Friday, April 18, 2008

Story, not stats

Reposted from an old journal entry of mine I found on another blogsite. This is about four years old. Yeah, recycled, I know, but it's still my sentiment exactly and I wanted to share. Fair warning, non-geeks: this is a post about RPGs and role-playing in general.

When I was four years old I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life: I wanted to tell stories in one form or another. Since then I have done just that in dozens of different forms, from games of "let's pretend" with the other kids in the neighborhood or my cousins, to writing my own short stories and poems, to running popular roleplaying games like Werewolf or Vampire or D&D.

I have been running the aforementioned roleplaying games almost constantly for the better part of ten years, and it at times pains me to see something I take so seriously (and craft so painstakingly and lovingly) referred to as something as trivial as a "game". I don't take what I do as triviality; I am doing my best to make a damn good story. I am also not like other Storytellers, Game Masters, or Dungeon Masters in the fact that I am not a rules monger, dice nazi, or stat queen. In fact *gasp* I couldn't really give a damn about things like stats, levels, and experience.

Yeah, you read right. I don't care about it. I don't give a damn about how many experience points you get for slaying that Ogre. I really can't make myself care about how much damage you can do to an orc with your plus-five halberd of doom or how many agg your Grand Klaive of Depravity can do. What I want to know is, did you have a good time doing it, and (just as importantly, I think), could you see it taking place? Did I tell a good story, in other words? In the years to come, I don't want you to tell me what kind of Gifts your character had in my story, or how many dice he could roll for a fireball, or whether or not he got to twelvth or thirteenth level. I want you to tell me about the scenes you remember: that dingy tavern your character got pickpocketed in, or the first time you met a particular NPC, or when your character saw what was to become his home for the first time. I want you to remember how the bad guy was triumphed over, without reciting how many hit points or health levels he had. I want you to get a look on your face while you're talking -- that look that says you are long and far away, in a place that you have been taken to that lives only in your memory, a place you can see as clearly as you can see the walls of your own bedroom at home. A place that I created for you. I want you to remember the story. I could give a damn about stats (my catchphrase for roleplaying/storytelling has become: "STORY, NOT STATS.").

I want to take your hand and lead you down a path you never thought of before, to a place you didn't know existed. I want to make you see this place, and the people in it, and the things that make it up, like the way it smells and sounds and tastes and looks and feels. I want you to live in the story I tell you, to breathe it, to eat it up with your mind. I want to make you forget about everything but what you can see in your mind's eye for a while. And when you look back on it later, I want you to remember it in your imagination as if it were a memory drawn from the roadway of your own experiences.

I want to shine. And I want my stories to shine. If this were baseball, I would want to hit that sucker out of the park every time I get an at-bat. And I try to do it every time, God knows I do. Most times I get a piece of the ball, but sometimes I really sock the stuffing out of it. And then there's times when I strike out completley and end up going back to the dugout with my head down. But I always step back up to the plate when it comes around again, ready to swing as hard as I can, drunk on the possibility of my achievements, giddy and happy but determined. Determined to make it good. To make it great.


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