Why do we play Roleplaying Games?

If you’ve followed discussions between roleplayers, read blogs, and played in different groups over the years, you’ve probably noticed that there are various approaches to roleplaying. In some cases you might even wonder if some people are actually engaging in the same hobby.

In addition to that the reasons why people play roleplaying games are often quite different. For some it’s just a way to spend time with friends, roll some dice, and stuff their faces with snacks. For others it’s a way to escape regular life and be someone else, have adventures, kill monsters and take their stuff, even if just for a few hours a week. There are also people how like the tactical aspects of some games and treat them like a slighty more involved miniatures game. These examples are just a small list of the vast reasons why people play roleplaying games. The reasons are as varied as the players themselves.

Recently I realized that roleplaying games are not just a nice pasttime but also something which helps me to relax, to charge my drained batteries so to speak. The social aspect of gaming is very important to me. But I also love the escapism, to be in someone else’s shoes for a few hours and to experience things I’d never do in real life. In real life I often feel helpless and overwhelmed. But in games I can stare danger right into the eye and overcome evil. I’m not that much interested in the tactical aspects of combat but I am a sucker for a good story.

Some people believe that there are wrong ways and wrong reasons to play roleplaying games. I doubt this is true. As long as everyone has fun regardless of why they sit at the game table, they are doing it right. What are your thoughts on this matter? Why do you play roleplaying games?

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

4 thoughts on “Why do we play Roleplaying Games?”

  1. I find my reasons for playing vary a lot depending on my role in the game. By that I mean I game-master for completely different reasons than I participate as a player.

    In the GM role I get to engage in world-building and setting creation. I get to create things, and subsequently show my creations to an invested audience (the players, that is). It’s all about the creation of fiction to me, with the semi-random input of other people to work from. GM’ing gives me an excuse for my world building impulses, basically, and it’s different from when I do it on my own in “a vacuum” so to speak. Maybe it’s not actually, but it certainly feels that way. Maybe it’s because you get to show your creations to people and have those people be very much interested in it, or maybe it’s just the input from other people being a factor but the world-building is absolutely central to me as a GM. Even when I’m using published settings and adventures I get to make them my own, by filling in the blanks or showing my interpretation of a particular area or NPC. The rest of the GM’s responsibilities, those of being the rules judge and of being the “first among equals” when it comes to in-group conflicts and all that is definitely secondary to me.

    But as a player I am motivated by completely different emotions and feelings. As a player I take the role of someone “solving a puzzle” in a way. It’s about finding solutions to the problems presented to you by the GM, and telling a good story doing it.

    None of this explains why exactly I play though, and I’m not entirely sure of the answer to that. Escapism, yeah, but I have tons of ways to get that, from computer games to books to film. Ways that don’t involved other people being around (and thus lessening the effect of the escapism). It is however a great excuse to get together with friends and do nerdy things, so ultimately I think the why has a lot to do with the social interaction factor, at least for me.

    1. Thanks for your comment, charl. Of course I have different motivations as well when I am GMing. In my post I mostly focused on the player side of things. As a GM I love world-building and setting creation a lot.

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