Thursday, July 31, 2008

I Role-Play and I'm Proud Of It

I have a confession.

I like role-playing. As in, Dungeons and Dragons. Except, not D&D at all, because actually I hate that game. More like as in 7th sea, or Legends of the Five Rings, or Changeling.

I don't really know where to go on from here. About half of my readers are various college friends, and already know this. They know that Avram owns large quantities (over a hundred) role-playing books, and that he loves the hobby. The rest of my readers are family or Internet acquaintances, who hopefully aren't thinking I'm the devil spawn right now. Because, trust me, role-playing gets a lot of bad press. It's really nothing like what you probably know about it.

When I met Avram, I had only ever heard of D&D. I had been interested in it somewhat, and had even made overtures of starting a game my freshman year with my friend Robert. But then life intervened, and I started dating a boy named Dennis, and he didn't want me to role-play (ironically, because now he plays D&D every week with his brother, last I heard, but hey, we all have phases we go through, so it's all okay), and my life got busy, and so it never happened. Then my junior year, I met Avram, and he began talking about other role-playing games, and somehow one Friday night after cooking guild a bunch of us made characters, and went and sat outside the elementary school by the Creamery on Ninth and played a very fun game of Changeling.

And I liked it. It was like acting, only not for a large audience. It was like playing pretend, when I was a kid, except there were rules and I had written down about my character, instead of just making it up on the spot, and saying with my sisters, "Okay, then I say, this, and then you'll say that back," back and forth when we used to play. It was the same, only I was older, and just said my spontaneous lines first person.

For those who don't know, role-playing is where a group of people tell/act out a story together, guided by the Game Master (GM), who plays every other person you meet (called Non-Playing-Characters, or NPCs). It can have anywhere from two people to twelve or so, although the more people involved the harder it is to focus a group. D&D bears close relation to some video RPGs (role-playing games), like World of Warcraft, except all the role-playing has been taken out, and you're playing the forms only on a computer game by yourself.

Role-playing has three important aspects; First, it takes place in person, with other people. It's a social activity by its very nature. We've played anywhere from about twice a month to just one-shots that happen on one occasion, about once a year. Second, you tell stories, like read-your-own-adventure books do. They're fun or serious, fantasy or pulp (think Indiana Jones) or Superhero or whatever you want. Third, there are books you have as guidelines, that help you imagine the world, or the combat system, or possible adventures/plot hooks.

I think it's better spent time than watching movies or TV, since it uses your imagination and creativity. I think it's better than Video Games which tend to be very solitary and rigid, so you don't actually use creativity much at all. I think it's as good as or better than about half the books out there, the "entertaining" ones (classics and "literature" do beat role-playing out in a good, better, best comparison).

I understand that it has a lot of bad press, from the news stories about people who are crazy, and think that whatever they role-play is real life (umm, this is really, really rare, and there are more people who do school shootings than do this), or like the bad guys on one of the seasons of Buffy role-play. But honestly, it's not that weird.

I'm writing this whole spiel because I want the world to know that I consider myself a normal, well-adjusted person. And I like RPGs.

I spent the last four and a half years that I've known Avram playing with him, and having fun, but I've always been careful to define myself as "not a role-player" because I didn't want to be associated with all the bad-press, the well-intentioned mothers. and even my own hidden prejudices of wanting to be "normal" and worried that if I defined myself as a role-player I would no longer be normal.

But then we've been getting ready for Samuel, Avram's brother and best friend extraordinaire to visit, and planning a role-playing game for when he comes, 7th sea (a swashbuckling game, like playing out The Princess Bride), and I found myself wishing that we were starting a whole campaign (what a series of role-playing session that tell a continuous story are called), because it's really fun, and we haven't actually played since living in Provo. And I realized that I'd crossed the line, and I was a role-player, instead of just someone who role-plays because her husband does (which I had previously defined myself as).

And I'm okay with that. Because hey, I belong to a religion that gets a lot of bad press, but I'm still proud to be a Latter-day saint. And I'm a stay-at-home Mom, and that gets bad press too (from people who think that I'm wasting my life), but I love it. So what's a hobby on top of this that people mis-understand?

My brother-in-law Samuel recently wrote a post that got me thinking about all of this, and he goes into his reasons why he role-plays, which explain it better than I could. My husband also talks about this.

So let's all share the love. I won't make fun of people who watch American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance, and you'll be nice about my role-playing, and we'll all be good Christians.

P.S. I'm not a geek. I do not define myself as a geek. I do not do geeky things. Therefore, role-playing is not geeky, it's not nerdy, it's just a hobby. Thank you.


  1. Good for you Thora. Changeling is a very fun Game and I'm glad we all ended up playing that evening.

    Remember those people who pulled up in the van and got out and did a weird coat catipillar thing? That was strange.

    Good memories.

    Anyway Heather, Ashely, Myself and Many others miss playing 7th Sea. I don't think Ashely ever played with Avi and You but she also has fallen madly in love with the Game. I also miss our L5R Game I watched Kagemusha the other day and was really jonesing for a good L5R session.

    No we're not geeks were just people with a hobby.

  2. I am not a role player and probably never will be but I am a writer of novels and have often thought that is another version of role playing. However, it is totally, a solitary undertaking so it is different in that aspect and even if an author gets published and others therefore read his words, still reading is solitary. Still there is pleasure in both the writing and reading. For years I resisted writing because it seemed not to be a worthy use of time but I don't know what I would be doing with the same time that would be more worthy. Well, there is always housework but I have tremendous ability to put it off or ignore it. I don't get a lot of satisfaction out of housework.