Wednesday, July 2, 2014

[AFHOTWTTGS] Apparently I'm An Elitist

These days, the majority of my roleplaying seems to be done through World of Warcraft. Since you're all readers of Erin's you'll have an inkling of how this works - or do I need to remind you about Silence Do-Good, hmm? People investing heavily into characterising their MMO characters, using the chatboxes and emote commands to form dialogue and describe actions beyond the game's purview, deploying its roll command to form primitive (or in some cases needlessly elaborate) rule sets (I'm not even joking - someone once ran one that was based on rolling prime numbers on a percentile die...).

From WoW-RP I have a) developed my distaste for mechanics that can't be subsumed into a single die roll, more or less, b) learned that in Sweden, roleplaying is apparently much more freeform and less concerned with making things 'fair' through elaborate granularity, and c) come to harbour some unbecoming thoughts about the imaginative limitations of my peers.

Now, let's establish something here; this isn't about smug superiority. This isn't me looking down from my ivory tower, scoffing at the peons scruffling in the dirt below: I have done all of the things I'm about to lambast in my time, when I was first starting out with tabletop and later with MMO roleplaying. This isn't an excuse for me to feel like I'm better than people, this is an excuse for me to pontificate about how our experiences of gaming define it.

In the comments to last week's post, Toastrider raised the very salient point that sometimes people limit the kinds of things they put in their RPGs, the kind of approaches they take in constructing and running their games - like Shiny and his creating a dungeon with only two monsters in it, for instance, or the RP event I went to last week which... well.

The actual roleplaying was limited to making speeches, listening to speeches, or rolling a d100 to see whether we'd have to type a miss, a hit that killed one goon, or two, or three - typage that went by in a flash, uncared for, as people just wanted to get to the next round. There were about twenty-five people there. There was a lot of speechmaking, and a charge into a fortress. There was a small army of goons inside and a big bad doing magic stuff while making more speeches. Someone lost their patience and charged the big bad, there was a huge magical kablammo with a 70% chance of scrobbling us on the spot, and that's about the time that I got bored, rejoiced at failing my roll, and just left quietly, thankful that the character I'd attended on was fairly disposable.

The thing is that it felt like raiding. Twenty-five people, someone losing their patience and getting us all killed, a lot of standing about listening to stock villain cliches and seeing reading descriptions of special effects extravaganzas... and I didn't even get any Valour Points for my trouble. If I'd wanted to raid I'd have queued for a raid; I'd expected my roleplaying time to offer me something that the game itself wouldn't. And... people liked it.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if it isn't that people's expectations were formed by the medium - if roleplaying in an MMO has some, well, MMO-ish qualities. If you're exposed to this kind of experience over and over and over again, often before discovering the roleplaying element of the game, then maybe it's no surprise that you come to replicate it when you start to define your own narratives set in Azeroth. As far as you know, that's how the world works, right?

It's not like I'm having a go. I started off doing things like this. It was very much like the early tabletop RP I ran - GM-centric, preoccupied with d100 rolls, chiefly concerned with splatting dudes, and full of self-indulgent descriptions, although I like to think I offered people a bit more than "roll to see how many goblins you kill and describe it in a paragraph that nobody will bother to read because they've been waiting ten minutes to find out what they can do next." I just don't see how people can be content with doing that time after time. You... surely you might as well just raid?

Apparently, though, only elitists ask this sort of question. Le shrug.

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