The role playing games we enjoy are intricate and immersive experiences that often involve complex narratives and dynamic interactions between players and the Game or Dungeon Master (DM). However, misunderstandings can arise when players misconstrue the purpose of certain aspects of the game. In this post, we will explore common misconceptions, shed light on their true nature, and offer insights on fostering a collaborative and fulfilling tabletop experience.
Railroading vs. Agency
Railroading refers to a scenario where the DM guides the story in a specific direction, limiting player agency and choices. Stories can start to feel more like the DM’s pre-written novel, and not a collaborative narrative that responds to player input. On the flipside, players might feel beholden to doing what they believe they ‘should’ or ‘are expected’ to do in a gaming setting, instead of reacting to and approaching obstacles in a way natural for their characters.
While railroading can sometimes occur unintentionally, it is generally not the ideal approach. TRPGs truly come alive when players' decisions and actions shape and change the narrative. To address this, open communication between the DM and players is crucial. DMs should discuss the importance of players making use of their agency, and in turn, players should also encourage the DM to provide a balance between a structured plot and opportunities for player creativity and choice.
The DM vs. Player Mentality
In a TRPG, the role of the DM is not to win or to act against the players in an adversarial manner. Instead, the DM breathes life into the world while spinning a narrative and managing the game mechanics. The goal is to foster a cooperative and engaging experience where everyone contributes to the story's development. Players should view the DM as a collaborator and resource rather than an opponent to be outsmarted. Ideas and plans should be shared openly and the DM can let the player know how or if it can be executed within the world the characters inhabit. Emphasise the importance of open communication, mutual respect, and a shared commitment to storytelling.
Consequences (Or A Lack Thereof)
In a TRPG game, the goal is for players and the DM to work together, each contributing their perspective and ideas, to create a rich and engaging narrative. For this to be effective, it's crucial for players to understand that their actions and decisions have consequences that shape the world and impact the story. Newcomers to a game may often not take situations seriously or behave as they would in a video game. DMs should be mindful of when to give consequences for player actions, and take care that these consequences are sufficiently serious. Wait too long, and players may think they can get away with anything, and ruin the fun of the DM.
Not Being On the Same Page
At its core, TRPGs are about collaborative storytelling, but as a social experience, it is important for everyone to be on board with the story that is being told. At a bare minimum, players should be aware of the genre and mood of the game they are in, and be warned of sensitive topics that might make them uncomfortable. If the game is a serious fantasy game of courtly intrigue, then a jokester alien named Eee Tee who just wants to go home may not be the right character for it, and will only bring down the enjoyment of the players. Regular check-ins can help ensure that everyone is on the same page and that any misunderstandings are addressed promptly. This collaborative approach will strengthen the bonds between players and the DM, leading to a more enjoyable and fulfilling tabletop RPG experience.
Tabletop RPGs offer a rich and dynamic platform for collaborative storytelling and immersive experiences. This makes it important to watch out for and address misunderstandings and misconceptions about the true essence of TRPGs as soon as possible. Due to the social nature of TRPGs, communication, or a lack thereof, can make or break a game table. To foster a positive gaming experience, effective communication and feedback are key. Encourage open dialogue between players and the DM, providing a platform for expressing concerns, sharing ideas, and discussing expectations. Through effective communication, mutual respect, and an openness to collaboration, players can build an enriching gaming experience for all involved.