Improv Default

There will be sarcastic shock and amazement to the revelation that I have a history with roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons. People who don’t follow RPGs are probably genuinely shocked to discover that D&D isn’t the only game where people sit around pretending to be someone else while rolling dice to decide the fate of the world. It is. Readjust to the paradigm shift and move on, because I don’t have time to coddle your poor, sheltered mind.

Outside of high school, though, my only real gaming has been online. Mostly, I don’t like meeting new people. Especially groups of people who have a lot of mutual history and shorthand with each other. Bah. No. Welcome to about half a dozen of my countless neuroses.

Besides, the thing I found I really love about gaming on a posting board (EN World, if anyone wonders) is how much more I can play with the cooperative storytelling aspect of these games. Certainly there’s still plenty of dice rolling and game mechanics to deal with, but I get to couch all that in whatever kind of prose I want. It feels like writing, and as I’ve known for a long time, writing almost always helps me feel better.

Plus: editing. Posting lets me actually evaluate how I’m telling my bit of story. I take time trying to develop voices, both for the character and for his narrator. And then I can ‘fix’ it as I want before I throw it to the board. So I’m spoiled there, where I get to do a lot of prose (probably purple as hell, but if I can’t call the kettle an ebon monstrosity while tossing lighting bolts around, what’s the point?) and considered voices in between the dice.

I recently fell into an actual face to face game. Turned out, I knew other gamers, and just didn’t know they were gamers. It’s the first time I’ve done this since high school, and it’s definitely a very different beast than the one to which I’ve grown accustomed.

Time is my enemy, I tell you. Because we’re all sitting around a table this way, everyone has to wait for me to do … whatever it is I’m going to do. There’s no composing, as little rule lookup as I can manage (which is still a fair amount, since rules involve my mortal enemy: numbers).

Everyone’s completely patient, mind, but because I know I’m holding things up, and because I hate to be That Guy, there’s a definite internal incentive to say something. So: it’s still collaborative storytelling, but it’s far more an exercise in improv.

I shouldn’t be surprised to discover that my improv default is sarcastic and snarky. There’s nothing really wrong with that, though it does turn my “haunted by visions of the world no one else can see” character concept into a very different kind of person. It’s a bit like watching Lost in Space‘s Doctor Smith take over the role of Frodo Baggins.

Which, hey, isn’t a mash-up without its entertainment value.

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