#RPGaDay2021 – Day 16 – Move

We are now on the downslope toward the end of the marathon. Sometime between yesterday’s prompt and today’s we have passed the halfway mark and are headed toward the finish line. Today, August 16th, 2021 brings #RPGaDay2021 to the main prompt of move with alternate prompts of tribute, villain, and fiend. As usual, there is a lot to work with in each of the four prompts. I opted for the dice method of selection today and ended up with Move. After some thought, I figured it might be interesting to look at the word from its use in emotional responses. In other words, today I will share something relating to when the characters move the players and not the other way around.

LISTEN to the Casting Shadows Podcast instead

Move

In this year’s #RPGaDay, the prompts have had me mention a preference for play that is rooted on the character level. In other words, play that focuses on what the characters are experiencing with player decision-making focusing on what the character would do in each situation if it and they were real, drawn from a place of immediacy and connection. This sort of play comes naturally to a lot of gamers, and over time it can be developed to extend beyond the typical notion of casting your own personality into the situations of play wrapped in the statistical models of the game’s system. In time, with interest and awareness, it can develop into the adoption of a character with personality traits and perspectives which differ to small or large degree from one’s own.

Play itself might be conducted with this exploration of an in-game perspective being a private and personal one in regard to the internal aspects of character. We might choose to only share what the character does and says, and leave any investigation and determination of what the character might be privately thinking or feeling up to the other players to conduct. We might even limit the description of what the character does to simple statements of intention and leave any visual drama to the individual imaginations of the players. In this way, each experience of play is still connected to the frame of the scene and at the pivot points of stated action, but how it is dressed in description is a purely internal one. Likewise, we might explicitly share what we think is obvious about what the character is thinking and feeling, we might suggest why they might be doing certain actions, and even describe how they look when doing those actions, and so help bring all the imaginations in the game into closer alignment. We might go one step further into sharing and grant the other players the sort of omniscience given to them in novels, making them privy to all the thoughts and reactions of the character. Gamers being gamers, we can even find healthy and plentiful examples of groups who have all of these approaches in operation at the same time, or who shift between them by needs of the moment, or the potentials of the game.

As different as these approaches are in terms of what is communicated between players and how it is communicated, it is endlessly fascinating to me that in each case, as a sort of unifying aspect that crosses these variations, playing on the character level can lead to very moving play when circumstances permit. By that, I mean, when the situations of the game are such that the players have reason to respond to them. It might strike some that playing in-character as the character might take so much mental focus that emotional connection might be sacrificed or at least be limited. For some players, especially those pushed to focus on other aspects of play, that might be true – for awhile. This fades as gamers learn how to first empathize with another perspective, then emulate it, then hone that emulation until the distance between the real I and the fictional I is a gap that habit has made seem extremely small and easily crossed in either direction at a whim.

I can remember players being obviously moved by in-game moments of what seemed like abjectly futile self-sacrifice. I don’t mean a casual use of a pregen here, I mean the considered and in-character embodiment of heroic defiance of evil. I can remember players talking about what happened in a session to a character, or because of a character, for literal years of our lives because the impact of it hit us hard enough to not just shift our stances, but to make us take a few steps. A lot of these stories and moments are brought forward in previous RPGaDay years so I am choosing to not diminish them by sharing them here again.

It isn’t just sacrifice and heroics which move people. I have seen players form friendships with each other in-character that were different than the ones they had formed in real life. When the game stopped, and those characters were done, the players missed them as if they were real people. I have seen players burst out laughing, or have seen their eyes widen in shock or horror at something perfectly in-character that happens in a game and you know that the emotion was real although the situation was not. These experiences are moving a way that is different from the emotion sparked by watching a performance and is closer to – perhaps indistinguishable from – actually being there.

In other, plainer words I have seen people be moved by play and I have been moved myself. I have been moved by players inciting rebellion against the cruel and irredeemable Galactic Empire. I have been moved by imaginary fathers taking revenge for imaginary sons against imaginary fiends in imaginary darkness that the game allowed us all to imagine together. I have been moved by words of tribute paid to fallen comrades and the wonders of pretend cultures. I have been moved by deep insight into the nature of the flaws which have twisted NPCs into the villains they have become. I have been moved in the moment, caught up in a scene as if I were there myself, and I have been moved in hindsight as implications make themselves apparent upon reflection.

Play has the power to move what might in other circumstances seem or feel unmovable. To borrow from metal music: at times, it has the power to bang the head that does not bang.

In Our Play

Do you care to be moved?

In Memoriam

This weekend, I was moved to hear of the passing of Steve Perrin. He was not a person that I knew, only knew of – and even then only in the context of his hand in games that have mattered to me for much of my life. I have never spoken to him, nor did I ever expect to do so. The connection between us was simply his name on games that have brought and continued to bring me great enjoyment.

Despite that gulf of distance between us as people and the flow of connection being ephemeral and in one direction only, I was moved to hear of his passing.

I think that says something about humanity. It is something to cherish and something to fear, like most human characteristics. Today, it is a feeling I think deserves encouragement.

Someone who knew him well had this to say about him, and this farewell moved me, too.

Vale and farewell, Steve Perrin!

When the world of Roleplaying Games was still waiting to be born, you and your closest friends conjured up the Society for Creation Anachronism (SCA) from the realms of your collective imagination. Bump, bump, bump down the stairs, indeed. Shortly thereafter Steve and Luise joined the fledging Chaosium as it spread its draconic wings in the mid 1970s with White Bear & Red Moon, and a little known RPG called RuneQuest, born on the 4th of July in 1976. Steve’s canny understanding of gaming mechanics and Luise’s artistic vision helped forge an iconic game still played around the world today. 

But a few hours ago we learned that Steve was taken from us, even as he worried that Luise’s health situation was more dire than his. He was a loving and devoted partner to the end. To sum up all that Steve was to the Chaosium family cannot be typed up in a few sentences. He is one of our Great Old Ones. An innovative genius that helped pave the way for us to exist today, delighting gamers while they sit around a table, in person or online, exploring stories and adventures together, weaving new tales of derring-do. RuneQuest and Superworld were his children, and his imprint on so many of our other games is indelibly present. Many of us grew up playing his games. He was the uncle we admired, envied, and listened to for his wise counsel. In the last few years, as a new edition of RuneQuest was born he was there. His wisdom and experience reminded us of the simple, pure, and wonderous origins of the magic of roleplaying. How can you say thank you for that?

We grieve with all of those who knew him, especially his family. We thought we might have been able to entice him to be with us at one more gaming convention in the near future, but now we know that gathering will have to wait. Saying farewell is never easy. Dear friends depart, and we remember them for all the richness they brought to our lives. We at the Chaosium cherish all the decades you sat with us at the gaming table and the stories you created with us.

Vale, and farewell, Steve. 

By Rick Meints

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