The Layer Cake of Gaming

Every time we sit down to play a role-playing game, we build this layer cake, stacking each level upon the previous one:

First we decide what our game is about. What are the themes.

Then we make a setting that reflects those themes.

Then we make characters who fit that setting and those themes.

Then we create a situation that fits the characters, the setting, and those themes.

Then we see what those characters do about that situation.

Keep repeating that last step, and when the situation is settled either end the game or make a new situation.

Now go back and add that, at every step, we’re a bunch of people with different ideas and preferences who may not agree about anything. We have to come to agreement or the game stops. Sometimes the game makes these decisions for us, like having a preset theme, setting, or even premade characters, but often it doesn’t. If you’re playing a GMed game, maybe the GM makes some of those decisions all by themselves, which is very different than making them together.

And if your game skips a step, the next step is harder to figure out.

Your Favorite Movie or Book

That’s what you do in just about any role-playing game. But it is nothing like what I tell someone who has never played and asks me what role-playing games are like.

To them I say: It’s like your favorite movie or book, except instead of just watching or reading it, we decide what the characters do and then see what happens.

    Ben Robbins | April 25th, 2024 | , | show comments