I remember it like it was yesterday. My wife and I had been playing a good amount of D&D, and she was a little depressed. I asked her what was wrong, as any good husband should. She looked at me and said “You know how we pretend to have these adventures?”
Not knowing where this was going, I answered “Yeah?”
“I just wish they were real! That we were really doing something like this stuff!”
Now, on the surface, that just sounded like crazy talk. But I thought for a moment and realized that it wasn’t really. We talked a bit more, and she was basically just a bit bored of talking about doing cool things, when we just sat around watching TV when not role playing. I really couldn’t argue with what she was saying. We were both working crap jobs at the time, and money was always tight. Short of living in a parent’s basement, we were damn close to fitting the dreaded gamer stereotype.
I didn’t really act on anything then. It took several years, but I took up backpacking. I started off as an ultralight backpacker, which is sort of a more extreme backpacking. Less gear, more skill required since gear can bail you out of a tough spot, etc.
My first trip had all the makings of a disaster. I had overestimated my ability and finally made it into camp that first night well after dark. I set up my camp and crashed, my feet hurting in ways I didn’t think possible. The next morning, I ate the nastiest eggs in the history of man (I’m telling you folks, freeze dried eggs are awful), and started back out. I was exhausted, and glad to start the long, long drive home.
I had a deer walk less than 10 feet in front of me. I scrambled around rock faces where, quite honestly, a wrong step would have resulted in some fairly serious injury, if not worse. I drank from streams, and had to ration water due to drought conditions on the mountain. I sweated my butt off by day, and was cold at night.
I had done it. I’d actually become a real-life adventurer. My wife’s passing comment years ago, one that she’s never really acted on herself, lead me down the road less traveled by. It’s not for everyone, but it was for me. Despite the times on the trail when my feet were killing me, I never gave in. I finished what I started, and despite the pain, I had the time of my life.
I won’t sit here and tell you that you should take up backpacking, or anything else, but I do urge you to take that road less traveled by, whatever it may be. Not only will you be doing something you can be proud of, but it may actually help your role play. You’ll know what it’s like to walk 15 miles in a day with all your gear on your back, or you’ll know what it’s like braving white water rapids, or climbing a rock wall that goes straight up, or any number of other things.
Why stick solely with pretending to have adventures where there’s so many real ones you can have as well?
Yesterday, while talking about the future of gaming, the question was asked by Ravyn if all the technology I mentioned was really necessary. Obviously, the answer is “no, it’s not needed at all.” However, that got me to thinking, which is always a scary thing. What do we need to role play?
Role play is quite possibly the oldest form of play in our lives, if not in history. Early role playing games for many of us were the classics: Cops & Robbers, Cowboys & Indians, etc. Rules consistent of nothing. The arguement we all heard started with “Bang! You’re dead!” And was followed with the inevitable “No I’m not” response. The typically female equivelant was playing mother to their dolls (even then, girls were ahead of the curve! They played with miniatures while us boys were LARPing ;)). Even with the freeform nature of what we were doing, we loved it in spite of the arguments.
All we needed was a rain-free day, some friends, and plenty of time before the street lights came on. We might have props (toy gun for example), but we adapted well enough without it (fingers make good enough guns after all). Rule disputes were handled simply by letting it go. We could do anything we wanted to so long as the laws of physics were obeyed. After all, 8 year old kids tend to not defy gravity very often.
With the lack of crunch, we all enjoyed ourselves. It was the purest form of role play, and it planted the seed that lead many of us to take up role playing as a hobby. We didn’t need dice to tell us if we shot the bad guy, we just shot him. We needed need a DM to determine if we could do something, we just did it (or said we did it). We needed need to reference books to see what spells we could cast, we just cast them.
Amid all the edition wars, both on this blog and others (and I’m just as responsible as anyone else), I think we’ve lost sight of the simple fact that we play a game. Nothing else matters so long as we have fun and don’t ruin anyone else’s fun along the way. So long as we do that, we’ll be in good shape. Not just for today, but for ages to come.