#RPGaDay2021 – Day 1 – Scenario

Sunday, August 1, 2021 – Day 1 of #RPGaDay2021

PROMPT: Scenario

“Are you seated comfortably? Then we’ll begin.

One of the several great strengths of roleplaying games is that they can be effectively played and perceived differently – even at the same table in the same moment. Not all approaches to play allow for this as a default, and so not all games are written with it in mind as a either a goal or even a possibility. Regardless, the underlying mutable root of how imagination builds from the resolved details that arise from the decisions stated in our declarations, realized by dice or other tools, and then established through description is there, lurks between the words on the page and what they do and do not say.

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So, when I look at the prompt for today, I see this flexible and supple strength of the medium where we can have all of these definitions in operation across not just the hobby at large, but even at a single table, and even so far as in a single moment for a given group.

What do you mean?

When I set out to run a game or play in one, I have my expectations for what the blend of influences that contain and construct a game will entail. The participants influence how play will be. System influences it. Setting and genre expectations influence it. Circumstances influence it.

I might expect that the GM will be approaching the game like the Players do, with character sheets in hand, character goals in mind, and the dice to sort it all out. Someone in the same group might expect that the GM will be approaching the game with scenes in mind that will play out in sequence and the dice will spice things up by adding a hint of uncertainty. Someone else in the group might show up thinking that tonight’s play is coming from a published adventure from which the GM, under the constraints of the dice and player action, will improvise appropriate and entertaining responses in a sort of duet with the players. This is just the tip of the iceberg that is the range of expectations – understood, intuited, or unconscious.

In the marvelous collaboration that is a roleplaying game group, we can see those differing expectations, and all the varied influences, work through points of friction to identify the form of play that works for those people in their game. This might be overt and explicit or it might be so subtle that even in the precise moment an adjustment is made some or all of those involved miss it or simply disregard it as insignificant.

It is significant.

Not too long ago, I pitched a ‘scenario’ to a group and got to see its partially-realized vision take on real and substantial life in play. It wasn’t an established property from some talented design studio, or a famous IP translated into an RPG, or even a published adventure from which I was cribbing. It was an idea about over-the-top pulp heroics in an equally over-the-top environment. Much of it needed to be filled in, in the moment, by the players as they established their characters. Much of it needed to be communicated in terms of genre-appreciation and familiarity and operate on that level both in terms of what it was like and in terms of what it was not like. It was improvisation, but inside the solid framework of a mission or objective. Play was directly connected to character and driven by those characters, but at the same time it was established by the setting and defined by it as well.

It could have been chaos.

It wasn’t.

It was roleplaying.

Below are the two separate scenarios that I have just described:

Our First Visit to Venus
Our Second Visit to Venus

2 Responses to “#RPGaDay2021 – Day 1 – Scenario”
  1. Those were great scenarios indeed

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