It’s not about the stats!

With every Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG (DCC RPG) session I judge, I learn something new. I learn that every player that comes and sits down at my open Road Crew table comes with their own perception of what roleplaying means.

It has been quite some time since I was in high school where my extra curricular activity was drama club. And in growing up, playing with Barbie dolls, I pretended in many make-believe settings. The books I did read, I enjoyed seeing the world develop inside my head. I did not have stats that I made sure I was correctly playing. Yes, I wanted to be the most liked and see as the one who could do it all and come out of the game as the winner. But it was in playing and being imaginative with what I wanted to do and not set on stats. What happened to the creative imagination of those that are now in their twenties and thirties?

I’m in my fifties now. I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s. I was in college in the ’80s. I discovered Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) in the 2010s. I knew of D&D in the ’80s. It was taboo. It was considered satan worship. Did I know what it was? Of course, I didn’t. I couldn’t get near a game and honestly, I was scared of it. I grew up in a conservative Christian home. Now, before you go all political on me, conservative, in how I’m using it means: holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to religion. I grew up in a Mennonite home. Not the conservative dress sect. But I do remember when my parents said that playing cards were not to be in the house or played with. I think, though, that by the time I left elementary school and started middle school, playing cards were allowed. My parents played “Rook” a lot with a group of friends that they invited over. It got to be a game group for them that they even rotated through each couple hosting the game night.

We played a lot of board games. There were several years in the ’70s that getting a new board game or two was what we could expect as our Christmas gifts. One year, I think, between my twin sister and I, we got five board games. Family holiday gatherings were spent around the table with cousins playing board games for hours on end. Traditions and memories were made.

I went on a tangent there that I didn’t necessarily mean to go on. The purpose of this blog post is to write about role-playing and what it is or at least what I believe it is. Role-playing is to play a role. What is a role? A role is an actor’s part in a play, movie, etc.

When you take on a role in a role playing game, you are the character you come to the table with or the character you take on at the table. The rules for the game should be left to the game master, dungeon master, judge, referee. In a way, I wish the stats were only seen by the judge for each character. The players are given a description of their character with a description of each stat. Example: (and I’m pulling this off the top of my head as I type)

“You are a warrior. You have great strength. Due to your armor, you are not as agile as the thief who stands beside you. You wield a great ax along with your pack of provisions. You may not be the smartest of the group of adventurers you are with, but you are not the dumbest either. You have a great will, a positive fortitude, but not so good reflexes.” 

In this way, you, as the GM, regain the control of the rules. Okay, I will be honest, I do not like meta-gaming! And I do not like min/maxing! Period! I will call players out during a game. For example, I don’t want you saying to me that your PC has a Strength of 16 and could do it. NO! I want you, as your player to say “I walk up and I take my fist and punch it through the door.”

This was the case at last Saturday’s Road Crew when I had a new player at the table who, get this is a D&D 5e player. And maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on the newer or maybe I should say younger RPG players. OMG, but those of you who are GMs, please STOP teaching your players that numbers matter!

So, for the length of this blog and purpose of this blog, I have just hit on the reason for this blog. My ultimate message here is that “It’s not about the stats!” It’s not about the numbers! Yes, add the modifiers of the numbers you happen to have for your PC, but just because your PC may have a high number in Strength or Personality/Charisma does not mean that what you want to happen will happen. I don’t darn well give a flip about what number you have in a stat. Just tell me what you want to do and I will give you something to roll.

GMs, please do not teach your players that they are playing stats. Please, let’s just role play by pretending you are your character. What would your character do? Build your PC to be a hero. Stats only matter in regards to what your dice will roll.

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