It Is?

This entry is part 4 of 12 in the series Understanding RPGs

Regarding my decision to call them guides instead of games a complaint I’ve heard is that they are called games. I suspect that the claim is that they have to be games because that is what we’ve called them. This reminds me of the claim by many in the creationist community the evolution can’t change the nature of things. That through a series of small changes a fish can’t become a mammal. That’s not how it works.

In the case of evolution given enough changes one life form can become another. A worm in becomes an ape over the course of time. An ape becomes a man over the course of time. That is how biologists see it and I very much agree with them.

Where such as D&D are concerned they did start out as games, and as they were treated initially they were pretty much games. But things changed. Get right down to it what started out as being of limited scope grew, the scope expanded and what began is something of limited extent got rather big. What was once a single level with a few locations in it became multiple levels with many locations. Now the immediate field of play remained relatively small, but over all the field got to be a bit sizable and it became possible for the players to range hither and yon and they learned of and exploited the new possibilities. It’s gotten to the point where there is really just too much for an RPG to be just a game, and so “game” really doesn’t fit what they are. To put it another way, they’ve evolved. Under our direction of course, but you could still call it evolution.

You get right down to it, the worms have become apes, and we’re responsible for this.

So what do we have now? As far as I can see we now have what amounts to guides. That’s how I see them. That’s how I see their performance, what they do essentially. In so far as a guide is a set of directions to a location and a set of events they are guides. Think of a tour guide which leads you through a neighborhood, or the guide to a museum. That’s basically what you’ve got here. In an RPG what you’re getting is a guide to the world you’re adventuring in, including locations and inhabitants. You are told what they are and where they are, and in the case of people and creatures how your most likely to interact with them. Though keep in mind that how you interact is entirely up to you. That auromvorax may be big and look mean, but he may just be interested in what you have in the way of food. Or those bugbears may just need directions to a good restaurant where they have reservations.

RPGs are about interactions, and not all interactions are going to involve bloodshed.

I hope this clarifies things. Of course you may have questions and I will do my best to address them. And thanks for your time.

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