Roleplaying – what’s in it for me?

After returning from Conception earlier this month, my friend Tim tweeted a question:

As you can see, it’s taken me almost two weeks to get round to writing the blog entry, but I’ve spun the question around slightly and I hope Tim doesn’t mind.

I think, first though, I need to explain my definition of roleplaying – or, rather, explain what my roleplaying involves – because there are a number of hobbies that use the term in different ways (and even within the same hobby there are differences). Roleplaying, to me, is sitting around a table pretending to be a different persona and interacting with the environment that the Games Master (GM), or Dungeon Master in traditional Dungeons & Dragons parlance, describes. Tasks (including combat) are resolved using different sized polyhedron dice based on rules detailed in the books for whatever game it is that we are playing.

The “skills” involved here, and at present I’m writing from the perspective of the player and not the GM, are fairly straight-forward. The first is imagination. The GM will describe various scenes throughout a typical gaming session but it is down to the player to put those words into a coherent image inside their head. Indeed, each player at the table may have a different image and none are wrong. Thankfully, imagination is a skill that, as children, we all have – I’m constantly amazed at the weird and wonderful stories I over hear my son concocting while playing with his various toys. For some though the use of imagination dwindles with age but it is always there.

The next skills are (or should) be the foundation of everyone’s education: The Three Rs (reading, writing, and arithmetic). Tabletop roleplaying not only requires their use, but actively aids in their development. I’ve known people who, before they started roleplaying, had trouble with basic arithmetic but, through roleplaying, overcame their problems. I’m not suggesting that roleplaying will make everyone who plays into a mathematician or New York Best-Selling author, but it will improve their skills. Certainly, in my own case, it helped to improve my vocabulary.

Finally we have what I consider to be the most important. It’s not a single skill at all really but it is something that requires development: being social. Roleplaying requires that interact with other people, not only within the game itself but also outside the game – from arranging the next session to deciding what to play and where to play it. Most people who start roleplaying when they are young (as I did – I was 13) have poorly developed social skills for various reasons and roleplaying can help.

The GM requires similar skills (although perhaps at a slightly increased level) but as they are also responsible for the overall game require one further skill – organisation. In the modern day, you could almost call it Project Management (and, indeed, I have that on my CV ;)). Being able to juggle the wants and needs of, say, 6 players, with the campaign world and adventures you intend on running requires no little skill and the best GMs make it seem effortless.

So, if you decide to roleplay what is in it for you? I can only talk from personal experience but I count the following as my rewards:

  • Increased inter-personal skills
  • Improved organisational skills
  • A wider circle of friends from around the world

Put into simpler terms, I roleplay because it enables me to relax with friends in a social environment, taking my frustrations out on imaginary creatures with imaginary weapons and, in some cases, living vicariously through my characters.

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