Let’s say I want a Playstation 7 on opening day. I start out by looking online and finding out what stores MS Sony shipped to on time for the Playstation 6, and what stores they shorted. I save up my six thousand dollars and head down to the Bill’s Best Buy a month ahead of time to pre-order. I am there, in line, when the store opens to pick up my game console/jaccuzi/robot sushi chef, I show my receipt, and go home broke and happy. I knew what I wanted, I planned for it, and I got it. I maximized my opportunity and minimized my risks in order to obtain a six thousand dollar in-home arcade game because it, unlike the previous model, comes with a special brush to clean out from underneath your toenails while giving you a pedicure and it knows 40 different recipes for barbecued fugu.
Now let’s say I am a D&D character. My job is to root out creatures that want to kill and eat me, while on their turf and outnumbered. My life* is on the line. I want to maximize my opportunity for staying alive and minimize my risks. I plan, I strategize, I buy magic and henchmen, I research the bad guys, and when the rubber hits the road I am as prepared as I can be to survive my career.
As gamers, we make fun of these guys.
D&D has some built-in dichotomies that crop up all the time, yet we rarely see them for what they are or even recognize they are there. Alignments are a huge source of this because of the overwhelming effect this would have on human society and the way this is completely and willfully ignored by the game. But the issue I want to talk about is Role-Playing Snobbery.
Frequently called the Role Playing vs Roll Playing debate, this struggle for the ideology of the hobby pits those searching for more realistically imagined characters against those looking for the kewlest loot and the biggest guns. The Role Players want to really delve into the psyche of their in-game alter egos while the Roll Players want to kill monsters and take their stuff. I don’t have any problem with the debate itself, but I do think it’s been framed entirely incorrectly. In my opinion, it is the Roll Players who are likely to be most accurately portraying their characters, and the Role Players are simply deluding themselves.
Okay, let me admit from the start, I am an avowed Role Player. I love it. I want to know what my wizard talks about with his valet over breakfast, and who he let cut in line in front of him at the spell component shop because he thought she had a sweet ass. But if I think that makes me any more “legitimate” as a gamer than the guy who spends all day computing the best combination of magic rings, armors, weapons, and underwear then I am dead wrong. Believe me when I say that if D&D were the real world** these guys would absolutely exist. In fact, I bet that they would really be representative of the way that most adventurers would behave.
Don’t believe me? Go to a car stereo “sound competition.” These guys spend their lives tweaking, purchasing, tuning, and fiddling so that their radio will go louder than the guy in the parking place next to them. Go to a gun show. Everything there promises more stopping power, better accuracy, and sexier women than last year’s guns. And it isn’t even legal to kill people in our world!*** Everything we do is about being the best, being more competitive, and overwhelming our adversaries. Why would it be any less so if your life hung in the balance?
So if you have a power gamer in your group, cut him a little slack. There’s much less difference between Roll Players and Role Players than you think.****
*From the point of view of a character, not a player. Put down the phones, send the men in the white coats home. As of this writing, I can still tell the difference.
**Which it isn’t. Everything’s okay. I wrote this on my computer, see?
***I told you I could tell the difference!
****Unless he’s also a rules-lawer. Those guys are geeks!