Dimaension X - RPG's - role-play or dice-roll conundrum?
Not that I have plans of getting heavily involved with playing Role-Playing Games (RPG's) again (I haven't played D&D in more than twenty years), but I have developed a recent interest in reading about them, perusing the various free pdf rulebooks I've found online, and creating gamer "sandbox" settings just for my own creative brain-exercising. "Sandbox" gaming is a new term to me, but the concept has been around for a while. It involves the Game Master (GM) mapping out and creating as large a world as possible for the player characters to explore. The focus is not on numerous dice-rolls and complex chart consultation, but rather on the story telling and character exposition. Similar to playing World of Warcraft or Grand Theft Auto, the world/universe is an "open-range" world where the characters choose what they want to do, where they want to go, and how they will interact with the environment and other characters (both Player and Non-Player).
This style of gaming is coming back in style, mainly be the recent OSR movement of older gamers (Old School Renaissance) because they're sick and tired of 500-page rulebooks, convoluted rules systems and character creation, multiple editions of the same games with no compatibility from one edition to the other, and character sheets that are five pages long. It isn't about "role-playing" anymore. It's about building your stats so you can hack-and-slash battle for two hours (representing an actual combat that would probably only take about ten minutes in realtime), then looting the bodies for their stuff, add up experience points, level up, then on to the next two-hour battle.
Meanwhile the art of creating a fantastic adventure with interesting characters and their interaction is gone. You may as well just be playing one of those huge hex-map wargames where the figures represent squads of soldiers and the game setup takes longer than the game itself. Move, roll dice, remove these counters, add these, etc. Boring. The only difference between these games is the setting, and that really doesn't matter, because it's all about how and where you move your little counters and how the dice roll turns out. Sure there's strategy and thought, but it's like a game of chess where you roll to see if the pawn really takes the rook, or does the rook manage to fend off the attack. Boring. Where's the fantastic storyline? Where's the interaction of people? How does the setting of the story really guide the numerous possible outcomes? How does the underdog win the battle against the huge gladiator when the STAT points are so obviously against him?
This is where story-oriented role-playing is a far superior approach (IMHO) to those seeking "role-playing" adventure. A well-prepared GM who is prepared to throw caution to the wind can guide an adventure anywhere. I mean that. Anywhere. An axe-weilding dwarf might end up as a roller-skating entertainer on a beach in California. A spice-smuggling space pirate might end up retiring in a primitive cave-dweller village. Gary Gygax said, "The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules." This may not halt the sales of $50 core-rules hardcover books, but it might make players stop and think about just what game they are playing. Are you really "role-playing", or are you just throwing dice to compare stats for un-yeilding results?
At this point in my life, I prefer the former.