Friday, March 7, 2014

Bewailing The Player Preference!

One of the most problematic parts of tabletop roleplaying is that people tend to do it with the people they know.  Now this is a good thing, on the one hand, because it makes it a remarkable social activity where people can work together to build a shared story, cooperating and competing in an interesting and imaginative manner.

On the other hand, it makes you a bit ... limited ... in your options.  You see, each and every GM (by and large) have their own genre preference and their own style preference on top of that.  So does each and every player (by and large).  Since some genres and styles are pretty popular (such as classic high fantasy), if you happen to like that style then you're in luck.

If you prefer another style, you have to enter compromise after compromise until you manage to find some comfortable spot where everyone can enjoy it *just enough*.  The preference which takes precedence is often the majority preference, since folks can't help but nudge the game toward what they love, though naturally the GM - who is actually designing the game - has an opinion which lends its sharp weight to what gets played.

What makes this so unfortunate, is that you may have, say, six die hard investigative horror fans spread out across ten roleplaying games who would get along brilliantly but since roleplaying games tend to occur within one's social circle and since few people advertise (for fear of getting real pain in the necks applying) and fewer people take them up on their offer (for campaigns, at least), it's unlikely for those folks to draw together.

This is further complicated by the fact that many players don't know exactly what it is that they love about a game.  If it's wonderful then it all feels so seamless.  If it's terrible, then the jarring edges show.  Sure, they may know the basic genre but even something as specific as investigative horror can differ quite dramatically from Pulp Cthulhu to hardboiled detective fiction where a single shot can kill.

On the plus side, the range of preferences can encourage people to try games they would never have tried before and to mix genres and styles which never would have occurred to them.  And when it works, the strange alchemies of the game world, players and GM all come together to create something more fun than any of them would have individually intended.

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