“You bust throught the door and create a diversion. They all turn and aim at you. You try to sweet talk them out of blowing your brains out, while I sneak around back, bust in, and *really* surprise ’em.”
A while ago I wrote an article about Interactive Literature that concerned namely the popular 1970’s Role Playing Game Dungeons & Dragons. I have always been an avid D&D player myself, but that has lead to my downfall at times when technology outsmarts the Pen & Paper Role Player. That is to say, now whenever you want to play a game with someone, you can simply boot up a game and find someone waiting for you online. Oh the convenience! However, when you want to play a good old fashion game of slaying monsters by the might of your dice, you have to know people. In the short-term, it means it is harder to play because it is a feat of organization to find the one day of the month anyone isn’t busy, but in the long-run playing the game amounts to more than casual, online encounters do. It develops fellowship and dependence as players become accustomed to their own weaknesses and how to bear one another’s burdens; there is one focus that binds their determination beyond petty, personal goals of a high score. As a result, multi-player gaming has become factious. Some prefer the commitment to others while some prefer the commitment to their own self. Like many things in culture, a merger seems impossible; though in reality, there is a middle ground.
It is no discovery that the internet has changed the way we live and play; really anyone could make that speculation. We have integrated the internet into our everyday lives; it is what allows you to read this glorious magazine in the first place! Though the internet has had a notable tendency to outmode. We use to listen to music on vinyls and cassettes, and the success of compressed music can largely be accredited to the internet as it has allowed music to flow to any number of people at one time, generally free of charge. Granted there are a few renegades out there who fight for the old ways and listen to rather extensive records for the preservation quality, but it is no lie that such things are widely unpopular. Mail as means of personal communication has fallen to email and online chat-rooms. Classic, retro video games are ported into flash games one websites thus outmoding consoles such as the Nintendo Entertainment System and its early successors. It is undeniable that the internet does a great job at everything – that it does a better job than most other things. So what does that really mean for Pen & Paper RPG’s, things thought to be confined to the tabletop?
As I said before, D&D is a generally a lonely hobby. No I don’t mean within the group of players, that is the opposite case, rather it is the weeks that go by between game sessions that make a player feel alone; mayhaps a tad jealous of his younger, more modernized brother playing a game online with strangers in the other room. Like any other player of the old games, I go through these tough times and deserts seeking an oasis that is hard to find. Eventually I snap and hop on the computer and go to a special outlet of the online forums: The Role Playing section. God bless it.
Is it the same? No. Does it work? Yes.
The camaraderie is lessened simply by the fact that nothing is done in person, but it is there indeed. Some forums will feature included dice-rollers in each post so one may role dice along with their post on the adventure and further emulate table-top gaming; if anything it is impressive. The internet, as we said, is a wonder of technology and it emulates everything that came before it very well. However we still have not answered the question: What does this mean?
At their heart, Role Playing Games have seen great changes over the years. With a society that craves action, the newest editions of D&D have received dislike from veteran players as they become more focused on tactics rather than the actually story and character interactions. It would seem as though the pure Role Playing element detached itself and formed a separate entity online as Role Playing Forums that are wholly text-based and do not contain any kind of gameplay in them. For that reason, they may have become so popular: people dissatisfied with modern RPG’s may seek refuge in the story-based interactions of RP’s, and even those who still play games on the table top find appeal during those long pauses between sessions. The internet has popularized Role Playing, if anything, and the Role Playing it promotes is more akin to the older RPG’s than the newer one’s.
Let’s say a guy starts Role Playing online and loves the interaction so much he wants to play D&D with some friends in reality. What is his reaction when he plays the heavily tactic-oriented 4th edition of the rules (the current edition)? Negative, most likely. Then he tried playing AD&D 2e (The A standing for ‘advance’, was the proper nomenclature in the 1980’s); the more player-driven design is very inviting to this person who is representative of the Modern Role Player.
Right now, Wizards of The Coast (the developers of Dungeons & Dragons) are working on the 5th edition of their rule book. This time around, they have chosen to listen to what their players want out of a new edition: they have decided to blend the older versions together with the newer ones and take the best parts and make a super-RPG out of it. The internet is to thank for this. The Modern Role Player has made his preference clear, all of them have; thanks to Role Playing Forums we see a resurgence of story-oriented RPG’s in the market all to hopefully culminate in the new edition of D&D.