The New Campfire

Rope playing games, as I play them, are a collective storytelling experience. There are rules that create constraints but the rules do not make anything of real value. It’s the creativity of the Gm and the players. The Gm creates a world and conflicts for the players. The players take on roles and imbue the main characters of the story with vitality. A GM without players has a background without a focus. Players without a GM have no adversity to overcome; It’s a meaningless power fantasy.

In a way, it’s a collaborative author. Players + GM = a better author than the sum of the people’s skill. The GM is paramount, but not because they have the most to offer story wise. They have to do two competing things at once. It’s both their job to contribute to the story And be the arbitrator of logic. When the players outthink the GM or when they just act in an unexpected way, the GM must check their own ego. They may have had plans for the story which now wont work within the logic of the game.

The really profound moments are when the Gm teases out character growth from a player. Finding complexity in a character and forcing them into a conflicting situation. Getting emotion out of a fighter or making the pacifist want to fight. It requires an ego check because the great moments are from the players.

So the ultimate point of why I’m rambling about this, the crux of why I’d explain this to a non-gamer:

Collective storytelling is important to our psyches. Tall tales around a campfire, a shaman’s myths, the bardic tales: they’re responsive stories. The teller uses the audience to make the tale dynamic. Books, TV, Movies, even theatre; they’re all meant to divide the teller from the audience. RPG’s are a sort of modern invention that harkens back to a need long forgotten.

The new Campfire.


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