#RPGaDay2021 – 13 – DOOM

Today’s entry for #RPGaDay2021 on this blog is going to bypass one classical doom, take a detour around an essential RPG skill which intimidates some people so much they treat it like one, and stop before reaching the last option. That last one can be hooked into this opening, but it won’t be because like Rush, I will choose Free Will. If all of that has lost you, today, we will take on the third prompt in the list for this Friday the 13th to talk about DOOM.

Apartment 13 on the corner of Elm Street in Derry, Maine

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Given the interactive nature of RPGs and the influence of randomizers like dice, being put in a position where the modern notion of “doom” with all of its negative connotations, can reasonably be expected to involve some shenanigans on the part of a GM, a preprogrammed game plan on the part of the player, a very rigid framing of play, or a confluence of some or all of these sorts of things. Doom, in many cases strikes us as something terrible laid upon us like a curse.

Older responses to the word are more neutral. While perhaps no one likes the notion of something beloved coming to any end, there is also a real satisfaction when something disliked ends badly. We like our just desserts.

If we go back far enough, we can come to the meaning that though still representative of a seemingly external influence over the course of things, doom utterly lacks the connation of a bad end. It is just, the end. There was something, and now the time for that thing has passed. Doom was not something to resist or rail against, it was something to recognize.


In my own times as a player of a character, perhaps the one thing I have done the least is play them long enough to feel like it is time for that character to retire or be played less, in favor of some other character. In other words, I have rarely reached the end of days for my characters. There is always more that can be and perhaps should be done with them.

Part of this is that in my groups we have a tendency toward open-ended play, but another part of it is that we also play a lot of games and often we can decide as a group to move on to something new before all of us have reached a point of finality or sense of completion with the characters. The campaign has ended or the stated goals for play have been reached, but the characters have more life in them still.

When I think of the word doom, and this early connotation of judgement or assessment, I find it fits remarkably well with the idea of playing a character in an RPG. Our input in a session can be described as the behavior, motivation, and attitude of the character and it is on these qualities that the other players form their judgements of the character. These things more directly affect us in being an intense and immediate source of understanding and feedback on playing the character in the sense of our own enjoyment. How do we feel when who and what the character is compels us to do something which they should feel and we do feel uncomfortable with? Do we feel the momentum of play and portrayal leading us toward them being more of what they are now, or have circumstances shifted the direction of travel toward a change of behavior, motivation, and attitude?

In what place, when we put them down and play them no more, will they be? What will they be then? How will they be remembered? How will they be judged?

What, in the end, was their doom?

Like people of old, this is a question the answer to which I do not fear, but remain curious about.

It is a reason to strive.

I love it when I play a memorable character, among memorable characters, and there is import in the decisions they made, the sacrifices they made, and the end they reached.

In Our Play

Cadmus is dying…

The example above comes from our play of Fraser Simons’ (Samjoko Publishing) PbtA cyberpunk game, The Veil. In it, I play a character with an actual death sentence baked into the playbook. In this session, the character, Cadmus, already knows his situation is terminal, but out-of-the-blue learns the expected hour of his death…

How does he want to be remembered?

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