Can’t someone remember his spells? Then suggest that they write them down. What if we forgot the story of their character? Maybe they could repeat it before the session. Are they not contributing enough? Then give them the opportunity to make decisions, find a way to get the larger storyline to feature them, or ask them what they would like their character to do between sessions. Communicate!
If you can’t meet your fellow gamers in the middle, you’re not really playing a role.
The common solution is to find like-minded players, and while that’s unfortunately the only option sometimes, it shouldn’t be. The community is sufficiently divided, and it’s time we spent a little more time examining what we consider to be the “wrong” way to play a role.
The conversation about discrimination
While perhaps irrelevant, it’s worth mentioning all the work that has gone into mainstreaming diversity and inclusiveness into media in our time, a trend that geek interests have particularly embraced.
Last year, Twitter hosted a small explosion of in-house content supporting the feature of wheelchair accessibility in D&D Fifth Edition. Together with Thomas lishman and Strata Miniatures, Russ charles created a set of table figurines with custom wheelchairs for use with Sara thompson‘s rules of the “combat wheelchair”.
Shortly after, actor and producer Jennifer kretchmer contributed to the release of Mysteries by candlelight source book, with an explicitly wheelchair accessible adventure, a style of play she has compiled many resources for free.
Talk to Polygon, she explains, “As an ambulatory wheelchair user, I wanted people to have the ability to see themselves represented in the game. We have the ability in the fantasy to imagine things. We don’t have to pay to make these accommodations.
the terrifying reaction on these completely optional resources shows how access control can be managed in the ugliest way.
The inclusiveness that the creators prioritized in fantasy opened the door for new people to feel safe at role-playing tables. Aged communities have always been a haven for those out of place or other, and the work to encourage people who are minority, gay, neurodivergent and with different abilities to feel included in the adventure with their own character is something to celebrate. Everyone should be welcome.
It doesn’t always work that way, however.
I certainly remember being nicknamed the F-word at a table, probably for being the only bisexual player in the company of exclusively straight men, or for playing the only character who wasn’t a straight, white man. and validates the predictable Eurocentric and monoethnic framework of our campaign.
Whether this incident was a throwaway insult normalized into regressive upbringing or a pointed statement about who was and who was not welcome to participate in the high fantasy, I couldn’t tell. I wasn’t very interested in finding out. But my experience is not unique. Many people can attest to the toxicity that can rise to the surface with controlling the gates, revealing a more sinister side to the problem. One without doubt being fed by the source material.
The evolution of role-playing
As with any culture in history, role-playing has changed since its inception. Dungeons and Dragons was invented in 1974, in a form barely recognizable next to its interpretations today. Its evolution continues in new forms is natural and necessary, both as a game and as a tool to represent and inspire people.
Adventure zone single-handedly has already folded the formula for the Fifth Edition around illustrating drag races, magic games, and wrestling matches, while maintaining a full cast of vibrant and unique characters. That’s not to say that every D&D game should be unrecognizable since the last one, but it does show how much the game can be used to do, and more importantly, how it cultivates the community around it.
“Bad playing the game” is a start because winning isn’t everything, especially in role-playing, where failure is just a dice roll. Dice games speak of disaster as often as of triumph. But the real evolution comes from the redefinition. Players should not be punished for playing the “wrong” characters; the rules should be able to adapt fairly to what they want.