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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Pixie in the Playground
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    smile TTRPGs - With or Without Reality?

    When designing Suzerain we try to make sure that players have a true feeling of hope and that they can each make a difference. Obviously with 2020 going the way it has/is, Iíve been wondering - Do you play TTRPGs to escape reality or to address issues within it? Or both?

    With our upcoming Kickstarter for our new book (more info here) and just being TTRPG fans, this is a big thing for us to understand. After all, how can you design something for players if you never ask them what they want! :D



    (Picture is Baron Wolfhaven left and his player Howard right, as part of the Legends Awaken initiative!)
    Last edited by C-Moon; 2020-09-08 at 02:37 PM.
    -Ciaran


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  2. - Top - End - #2
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Re: TTRPGs - With or Without Reality?

    Without reality please.
    As one shots at cons, games that deal head on with social issues can be amazing, but for long term consistent play not so much.
    I watch a lot of murder mysteries, it's probably my favorite type of TV program, but I definitely have to monitor my wife's mental health when watching them. Too much stress IRL and I have to take a few weeks off of whodunits and go find lighter fare for us to watch together.
    A little dose of reality in the background can be fine, but I prefer my games to be safe havens for my players, so they don't feel the need to avoid them when times are rough IRL.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: TTRPGs - With or Without Reality?

    I dig the catharsis that a realistic campaign can provide. My 'happy' place is somewhere in a nest of terrible outcomes, think grimdark. So being able to play some fantasy game that's rooted in unpleasant topics and frosted with gore and grime, its just a wonderful night out. In a way I guess I can compare it to, 'at least things aren't this bad.' as my character gets shanked by a shard of iron dredged in the festering flesh of a ghoul.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Troll in the Playground
     
    Friv's Avatar

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    Default Re: TTRPGs - With or Without Reality?

    My short and unhelpful answer is "yes."

    My longer and maybe slightly more helpful answer is that what sort of gaming I want depends on my mood, my life, and what's been going on recently. I'm very excited waiting for Voidheart Symphony to come out, and that's a game about trying to build a work-life balance between crushing middle-class or lower-class jobs on the edges of society and walking into the minds of the worst elements of the world to punch them in their souls. It deals with real things, but in a very stylized way. Similarly, when we did our Rhapsody of Blood campaign, we ended up with enough historical political content that I doubt I could discuss it in depth on this board.

    On the other hand, we're just starting a Dungeon World campaign that's going to be in a gonzo cosmic fantasy setting, and there will not be a hint of reality taking place. It's a "take a break from your troubles" campaign.
    If you like my thoughts, you'll love my writing. Visit me at www.mishahandman.com.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Anonymouswizard's Avatar

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    Default Re: TTRPGs - With or Without Reality?

    Both. Which is to say that when games touch on real world issues I'd prefer they do so in a less realistic manner. Even if the issue itself is realistic there should be something around it that the PCs can change.

    It's part of why I like Unknown Armies so much, the magick system is the dangers of obsession and potentially radicalisation through an unrealisatic lens, the 'safer' variety involves conforming to what people expect of an archetype while the other major variety inherently disconnects you from society. That's not getting into published scenarios which build off real world problems, to the point of an early adventure now being problematic.

    A side effect of this is a like for lower powered games ideally topping off at around the pulp level (not that I don't like playing superheroes, but as more of a break). The PCs in my games tend to be unique in become movers and shakers via direct actions (in the right time and place) instead of holding political power.
    Snazzy avatar (now back! ) by Honest Tiefling.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Troll in the Playground
     
    OrcBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: TTRPGs - With or Without Reality?

    Personally, as an escape from reality.

    Light the lamp not the rat LIGHT THE LAMP NOT THE RAT!!!

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Orc in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Re: TTRPGs - With or Without Reality?

    For myself, I can happily do either. Some of my fellow players have at times used it to process their own life events, some have used it to discuss real world issues. But mostly, in my experience, reality takes a back seat
    I love playing in a party with a couple of power-gamers, it frees me up to be Elan!


