#RPGaDay2021 – Day 21 – Challenge

Today is Saturday, August 21st, 2021 and for #RPGaDay2021, today, I decided to stick with the random determination of how I will determine my prompts randomly, because the simple challenge of doing so is nothing to fear. Rather it is a fine motive.

The four prompts today are Simplicity as the large-print prompt, with challenge, fear, and motive lurking helpfully underneath. If I were to just pick something easy, I would go with fear. If I were to go for the most challenging prompt on a surface level it would probably be motive. Let’s see what the dice have to say about things as my helpful allies.

I decided to roll a D9 – yes, there are D9s* – as it is easily broken up into the three potential outcomes I used yesterday, and because I found two of them and a D11 before reaching the D21 I was looking for. Of course it was at the bottom of the skull. I figured, if the dice are my allies, then the D9s must have had something to say if they were ganging up to get between me and the D21.

With the first D9 die in hand I reviewed the frame for the roll. A roll of 1-3 on the dice would mean doing Simplicity as my prompt. 4-6 would mean rolling the second D9 to determine which of the three alternate prompts to do (1-3 Challenge, 4-6 Fear, 7-9 Motive), and rolling a 7-9 would mean choosing the prompt I felt least prepared to work with today.

In utter defiance of the large-print prompt, I ended up with a 6 which sparked that second roll. Now the simple act of making a decision had become a two or three step process! The second die delivered a 3 and I thrilled in fictional numerological joy at those implications before whispering “Hail Eris.” The dice had already given me the counter-sign of “All Hail Discordia” with its 3 delivered in 2 steps for a key of 5 or 6 or both depending on how you might choose to look at it.

That result, therefore, left me standing at the gates of a challenge, prompted by the challenge of a challenging prompt.

I accept.

How young was Malaclypse, anyway?
OK Ravenhurst isn’t saying.

LISTEN to the Casting Shadows Podcast instead


I hope you were able to navigate the challenge of that introduction, and I further hope that some of you have even read the books that I am making veiled references to. As more and more time passes, I am finding it to be something of a challenge to meet people who have even heard of them – despite how popular and celebrated they were in their day.

But, this post is not about that (at least not anymore)

*Delivered by George Dorn in a dream of Hagbard Celine at the behest of Markoff Chaney~

A skill I really appreciate and pay a lot of attention to in a GM is the ability to juggle not curating an escalation of challenge in a campaign with not curtailing character mobility within the setting. In plainer, but less concise language, I appreciate a setting with a naturalistic approach to filling the environment that is completely unconcerned by the skill of the characters to deal with it and I also appreciate that the GM does not match the group of characters against specific challenges in a specific order or in accordance with an assessment of their capabilities. The GM gets to play the world and part of that is deciding what the world is like. The players get to play their characters, and part of that is deciding where the characters will go, why they will go there, and what they will do once they arrive.

This is another aspect of play on the character level that is mirrored between the players and the GM. The GM does not have to operate on the story level to provide a story-like experience. That takes care of itself when we play and look back over events. The challenges exist and are in places that suit them. The characters are free to research, explore, hire helpers, or anything else that they can think of to do whatever it is that it makes sense for them all to do together in the context of why the group chose to play the game.

The challenge for the GM is making the world satisfying to portray and rich and interesting to interact with. The challenge for the players is making the characters satisfying to portray and rich and interesting to interact with. The challenge for the group is interacting with each other in satisfying and interesting ways as befits the parts they have agreed to take on.

The result is a world where if the group chooses, for example, to take on the most powerful mob boss in 30s era Chicago to end his liquor empire without doing anything other than buying ammunition and confronting him in front of his hotel, they can do that and the dice will dictate their fate. Who knows, against all odds, they might survive and even become heroes. That would be a cool tale to tell. Odds are, they will roll a different outcome, one that involves funerals, firings, and house fires, but that too can be an interesting tale – especially if it becomes the teaser scene to a deeper campaign with a new set of characters.

It can be challenging to shift perspective to see what an RPG can be, or what a story that arises in hindsight from the play of an RPG can be when so much rhetoric is proclaiming as boilerplate what they are. It can be challenging to try a different way to play or to play on a different level. Always play on the character level? Move over to the story level for a while! The reverse? Slide over to the character level and see how things go there. Always play an arc from 0 to hero? Try play of a game without classes or levels and see what it means to grow in experience in an entirely different way! Even more of a challenge, try a game that does not consider character improvement to be character growth~

The hobby is full of ways to play that defy the expectations rooted in how we are playing now or how we have always played.

The exciting open-world challenge that the hobby allows us to experience and explore is to try a new game, to play a new way, and make that challenge a part of how we grew in our pursuit of RPG play~

In Our Play

If it were easy, it would not be a challenge – or as fun~

One Response to “#RPGaDay2021 – Day 21 – Challenge”
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  1. […] wanted to participate, and when I read RuneSlinger’s Day 21 blog about Challenge I felt this was something I could identify with. So I will probably start responding to some of the […]

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