Well it's happened. I never thought it would, but it has. I am officially enjoying a dungeon crawl as a player. I didn't think it possible. After all, there's no story. The only roleplay involves the brief asides the various characters make toward each other and a few of the decision points. Yet it somehow feels satisfying, despite the fact that everything takes longer than in a videogame.
Setting aside my surprise at enjoying such light and airy entertainment, I then wondered at how it could possibly be better than a videogame. Our miniatures and maps were hardly equivalent to a videogame's splendour and it's not like I'm one of those imaginative visionaries who creates an epic visual environment within my own head. So why did it perfectly hold my attention?
Well, for one thing, we all got along. Being in a social environment and playing in a team that genuinely gets along, complete with gentle IC ribbing and playful asides, is wonderful! I've never gotten into multiplayer videogames despite people's assurances that this could be fun because I've always worried that they would be full of goons. That's what you get for growing up female. Not only do you lack multiplayer experiences from your childhood (since few girls play videogames and my game console was a Sega Master System anyhow which lacked many multiplayer games) but you also hear about how a whole bunch of credits live on the Internet wanting to pick on girls.
The latter point likely being true, judging by the number of anecdotes I hear, though I tend to be pretty lucky and could always play LAN-style anyway so it shouldn't really hold me back.
Anyway, random tangent aside, I realised that roleplaying games actually have something videogames don't ... a different set of pacing. Videogames move so fast, especially this sort of fantasy game, that you can barely take a breath to enjoy one thing before you're whisked off to the next.
As an example, we entered a room with an incongruous trash pile to one side. We ignored it. Then the next time we passed we used Detect Magic and Detect Evil on it. When we were about to leave, one of the players stared at the section on the man with a thoughtful look in his eye. "You want to search it, don't you?" I asked. Yup, he does. Pulling back the trash, he reveals a treasure chest. My PC saunters over to unlock it and ... is attacked by a Mimic.
Now think about this same situation in a videogame. You don't eye off potential time wasters in a videogame. I would just rush through that trash pile to see if I picked up anything OR there'd be a OOC button indicator over the trash pile which, being one of the few action commands available on the level I'd undoubtedly press OR I'd just run straight past it. There's so many other goodies in the next bit that I'd largely forget what I'd passed.
Now it'd be different in a game like Outlast where you don't *run* anyway. You cower and slowly slink about. But in an action-based fantasy game? You'd rush about! So, while both are certainly good, they deliver different experiences beyond a pen-and-paper game's laggy combat (imagine waiting a minute for a swing to resolve in a videogame).
I also adore Pathfinder alchemists. I don't know if I'll ever play anything else. I've been a sorcerer and a rogue several times before yet have always found them too limited. With an Alchemist I have some cool levels of damage output, some flavour options (explosive, cold, acid), a few spells to choose from and some neat little skills - especially Disable Device. While I never feel overpowering, I do always feel relevant. It's great!