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Who Wants to Role-Play?

by Jeff Freeman


I've recently made a rather interesting discovery. It came on the heels of an unusual observation. I'm not sure which to share with you first.

Okay, in order then. The observation it is. Ready?

People don't like to role-play. They aren't the least bit interested in it. They don't want to do it. Not one bit. You can stroll right up to just any stranger, some guy standing around in the mall holding his wife's purse, for example, and ask him.

You say, "Hey there guy, you look like you're not enjoying standing there holding your wife's purse very much. Want to role-play?"

And he says, "Nope."

Naturally, one can never generalize, on account of there being so many weirdoes in the world. I really cannot say truthfully that no one wants to role-play. A person couldn't even say that no one wants to convert their life savings and all the potential they will ever have for a happy and healthy life into crack cocaine, and then smoke it. Some people do it.

But anyway, back to what I was talking about. For another example: you could say, "Hey, no one wants to download pictures of morbidly obese nekkid old people." But you'd be wrong. Some people not only do it, they pay real cash money for the privilege.

Just like some people pay real money for role-playing games, just so they can role-play, which is something that no one wants to do.

I mean apart from the weirdo's out there, you people, no one wants to role-play. Not any of the rest of the population, some of which are smoking crack and looking at pictures of morbidly obese old nekkid people. Not even the guys standing in malls holding their wives' purses and thinking that they'd rather be just about anywhere else doing anything else, until you asked them if they wanted to role-play.

Now they're thinking, "Standing here and holding this purse isn't so bad."

So anyway, this observation made me think. Sometimes I start out thinking about one thing, in this case how no one wants to role-play, and then that leads me to thinking about something else, like how some people like to look at nekkid pictures of old fat people.

Just now the thought occurred to me that one of those people will be on Yahoo or Excite or Lycos, doing a search for nekkid pictures of morbidly obese old people, and this page is going to come up as a 'hit'.

Especially if the word 'crack' is one of their keywords, too.

Ew... I don't want to think about that any more. Let's talk about the difference between a 'character' and an 'avatar'.

A character is a imaginary individual with a personality, history, background, personal preferences, quirks and behavioral tendencies that are distinct from your own. That is, a character is a Different Person than you are. And you're pretty different, as we've already established, or you wouldn't be role-playing, or looking for pictures of nekkid fat people, or whatever perverse interest it is that led you to this page to begin with.

An Avatar, on the other hand, is more a sort of vehicle. It's a body (albeit imaginary) that your mind can inhabit, so that you can go where your body cannot go (to an imaginary world, that is).

Having considered this, I've decided that I don't really like role-playing all that much myself. I don't want to pretend to be someone else, even if that someone else has a really cool job-title, like 'Space Pirate'.

I want to pretend that I am a Space Pirate.

To heck with 'Characters', I want an 'Avatar'.

And while I'm listing things that I want... I want Brandon and Susan Blackmoor (of Black Gate Publishing, the Legacy: War of Ages company that still hasn't released Warlock: Black Spiral, but has somehow found the time to make a Thundarr the Barbarian RPG, to drop whatever he's doing and finish Warlock, so that I can play it in a Legacy/Warlock campaign.

But mostly, I want a vehicle to enter this imaginary world: an imaginary body. An Avatar. Not a character. Maybe with powers and abilities and skills and even knowledge that is different than what I possess in the real world, but otherwise just suggest, "It's me."

I don't want to tell stories. I didn't start playing RPGs to tell stories. Replacing 'game master' and 'referee' with 'storyteller' was an unheard of idea, mostly because no one wanted to do it. People that wanted to tell stories just wrote books. People that wanted to pretend they were warrior, wizards, pirates and spies were playing RPGs. That's why I played them, at any rate, and that's why I still do.

And it's still fun, even if I'm not "doing it right", The One And Only True Way to Role Play, engaging in a cooperative story-telling exercise, nor exploring the innermost reaches of my soul.

But I'm not playing Warlock, either, Mr. Blackmoore.

Oh, wait... look!... Warlock: Black Spiral is scheduled for release in "early 1998" (that's gotta be pretty soon). And there is an online preview!

Feel free to email Jeff at ack@rpg.net. No, really!

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What do you think?

Go to forum!\n"; $file = "http://www.rpg.net/$subdir/list2.php?f=$num"; if (readfile($file) == 0) { echo "(0 messages so far)
"; } ?>

All of Jeff Freeman's Acks

  • The One True Way to Roleplay, Online: July 20, 1999
  • What Were We Thinking? September 8, 1998
  • Random Thoughts August 9, 1998
  • Run With It! July 14, 1998
  • Background: I'm Evil! June 9, 1998
  • Who Wants to Role-Play? May 12, 1998
  • Playing Without Brains Apr 8, 1998
  • Ultima Online Looked Good Off March 10, 1998
  • The Perfect Game February 10, 1998
  • "INTRO TO RPGs" January 6, 1998
  • "Do I Have A Point?"
  • "LOOK BEFORE YOU LARP" November 11, 1997
  • "RPGs: Then and Now" October 7, 1997
  • Chicks in Gaming", September 9, 1997 (and its Danish translation)
  • The FUDGE review that inspired it.

    Other columns at RPGnet

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