  8. - Top - End - #8
    Titan in the Playground
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    Default Re: TTRPGs - With or Without Reality?

    Quote Originally Posted by C-Moon View Post
    Do you play TTRPGs to escape reality or to address issues within it? Or both?
    Both. And in practice, I don't see how you can escape a game being both. Yes, I'm playing at pretending to be somebody else, in a world unlike our own. I'm not really a wizard, musketeer, starship marine, or other adventurer, but ...

    In our current game, we are out to save the town's children. We are saving them from an evil fairy who wants their souls, not from ill treatment or poverty, but my character believes in the mission because I believe in saving kids.

    In our most recent game, we were trying to get home, which will require getting different races to accept each other and work together. The races are squirrel-folk, ant-folk, and kobolds, but its real-world analog is obvious.

    In the game before that, we were trying to save an ever-darkening world from destruction. It was dimension-skipping magic crystals, not a coronavirus, but there is still some reality to it.

    And in a game before that, my character became the Earl of Devon, and started trying to improve the economy of the county, for the benefit of the people (and to get rich himself).

    In fact, I will go further: you cannot design a game that completely escapes reality. It can't be done.

    I don't wander through the wilderness looking for adventure, but I spent two summers teaching Scouts how to survive in the wilderness as a Philmont Ranger.

    I have never studied magic, but I have researched how to send messages over far distances as a telecommunications engineer.

    I've never saved a princess from dragonfire, but I have helped carry somebody on crutches down a flight of stairs out of a burning building.

    Closer to home, I've never been on an adventuring party, but I've been on teams that work together to achieve their goal, from school learning teams to a baseball team to teams at work.

    As long as characters attack with swords, carry things in packs, and wear shirts, there is a basic level of physical reality.

    And as long as they work together to help people, or even just to get rich and powerful, there is a basic level of social reality.

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: TTRPGs - With or Without Reality?

    To paraphrase something said of Aesop's fables, talking animals not existing doesn't mean a tale with them has nothing to do with reality. Another text I could refer to here is J.R.R. Tolkien's famous rant against allegory and for applicability.

    My convention campaign centers around tensions between native islanders and imperial colonists, tensions between pagan beliefs and organized religion, and people fearing plague and changing climate are signs of the end of the world. The peoples and religions are invented, the plague is of vampirism and climate change is caused by wrath of God, but one would have to be blind to not see any similarity to reality.

    Beyond that, both as a player and a GM, important part of my creative process is learning about real myths, real history, real science and using that as inspiration. My own experiences are also a source of inspiration for me, so whatever surreal or fantastic thing ends up in a game, it has it roots in reality and for me, personally, points to something specific, even if it is obscure to other players.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    RifleAvenger's Avatar

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    Default Re: TTRPGs - With or Without Reality?

    The Giant himself said it best:

    ...no fiction is meaningful if its lessons cannot be applied to the world that we, real actual humans, live in. If you are going to dismiss any themes or subtext present in any fantasy story as simply not applying to our world because that world has dragons and ours doesn't, then you have largely missed the point of literature as a whole, and are likely rather poorer for it. Fantasy literature is ONLY worthwhile for what it can tell us about the real world; everything else is petty escapism. So if I can make even one person think about how we treat people of other races (or religions, or creeds, or what have you) by using the analogy of Redcloak, then it will have been time well spent on my part.
    Emphasis added. This statement is as true for TTRPGs in general as it is for stick figure comics based on them. Commenting on the problems humanity faces is something I aim to do with every game I run as GM, and something I try to facilitate in every game for which I am a player. We cannot truly escape from the world in gaming to begin with, for the creators and the players alike bring their view of the world with them.

    Besides, the best form of 'escapism' is the one where the players actually have the power to change representations of real world ills for the better. Hopefully giving them the inspiration and strength to attempt the same, if in more down to earth ways, in real life.

