Role-Playing Game Relationship Advice

To compliment the previous ‘Til Death Do Us Part series, I wanted to come up with a few death alternatives for specific systems.  I’m currently thinking about a few ideas but I don’t have anything solid enough to put into writing.  As part of my brainstorming process I went to a friend to get feedback on a few suggestions for Dungeons & Dragons 5E.  I had hoped to get a new perspective and some concrete examples.  Instead, our discussion quickly turned to how I was wasting my time trying to fix something that doesn’t need fixing.

Here’s a small piece of that conversation, -a.k.a- What Happens When Your Friend Offers You Relationship Advice About Role-Playing Games:

Friend:  It’s D&D, the point is to kill the monster and get the loot or to die trying.  If you don’t die, you will have the resources to fix any terrible thing that happened to you.

Me:  I mean, D&D lost sight of that purpose a long time ago.  It’s not just about ‘getting the loot or die trying’ any more.  Well, we know it is, but that’s not what it is.

Friend:  So we’re in agreement.

Me:  Our agreement does little to influence how other people see it.  Basically no one thinks D&D is about that any more!

Friend:  So they dressed it up in the emperor’s clothes.  You’re like that girl that keeps coming back to an abusive boyfriend because he’ll be different this time.  Accept what it is and stop trying to change it.

Me:  [Shows friend the Dungeons & Dragons 5E sales plug]  That’s what they market it as.  That’s what people believe it is.

Friend:  And the boyfriend markets himself as a nice guy and all of his friends see him that way.  Doesn’t mean he isn’t a rage-head that punches girls.

[Pause]

Me:  …What is this metaphor, I don’t even…

Friend:  Look, just because he went to counseling (released a new edition) doesn’t mean he is going to suddenly be a different person (have a changed core gameplay, i.e., kill the monster, get the loot, level up).  Some people are just broken.  Or sometimes they aren’t compatible with each other, no matter how hard they try.

Me:  Ok, fine, I’ve known that about me and D&D for a while.  Basically since I found out about story games.

Friend:  If you try to change a person to be more like how you want them then they are no longer being true to themselves, even if they are already lying to themselves about what they are.

Me:  All I’m saying, if I see a problem then I want to suggest a solution.

Friend:  You’re just helping them believe the lie.  Is it really a problem?

Me:  PEOPLE CAN CHANGE, YOU KNOW!

[Pause]

Me:  …Why do I always get so derailed talking to you?

Before I go on, I want to make it clear that I definitely don’t mean to make light of abusive relationships.  That sort of behavior is a real problem in society and we should never condone it.  I’m fortunate that I’ve never been in a situation like that and I hope anyone who is can get the help that they need.  That’s my public service announcement for the the day, I’ll get down off of my soapbox now.

I’m sharing this because it was a bit of unexpected humor in our conversation.  Absurd extended metaphors have a special place in my heart.  There’s just something amusing about likening one thing to another and then having the whole analogy crumble around you as you desperately try to keep it up.  To use another metaphor, it reminds me of building a sandcastle while the tide is coming in.  Strong, tall, and then –whoosh– the whole foundation washes away while you’re shouting “Nononono wait wait!” and trying to stop the sea.

Unfortunately, there’s more than a little truth in this one.  It’s no secret that ‘The World’s Most Popular Role-Playing Game’ isn’t all that popular with me.  I go through cycles – saying I’ll never play it again, coming up with new ideas for it, wanting to try it again, feeling disappointed, repeat.  I think a lot of my discontent comes from the fact that there are many good points but it still misses the mark as a whole.  That sensation of ‘just a few changes and it could be perfect!’  But then when I look further I realize that the problems go all the way down, all the way to the bottom.  The system is built on a game design philosophy completely different from my own.  Attempting to ‘fix’ Dungeons & Dragons so that it fits my vision is an monumental, overwhelming, and likely impossible challenge – and I can’t help but try.

*Sigh*  I guess sometimes the best advice is the advice you didn’t ask for.

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