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Tabletop RPGs aren’t board games.
The goal isn’t to win and trying to win is ruining it.
Think about your favourite fiction, fantasy or sci-fi story. What makes them memorable, meaningful and epic? Here’s a hint: it’s not just because the hero wins.
True, the story where the good guy dies and the bad guy prevails don’t tend to become listed among the greats. Good needs to prevail.
But winning is not what makes a story good. It’s the struggle that makes it meaningful. Think of every epic scene in a movie or book and what made it great. Many of civilisations greatest tales are ones of constant hardship, challenge, tragedy, betrayal, and malice.
That is your stage. Own it.
Your job is to be a beacon of light in a darkened world. Sure, being an all-powerful being of unmatched strength, intelligence and cunning sounds fun to play. You could dismiss every encounter with a wave of your hand, defeat any enemy with a nod or bound over mountains with nothing more than a hop. But, in truth, playing such a character is nothing but boring.
You need your character to have a fatal shortcoming. A weakness. Something to overcome. That’s what makes your character human (or flying squid monster, idk).
And, further to that, you want your adversary to be powerful, insurmountable. Something which you cannot comprehend overcoming.
That’s what life is.
Roleplaying is a drama. It’s born of us. Our world reflected before us on the tabletop.
Roleplaying games are our everyday struggles inflated and played out symbolically on a hyperbolic stage. That’s why it touches you.
You might think you wish your life was easier, and maybe you do, who the hell am I to say. But, for many of us, it’s more true to say that what we actually desire is to struggle mightily against the inherit evil and malice an indifferent world and to prevail against it.
To become more than we are and more than we knew we could be as weak frail mortal entities.
That’s why we watch, read, play.
We don’t want heroes to overcome their challenges easily. It’s the mightily struggle against an unassailable obstacle which stirs our souls.
So next time you’re going to bitch about some fight being too tough or a betrayal of an ally being unexpected, stop and lean into it. Enjoy the fact that you’re contributing to a meaningful and powerful story because that’s one of the most amazing things about roleplaying.
You will win eventually, but remember that’s not why you’re playing.
So, try losing a bit more often. You’ll thank me.