07 May 2007

Roleplaying again!

The gang returned to roleplaying last Sunday. It was sunny and clear, becoming cold, with gusts of wind that blew away the clouds that had been pouring down rain during Saturday afternoon and the whole Sunday evening; a relief, even as I don't like cold. I'd rather roleplay when the weather is hideous; a bright Sunday motivates me to go out in the sun instead. Anyway the chances for that are fewer and fewer every day that passes; after the rains and weird weather of April, this is high time for winter to begin insinuating itself.

So it wasn't an afternoon well-suited to roleplaying, especially Vampire: The Requiem. I'm not freaky enough to force my players to wear plastic fangs or dark capes (which Vampire, well played, isn't really about), but I do like playing at night or during grey days, with candles and motif music. I'm not mastering this table, though, so I can't choose the environmental details, but the GM did at least provide a classical musical background, and topped it off with mate and facturas. It was a nice session, if a bit too focused on combat — near the end it felt like an old-fashioned dungeon scenario. And there was a guy with a chainsaw as well.

The RPG scene is not terribly popular in Argentina, as it is (for example) in Spain. I mean, there are probably a lot of occasional hobbyists and more than a few full-time freaks, but 95% of the people you run across in the street wouldn't know what a role-playing game is if it hit them with a +4D bonus. There are no big RPG conventions or people wearing Dungeons & Dragons T-shirts (in public, at least). There never was a tradition of university students gathering in someone's basement to roll dice behind a screen ornamented with swords and pseudo-runes. A few RPG-themed websites and forums exist, as well as some small fan organizations. It's difficult and extremely (extremely) expensive to get RPG rulebooks, least of all newer games, least of all in Spanish — so you can imagine how we manage to acquire them.

I met roleplaying when I was just entering university; my brother introduced me to a group of fellow players, mostly acquaintances from highschool, and we played Lord of the Rings squatting in the shade on the school's yard during the summer break. After that our sessions were irregular and spaced.

I started playing seriously only a couple of years ago, upon meeting a truly wonderful game master — the only person, so far, that's been capable of actually scaring me in a face-to-face fictional encounter. The GM would reinforce our fictional ignorance of story facts with actual ignorance, taking us individually aside for questioning, torture or startling revelations, or handing us pieces of paper; his non-playing characters (i.e. the ones he himself portrayed as part of the plot as necessary) were well-thought, precisely drawn, and as horrific or bizarre as needed. We'd play for long hours, ending up mentally exhausted.

When those sessions stopped, after a hiatus I got the idea of directing. It shouldn't have been too much of a problem, but I was a little afraid. I soaked myself in rules and tips for plot creation, and slowly wrote a basic story. A group of players that had vowed to attend the session postponed it, and then again, and so on — until I decided I'd only deal with people who had an actual interest and a minimum of commitment. I ditched them and, as the occasion arose, I began directing for another group — a couple of friends, a girl I knew from Japanese school, and my brother.

I feel pretty satisfied about those games; I consciously adopted and adapted the style of my previous GM to provide the players a detailed environment for their characters to move in, and requiring them to be actual characters with depth — rather than the standard two-dimensional cardboard stereotypes that populate most RPG sessions thanks to over-tolerant GMs and to players unaccustomed to deal with personalities above those of videogame characters. I even used pictures of actual places and partially fake newspaper clippings.

Roleplaying is a fascinating experience, and mastering a game is especially rewarding for me. In the old times I made languages and wrote about fictional scenarios; having actual people living and acting in those settings, when they work OK, is like seeing your own work of art develop before your eyes. When they don't work OK... well, we still have mate and facturas!

1 comment:

  1. Antes de irme puede jugar Warhammer y algo de Vampiros, pero me iba mas lo medieval.
    Despues ya no jugue mas.
    Por lo menos acá no, no me animaría en inglés.
    Pero es cierto que no se juega mucho en Rosario aunque seguramente ha aumentado el numero de gente ultimamente.
    Peor siempre hay que estar aclarando que no es algo malo.


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