April 3, 2013
Ways To Play: Storytelling And Door-kicking
Talking with many other fans of this particular hobby, I tend to notice that there are two distinct styles of play among them. The first would be the storytelling method, in which characterization and drama take center stage. These games tend to focus on the stories of the characters, their trials and hardships, and their personal growth as individuals. Characters in storytelling-focused games are much like those found in on-going television series. After many trials and adventures, they are no longer the same person they were when they started on their journey, though often they are still recognizable for who they used to be. This sort of game is a wonderful, long-term experience; you grow connected to your characters just as you would a beloved character in a book, film, or television. You watch as they endure the hard times and you revel with them at their triumphs.
The second type is often called the “kick down the door” style of play. This play style is all about the visceral elements of the game; namely combat and loot. This style of game harkens more towards action heavy videogames, where the main focus of the game is to kill the most monsters and acquire the most loot. The amount of characterization varies. I have seen some that simply refer to their characters by their occupation or combat specialties rather than by a name; “the fighter,” “the fire-mage,” “the thief,” “the healer,” etc. This sort of game is great for short-term fun, as you tend to jump right into the action without ever looking back. You kill the monsters, take their stuff, and you feel awesome about doing it.
Interestingly enough, players who adore one of these styles over the other tend to shun those who play using the other. Storytelling-focused players tend to view door-kickers as simplistic, brutish, and often vulgar. Storytelling-focused players in a door-kicking game tend to feel overwhelmed by the intensity of play and lost with the lack of depth in the game. Door-kickers often see storytelling-focused games as too long and drawn-out, boring, and without any real rewards. When brought into a storytelling-focused game, they often look for any excuse to try to push the game into something more familiar, starting fights or trying to move past the “boring” dialogue with non-player characters as quickly as possible.
I’ve always found it weird that such distinctions exist within our hobby, as I have always found that a combination of the two styles leads to a greater experience as a whole. I love to play in storytelling-focused games, where the actions of my character will affect the lives of many and when there are deeper consequences to my actions. But there are times when just kicking down the door to the dungeon, killing a monster, and taking its stuff can be just as rewarding. My point is that it is all too easy to fall into gamer elitism, thinking that your own style of play is the only one that really matters. Both sides are equally guilty of this, and I would encourage all players/gamemasters to try to include elements of the opposing style into their games to see how they work. If you play a door-kicking game, add in a little more depth of story. Storytelling gamers, see what happens when you can just kill the baddies and take their stuff. See how much fun you have with it.
Image Credit: Photos.com