I've been thinking about why I like to play roleplaying games, and why I like to run them. I've also been thinking about why I don't like to play roleplaying games and why I don't like to run them. What do I want out of roleplaying?
My conclusion is that I want to participate in creating collaborative fiction with other creative, cool people. I want to play games that would be amazing if they were translated to other narrative mediums such as television or novels.
In the game design community, we talk a lot about reward cycles. In most roleplaying games that looks like leveling up and being able to kill things more things with better gear. This doesn't necessarily create good fiction, and I'm not interested in games that don't create good fiction.
Powerful fiction is often focused on the underdog, the guy who gets clobbered most of the time, and then despite all odds finally gets what he desires or deserves.
Traditional RPGs, such as D&D and its decendants, have tons of mechanics that are focused on task resolution: making stuff, picking locks, killing rats. These games can be played with very little story whatsoever. The "fun" is in picking the lock, rolling a natural 20, leveling up, getting that magic item.
Narrative RPGs don't really give a crap about whether you pick the lock unless not picking it is just as interesting as picking it. You don't fail and retry or take 20. The damn lock is there for a reason, and if you don't pick it, someone gets hurt, or something gets something.
I find it odd that so many gamers say that their most fun at the table didn't involve a single roll. What game are they actually playing? That tells me that they are more interested in story than in small-scale war gaming.
So why are they still playing games whose mechanics are focused on combat rather than conflict? My guess is that they've never been hipped to games that will really create amazing stories.
What if I told you that there are systems out there that will allow the players to collaboratively create a story that is just as good as anything on television? What if I told you that the GM has very little prep and railroading isn't an issue? What if I told you that rolling dice are just as important in deciding plot and action as in the games you're used to?
Here they are (a few of them, anyway):
In A Wicked Age
The Shadow of Yesterday
What do you guys want out of your roleplaying games? Let's talk about it?