoke contest. If they fail, they can still go onto the next assignment: get a beholder drunk. Missions are completely unconnected, so failing one won't set the party up for an even bigger failure next time. And when a party member gets voted out of the house, or a cast member inexplicably kills the next innocent bystander they come across, it doesn't destroy the story, because there wasn't much to begin with.

Real World parties, lacking character consistency, will spoil a carefully constructed campaign. They work best with mission based stories, where the adventures are independent of one another. Each time out, the players can change their character's personality to suit the mission, or to suit themselves. In the end, each story can be spliced together to give the illusion of plot. Just like in real life on The Real World.

I had a great time being DM for the cast of The Real World, especially during my private sessions with Janet, who advanced beyond Dungeons & Dragons and into the erotic world of RIFTS. And I had a great time running a game for a Real World party with my friends back home. No one started out gay, so in the middle of the campaign, we took a vote and outed the paladin.

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What do you think?

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All Extra Experience Points columns by Greg Chatham

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