Among the many advantages table-tops RPGs offer over their video-game cousins I find the ease with which clich’es are accepted to be one of the most convenient.
Allow me to explain: in video-game RPGs (or VRPGs, as some would call them) there’s a lot of criticism going on all the time. Each element is submitted to scrutiny and analysis from players, critics, bloggers and even people that don’t even play the game. There’s very little room for error and you can be damn sure that any mistake you make will be blown out of proportion and drag your game down.
For example, I haven’t been able to play Deus Ex yet, but from what I’ve read, seen and heard it’s an incredible gaming RPG experience. Where’s the flaw? Supposedly, the bosses are too brawn-focused and if you’ve built your character to be stealth-focused you still have to gun down the bosses like you’re playing Contra (remember, I haven’t played the game yet – I’m just saying what I’ve heard).
Watching and reading those reviews I was reminded of my own RPG sessions, where each one of my players had their own specific style of gameplay. Batey always wants to fight, Carlos always wants to be clever and Al always wants to use whatever new skill he added but hasn’t really worked on developing. As a DM, I just thrust them into whatever situation I feel like with any sort of enemy I feel like adding into the mix. My own tastes and gaming styles come into play just as well, and I love over-the-top, cliched enemies that would be fun to draw later on.
The thing is that bridge-battles, sky islands and tavern fights feel like overused and tired cliches in VRPGs, but not so much in table-top RPGs. Why?
If you ask me, the main difference lies in what Batey’s saying in the third panel: there are no limits to what you can do in a table-top RPG. No matter how many options Deus Ex gives you to resolve each situation (and the game seems to be famous for giving you many of those), I’m sure that it’ll still feel constrained and limited compared to all the solutions you can imagine.
So if you’ve built a stealth-assassin and you’re facing a brawny tank-of-a-boss, in a video game you’re limited to whatever options the game world gives you. If the game’s options don’t accommodate the gaming style you’ve been building all through the game you’ll really notice how much of a poor choice that particular type of boss is that much more. But at my gaming table, I can throw any kind of boss at you and if you can’t deal with it then it’s your fault for not knowing how to handle your own playing style.
So yeah, if for some reason or another you end up in an RPG-session with me someday, you can expect to encounter all the fantasy-cliches you can imagine. But trust me, you won’t complain.
Because if you do, I’ll kill you.
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