Monday, 27 January 2014

Roleplaying Games as Theological Analogy Part 2: World Building

The purpose of a roleplay game is to have fun.  The clue is in the ‘game’ part.  Obviously the players are playing to have fun, and presumably most people who GM enjoy it as well, or at least are willing to do it for the enjoyment of their friends.

Assuming that the person running the game has created their own setting (as I tend to do) rather than using a pre-published setting, of which there are a great many, they have done so with the enjoyment of their players in mind.  Even if they have created worlds purely for the enjoyment of the act of doing so, certain details will be concentrated on while others are ignored.  Politics and warfare tend to receive quite a lot of attention, while economics is usually touched on only briefly.  This is because there are very few (if any) games where the Player Characters spend each day running a small shop.

So a GM’s fictional world is usually created and shaped to enhance the enjoyment of their players, but the world also has to be challenging.  It would make for a very dull game, and remove the need for any rules or adjudication, if there were no obstacles, or only very easily overcome ones.  Almost all RPGs include some sort of experience system, where character grow and develop as they defeat challenges and complete missions.  The point is that it may well be great fun for the players, but for their characters, experiencing that reality, there is a lot of pain and fear and hardship, and an awful lot of arduous drudgery that is lightly skipped over.  “You walk for two weeks without incident” is a common thing for a GM to say.  There’s no fun in roleplaying two weeks of boring, wearying trudging, but that doesn’t mean that the characters get to skip it.

As I’ve briefly mentioned before a common question is why God would allow bad things to happen to us (or at all), why he wouldn’t cure every disease, right every wrong.  There are plenty of answers to this, but one of them is that the question assumes that the universe is here for our benefit (which it may be) and that that benefit is a short-term, worldly one.  I’ve never come across any reason to think so.

The Great GM in the Sky hasn’t created a world for the benefit of his characters.  He’s created it for the benefit of his players, and that benefit exists largely outside of and after the game.  I firmly believe that we were not created to enjoy ourselves (not that I’m saying that we’re here to be miserable, far from it!), but we were created with our good in mind.  We were created to learn, and to grow.  What is good for us as characters within a created world is not always the same as what is good for us as beings that also exist outside that world, but that can use that world to grow and develop, and become something more than we were born into the world to be.

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