    At any rate, I've no interest or time for something that can't make me think, whether narratively, mechanically, or politically/morally. Hopefully that makes my stance on this clear.
    Last edited by RifleAvenger; 2020-12-09 at 01:16 PM.

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Orc in the Playground
     
    raygun goth's Avatar

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    Default Re: TTRPGs - With or Without Reality?

    Both.

    I'd *like* to play a tabletop game that lets me escape, but with a game like D&D there's particular assumptions built into the core experience that mean I don't get to escape or step back from the problems that I and people like me deal with on a daily basis - so instead I generally, in tabletop RPGs, escape to a world where justice can be done.

    To whit, I fill my worlds with bigots and colonialists and slavers not because I want to build a dark, realistic world, but because I want a target-rich environment for magic missile.
    "Scary magical hoodoo and technology are the same thing, their difference is merely cultural context" - Clarke, paraphrased

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Titan in the Playground
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    Default Re: TTRPGs - With or Without Reality?

    The question is not which one you prefer, but where on the continuum from one to the other you prefer. So here are my preferences.

    I want swords to be weapons with edges, and maces to be weapons without edges. I want dogs to be quadrupeds and birds to have two legs and two wings. I want lions and tigers to be giant cats. I want water to flow downhill, rain to be water, and dirt with water to make mud. And there are ten thousand other bits of reality that we all sit down assuming.

    I want the aspects that are not realistic to be carefully thought out, and usually to follow the general lines of some literary or fantasy base. Thus, chimeras should be lion/dragon/goat-headed, pegasi should be flying horses, and dwarves should be stocky, short miners who prefer axes to swords.

    When there are exceptions to this, they should have a clear reason that works within that world -- like Rowling's house-elves or Pratchett's elves.

    Totally new ideas should fit in with the rest of the world. Owlbears don't bother me in a world with hippogriffs and centaurs, but beholders and gelatinous cubes have always seemed a little -- off.

    And these are general rules. Good designers can break them, as long as they make it fun.

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Orc in the Playground
     
    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: TTRPGs - With or Without Reality?

    Both.

    It's good to have rules that allow a setting to do whatever the gaming group wants to do within the limits of the genre.

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    NovenFromTheSun's Avatar

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    Default Re: TTRPGs - With or Without Reality?

    We can't completely extract reality from a game, seeing how our minds exist within and are used to interpreting reality, so they have limits to what they can imagine apart from it. However, reality can be remarkably poorly written sometimes, it's full of Deus Ex Machina and Diablos Ex Machina, strawman villains, and tonal inconsistency; so a game including it does not in of itself make it better.
    I imagine Elminster's standard day begins like "Wake up, exit my completely impenetrable, spell-proofed bedroom to go to the bathroom, kill the inevitable 3 balors waiting there, brush my teeth, have a wizard fight with the archlich hiding in the shower, use the toilet..."
    -Waterdeep Merch.

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  15. - Top - End - #15
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Planetar

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    Default Re: TTRPGs - With or Without Reality?

    For me, there is a big difference between a work of fiction and a TTRPG, and while work of fictions have at their core the goal of communicating ideas from the authors to the readers, a TTRPG has at its core the goal to live a positive experience with the other players.

    Having realistic problems in the TTRPG can be used by the players as a catharsis to fight against them in ways they can't in real life (and "finally getting rid of corruption") or to do things they don't do in real life ("being a corrupted official" for fun). But too much realism can devolve into personal arguments and division around the table, sabotaging the main goal of a TTRPG.

    Those same arguments happen for works of fictions in heated forum discussions, but the goal of a book is not to have nice forums, while the goal of a TTRPG is to have a nice ambiance around the table.

  16. - Top - End - #16
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: TTRPGs - With or Without Reality?

    reality is cool. it has gravity and stuff.
    Last edited by anthon; 2021-01-02 at 03:41 PM.

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