Monday, November 12, 2012

On Being A RPG Luddite

In the most recent Sandy's soapbox at, Sandy discusses the resurgence of love for 'classic' approaches to RPG playing. Go ahead and read the column. I'll wait.


Back? Good.

Anyway, I've approached my most recent round of play testing in this way. I created a character, created all of the game material, drew my maps, and took all of my notes using pencil and paper. Instead of using an online dice roller (as I had been for the last few playtests I'd done), I cracked out my dice and started rolling. It's been an interesting experience- the visceral sensation of rolling dice vs. using an online roller is substantially different. The sound of the die bouncing, the physical sensation of rolling, the click of dice hitting each other - these are integral to the drama of play. With the online roller, you get an instantaneous result as soon as you click the button. The die can roll, letting fate linger for an extra fraction of a second. Those fractions of a second add up, each one adding to the value of the experience.

Also, there's something more concrete, more real, and more permanent when using pen (or even pencil, as in my case) and paper. I find myself debating decisions more fully before committing myself to writing something down. I'm building the character, the campaign, the dungeon (which is starting to spill outside of the dungeon into the larger environment as well), and each creature or item one piece at a time. Each of these is a greater commitment with pencil and paper: partly because it's harder to just delete and do it again; partly because I type more quickly than I write; and partly because the process of writing it down brings with it a sense of craftsmanship. When I'm typing, the letters always look the same, the blocks of dungeon background appear identical whether I took my time or whether I clicked away like crazy. On the naked page, with pencil in hand, the attention to detail and care that went into the creation of that page show through.

I have folders full of hand-written notes from RPG sessions that I've kept for years, and which every few months I'll peruse in search of an old idea that I'd almost forgotten about. I'm looking forward to adding the notes I create today to the stack. Maybe I'll look back on them in 20 years, too.

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