A few weeks ago, a fellow teacher needed my help to record an instructional video to fellow members of staff. She wanted it to be funny, so her directions were simply "Go all mad scientist-y!" Now me, having spent the better part of a decade in labs, doing "mad scientist" isn’t that much of a stretch. But then something happened. With no script, no real idea of what I was doing, I started to improvise. And I didn’t stop. What followed were the most embarrassing (for me) and gut wrenching hilarious (for everybody else) four minutes of my life.
And then, like a lightning bolt, it hit me. It’s the RPGs. That’s why I’m more fluent with improvisation and silliness.
For years, we all heard and felt the stereotypes, role-players as pale figures, hunched over a table, in a dimly lit room.
The reality could not be more different, and I’d like to share 7 real life improvements RPGs made to my life.
1. Improvisation –
"The door creaks open. A mad goblin jumps out, foaming at the mouth, screaming ‘Pine trees!’ whirling what looks to be a stuffed racoon. What do you do?" A year ago, this question would have floored me. I’ve been blessed with an imagination which is pretty much powered by a Warp Core, but I would have had no idea. Now, I wouldn’t even blink. "I’d jump aside, I’d ask questions about the Goblinoid Stuffed Badger Appreciation Society, (The GSBAS) I’d scream back ‘European Oak!’’ RPG’s force you to engage your brain, and turbo-power it. You’re constantly thinking, imagining, extrapolating, visualising. With all due respect to crosswords, you can’t beat an RPG.
2. Networking –
Very few RPG groups exist in a vacuum. Someone always has the number of someone with a copy of that core rule-book you need. You get to meet new people, you expand your horizons, you laugh with them, and you’re sorry when their character gets injured.
3. Maths –
You might not understand or care an iota about probability, but you turn into a supercomputer when the dice start rolling. You understand that rolling a D12 is better than rolling 2D6, you FEEL the numbers, you add your bonuses in milliseconds and don’t even blink.
4. Creativity –
This links with point one. As a GM, you’re basically starting a universe from scratch. You might be following a scenario book really closely, but at the end of the day, those pesky players will never do what you want. RPG’s force you to be a script writer - always imagining, always creating and being infinitely adaptable.
5. Organisation –
As a player, if you’re not organised and keep losing your Character Sheet and/or your dice, people will not be impressed. If you’re a GM and you’re not organised enough, you are DEFINITELY not going to have a good time. I’ve had to turn the expressions ‘clipboards’ and ‘tick lists’ into art forms. Sure, the worlds won’t end if you forget that prop, but really? After all your effort to make it? Better pack it a few days in advance, huh?
6. Social skills –
Really important and often underestimated. The people around the table come from all over the place in all possible senses. What is acceptable to one might not be to another. I’m not saying you need to walk on eggshells and patrol yourself continuously, just ask the group what their limits are. Further, the most efficient groups are the ones where people think about the needs of the others, be it regarding time, logistics, money, etc.
7. History and General knowledge –
I’ve researched and read into all sorts, when I plan my games. I now know more about medieval armour and swords than I ever imagined I would. It’s not info that will make you richer, or get you a promotion, but if you’re like me, you like just to know things. Last week I found that you can throw a pike like a javelin, but it will be a pretty poor javelin.
So when a youngling comes to you and say "I want to play RPGs!" just think that if he or she finds a nice enough group they’ll enjoy every second of it, and will come out the better for it. With friends, finely honed social skills, and an imagination the size of a small planet.
And we need all of those we can possibly find. Warp Drive isn’t going to invent itself, you know.
Rui is a Portuguese scientist that, after a decade doing odd things in labs, became a teacher. Then, 18 months ago, RPG’ing came into his life and he is now happily juggling the two. He is currently working on a Cypher system space/superhero adventure and a Fate-based Cyberpunk one (with a dark, secret twist). He lives in England with his partner Joana, an ungodly number of potted plants and at least 3 to 4 Adventures across as many rule systems, at different levels of completion. He can be reached at @atomic_rpg
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.