22 June 2007

Roleplaying, what is it?

There are many forms of gaming. I would LIKE to say I have tried them all, but I can't - yet.

One of the lowest tech and highest imagination forms of gaming is Roleplaying. It comes in many forms from the old Let's Pretend game that children play to a sophisticated profession known as acting. Yet all are based upon one premise, you are pretending to be someone else.

So how do you do this? I'll let you in on a secret - you don't. What you DO is find an aspect of yourself and apply it to that character. I have found there are only two things most people cannot roleplay well in a game - what they cannot conceive as a possibility and what they do on a daily basis.

While the first point may seem obvious, it is a bit complicated. For example, There is a cardinal outside my window, I can concieve easily of the following, listening to it's song happily, muttering at it what do YOU have to be happy about, scaring it off, shooting it, reaching out ripping it's head off and eating it like a cat. Now in real like i am likely only to do the first three actions. The second three are things that would horrify me. So if I am playing a character that is the type of person I am NOT I might choose to roleplay out one of those last two actions. But there are other things that have not crossed my mind that I could do. These are teh ones I cannot roleplay.

Now expand that. Try to think of being a character that you have no concept of. Actually the one that comes to mind for me is a sunfish. How would I BE a realistic fish (Yes, this was once given to a group I was in as an exercise in a method acting course.) Ok what does a fish think about, I don't know, does it even think? Food I suppose, swimming. What makes a sunfish different from say a blue gill? I have no idea. In other words, I cannot roleplay a realistic sunfish because i have no experience with them.

Most people cannot effectively roleplay what they do on a daily basis, because it is what they do. Imagine narrating your day, literally step by step.

"I am awake, I lie in bed for a minute listening to the radio, What is that playing? Oh, it's Brahms. My feet hurt. I lay back in the pillow until the piece is over. When I hear the announcer say 'It's 7:00 and time for the news', I arise and get my clothing out of the drawers. I put on my panties and bra first then the pants and pullover shirt for work. I can't find my socks. I go to the laundry room and hunt through the dryer for a clean pair."

And so on, while a good writer can make that sound much better than I just did, they cannot make it any more interesting without delving into the psyche of the individual and taking the scene out of the realm of the immediate action which, unlike novels and stories, is not done in roleplay. Typing out step by step such actions as eating breakfast, driving to work, working, meetings, eating lunch, working some more, gossip around the water cooler with no juxtaposition of the abnormal mixed in with the normal bores most people. As a result, the person 'falls out of character' and into themselves and loses the sense of it being a game.

Now if one were to take that last example and insert an abonormal occurance for that setting, THAT opens up roleplay. If a band of vikings suddenly time warped into the office and started raiding, it would cause the writer of the ordinary day to find something in the character to deal with the situation. In short, roleplay is using what you know with your imagination and that of others to have fun.

Next time - Types of roleplaying games.

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