I realized this morning that as much as I rail against those that disdain combat in RPGs for somehow impeding “roleplaying”, and while my reasoning is valid for my disdain for their disdain. By that I mean just because you are using dice to determine the outcome the situation does not mean you aren’t “roleplaying”. I view the dichotomy of “roll” verus “role” as inherently false, especially as it applies to the more mechanistically focused games: anything that isn’t freeform or FATE/FUDGE.
I personally play melee combat oriented characters for a table top RPG. But yet I’ve noticed that a either I will be one of the first to stop a combat short of slaying the enemies to engage in parley, prevent a combat from starting as long as possible to engage in parley, or avoid combat period. This comes with characters that designed primarily to hard to hurt and to smack shit down HARD in games that focused around the idea of fighting through everything, pathfinder I’m looking at you. And most of the memorable situations that have arisen during a game have happened DURING or are the CAUSE of a combat.
I dislike the conceit that “story” should ever trump “rules” because without rules you might as well be making up shit around the camp fire. If you sat down at the table with some dice and there are rules to the game you claim to be playing, then it behooves you to follow through with that claim and follow the rules of the games you have laid down.
If you as the game master of a game of this type: DnD and it’s variations and derivatives, CoC/BRP, even KAP, but yet you feel that the rules are in the way of you telling some great story you need to stop. Game mastering is not the place for you let forth your pent up novelist frustration.
Of course if you are this kind of GM or play with one and have no problem with this, that is fine, I don’t care overly much. I do however have a problem when I find out that my GM is this kind of GM, and finds it in their story’s best interest to creatively and selectively misinterpret the rules to advance their plot to the detriment of my, or anyone’s, character’s continued existence or wishes.
This has turned into a weird rant about something only slightly related to my disdain for people who think that because there is combat there cannot be roleplaying, that having rules with random determination in it is a hinderance to roleplaying, and that by extension if you as a player, which the GM is as well, feel that having events in the game world be randomly determined is somehow invalidating your grand story.
This also fits in with those people that feel that their game world needs to make logical sense, or that you need to plot your games like a play or movie. The real world would not make sense as a game world setting, but yet does, but only from hindsight. It is only after events have happened that you can explain the circumstances leading up to it, and thus create a narrative that fits the evidence.
I sincerely believe that the kind of stories you should be striving to make are those that are worth telling. The kind of stories that everyone cares about. The “no shit there I was…” stories. Those are the things that people remember from their games. The tiny things that happened between your grand epic plot line. How many people actually mention their game’s metaplot after the fact except only to point out when the “story” had to override their fun?
I’m actually a dumb easy to hook player. I don’t need a fancy and elaborate reason to roll up a character and go explore shit and get fake wealth. And most of the people actually have gamed with are like that. My character by necessity will be motivated by what ever the GM throws at him otherwise there is no game and I just wasted MY time.
This parallels how I run my games. I let the people I want to run a game for know as much as I can explain about the game I want to run. I let new players know if their character might be a bad fit for the intended tenor of the game or the assumed genre, but even then I am generally going to say “fuck it, do what you want. these are the hooks I am providing. this is what the game is about. go do what ever. and here are the consequences.”