October 4th, 2011 | 3 Comments
We all play games for different reasons, for some of us, it’s about the story, for others it’s doing awesome stuff, building a powerful character, gathering wealth, etc.
But even among the most role-play-heavy players you’ll see a drop or cessation of role-playing once combat starts. Players — even good ones — may trade tactical advice, point out particular dangers, etc. This often won’t be in character. It’s simple table talk between players who are cooperating to win a combat encounter.
But it IS metagaming. Amongst the many crimes of metagaming, this is probably a minor infraction, so insignificant that many GMs wouldn’t bother admonishing players for it.
And it’s understandable: combats in RPGs are always a win-lose event, and everyone likes to win.
But consider this: what would happen to your character’s story if you lost a combat? I’m not talking about the typical dungeon crawl combat. You lose to a jibbering mouther, you become jibbering mouther shit. I get that.
But what if you lost a fight with some highwaymen? You’re stripped of gear, maybe they were nice and left you your boots. You’re stranded. Maybe imprisoned. It’s a horrible setback.
And it’s an interesting twist in your story.
Choose to Lose
How do you, as a player, lose a combat? That depends on your character. Do you have certain personality flaws? Use them. We all have flaws, and they hinder us all the time.
Maybe you’re overconfident or impulsive — so rush headlong into the enemy, tactical considerations be damned.
Maybe you’re overcautious — so wait and stall until you discover the enemy has got you flanked and surrounded.
Maybe you REALLY hate goblins, and you’re fighting goblins! Lose your mind in rage! Avenge your brother who was murdered by goblin when you were little.
Don’t do the smart thing — do what your character would do.
Have You Lost Your God-Damned Mind?
Maybe. But that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.
Role-playing is not collecting stuff — unless your character is greedy or miserly.
Role-playing is not fighting, though role-playing may lead to fighting, and certainly many fights could do with more role-playing.
Role-playing is not character advancement — unless your character obsessively trains.
Role-playing is portraying a character who isn’t you. If you’d move one square to the left to make sure that goblin doesn’t flank you, that doesn’t mean that’s what your character would do.
A Little Warning
You might want to give your GM a heads up about what you’re up to. GMs get trained by players, just like players can get trained by GMs.
Written by Stu
Stu Venable is the producer of Happy Jacks RPG Podcast and writer and editor of DoucheyDM.com. He is founder and director of the Poxy Boggards and a member of Celtic Squall. He holds a degree in Journalism and Public Relations from California State University, Long Beach. He is a husband and a father. He hates puppies.
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