Interesting concept over at Critical Hits about a blog carnival, covering the topic of Transitions and Transformations. I thought I’d have a go at writing a little piece.
Here’s my opening premise. Roleplaying is all about transformation, the very core of the concept is transformation and growth and transformation permeates every level of the game.
The act of transforming, or the state of being transformed; change of form or condition
Roleplaying is Transforming your personality
At the most basic level, playing a role or taking on another character is a transformation. Your personality or behaviour is transformed from your regular state to a new state. The act of roleplaying encourages you to transform your view point, your understanding and your personality to that of another. Whether this is to accommodate a different mythology, universe, period of time or even a different race or gender doesn’t really make much different, the root action is to transform yourself to another state of mind.
Character growth as Transformation
On top of that we have a basic mechanic in virtually all roleplaying games of progression or growth. Powers develop and improve over time, skill trees open up, abilities become greater, whatever mechanism the game uses, most games offer some progression or improvement. That progression is transformation and a necessary skill of roleplaying is adapting to that change over time. What you could do in the past has changed and what you can do in the future will be different. While this is true outside of roleplaying games, inside the game the rate of progression is much greater (on the whole) than it would be in non-gaming life. This transformation of ability at pace means you must adapt to change quickly to bring your new strengths to bear on tougher and more complex challenges.
Roleplaying is a social activity; a form of interactive storytelling. In any social situation relationships change over time, another example of transformation. In order for gaming groups to be successful they have to deal with those relationship changes, and for long running gaming groups this can be a serious challenge. This transformation can occur in-game with character relationships, as we learn more about our characters and the other characters in the game, our relationships change and morph, and equally it changes in the real world as we learn more about our gaming friends, or add new friends to the group.
Transformation makes the game world real
And lastly a key element for me. Static game worlds feel fake where-as worlds which undergo transformation feel real. If characters have little or no impact on the overall state of the world, at whatever level (local town, big city, country, continent, solar system, what ever is appropriate), then we may begin to wonder what the point of our interaction is. Clearly there are some gaming situations where that feeling of helplessness is core to the game, but even then we would expect the world around us to change as the result of other influences. A transforming world helps us feel part of that world, and a world which transforms as a result of our gaming actions makes us feel as though our characters have some real presence.
I think the original premise of the Blog Carnival was probably to discuss examples of transformation and transition within games, maybe specific examples, but for me the whole roleplaying experience is about managing transformation. Transformation of personality, character strength, relationships and world setting. Those four things make up the changing environment of roleplaying and are the essential elements of a dynamic and interesting roleplaying experience.