I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the storytelling potential of RPGs, and what kind of group it takes to tell mature, interesting stories. I’ve been down this road since I reviewed 7th Sea–which was a great game for just throwing the dice away and telling a tale with friends–and after listening to the most recent arc of D&D podcast The Adventure Zone.
The Adventure Zone started as a funny Dungeons and Dragons podcast (well, it’s still pretty funny), but expanded into some deep, mature storytelling. The latest arc is almost a deconstruction of D&D as the normal “break down the door, kill monsters, get loot” was almost entirely turned on its head as the characters were forced to give up items and even some major earlier story beats (in the form of memories, changes to backstories, one guy lost his body) in order to proceed through “Wonderland,” an insane game show dungeon. The story they ended up telling was one of loss and sacrifice, and doing heroic things that could hurt you in order to save friends.
This isn’t really something that can happen in a convention setting, I don’t think. This kind of storytelling had to be built up over nearly 60 episodes, and the players had to have a deep understanding of who their characters were and what they would do in any given situation.
Some gamers value different things from their RPGing. Some like to hack n’ slash their way through hordes of baddies to make their characters more powerful. I get that appeal, I’m a fan of Destiny and Diablo. Some players like to just hang with their friends and be goofy and laugh.
I’m getting to a point, though, where I want to explore something that I couldn’t well in a video game (yet). I want to understand my character. I want to be challenged and forced to think on my feet. I want to have to choose between betraying my character’s values or not completing the objective.
I want to be challenged creatively through the RPG art form.