Roleplaying As Catharsis?

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
So, I have been thinking about what makes roleplaying games different from other games.

For me, at least, it seems to be the ability to create a character that allows me to explore my “inner selves”, confront my limitations and inner fears, enjoy and lean into perfectly normal aspects of myself that I was taught to be ashamed of (being sensitive and nurturing as a man, for instance), and like...play a character who has experienced the bad in life that I have, but who gets to do something more substantial, tangible, and satisfying, about it than I ever got to do.

I’ve got characters who let me enjoy my impulsiveness, or explore more fully my brief flashes of easy-going confidence in myself, or express and deal with a shared difficulty trusting that people will stick around, and that their affection and admiration is genuine, or through whom I can express and practice being okay with my need to sometimes shut out all stimulus and find peace in total quiet darkness and the panicked mania that can come when I’m unable to do so.

Or just like, the fun of being able to move like I’ve always wished I could move.

And so I have a wonder.

Do any of you do this? Do you explore, confront, encourage, or otherwise poke and prod at yourselves via your characters?

If you do, does it make it harder to play evil characters or those who simply have no moral similarity to yourself? I find it does.
 

ccs

39th lv DM
Nope. Got better things to do with my hobby time than aiming for some kind of self-therapy (that's what God made Rum for).

Merely hanging with friends & playing games (be they RPGs, Miniatures, or Board Games) is the goal.
Character wise? I just try & make an interesting character that fits the campaign/play-style of the moment.
 

DWChancellor

Kobold Enthusiast
I have found, that much like in RPG videogames, I can't play things that are not already inherent in me. And a big part of being an adult-- in game and out, is not letting the worse/troublemaking aspects drive behavior. But, like you pointed out, being more "impulsive" or playing a character that is totally confident in their actions (bone-headed or not) in the game can be fun in ways it isn't in day-to-day life!

There is something cathartic to let out my inner cat, or whatever, but I wouldn't consider it therapeutic. I'm just blowing off steam and having fun; making sure it doesn't step on other's fun.
 

Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
I think that each of my characters has something of myself in them. And sometimes, yes, that includes my negative traits.

Osdred is anxiety cranked up to eleven. Malrek is stodgy and resistant to change (Not sure where the hydrophobia came from, though. That's not me at all.).

Now, do I actively use D&D as a form of therapy? No, I don't think so.

Do any of you do this? Do you explore, confront, encourage, or otherwise poke and prod at yourselves via your characters?
 
Last edited:

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
Do you explore, confront, encourage, or otherwise poke and prod at yourselves via your characters?
Mostly I like to wander about, interacting with the environment or setting. Sure, there is a variation on playing myself, because that is just easier; doing it differently often becomes a one trick pony and the character lacks depth, and eventually one runs out of inspiration.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I have found, that much like in RPG videogames, I can't play things that are not already inherent in me. And a big part of being an adult-- in game and out, is not letting the worse/troublemaking aspects drive behavior. But, like you pointed out, being more "impulsive" or playing a character that is totally confident in their actions (bone-headed or not) in the game can be fun in ways it isn't in day-to-day life!

There is something cathartic to let out my inner cat, or whatever, but I wouldn't consider it therapeutic. I'm just blowing off steam and having fun; making sure it doesn't step on other's fun.
Yeah I mean catharsis can be just for fun.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I think that each of my characters has something of myself in them. And sometimes, yes, that includes my negative traits.

Osdred is anxiety cranked up to eleven. Hrothrak is stodgy and resistant to change (Not sure where the hydrophobia came from, though. That's not me at all.).

Now, do I actively use D&D as a form of therapy? No, I don't think so.
Didn’t say anything about therapy, actually. 😊

But yeah that sounds like exactly what I’m on about.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Mostly I like to wander about, interacting with the environment or setting. Sure, there is a variation on playing myself, because that is just easier; doing it differently often becomes a one trick pony and the character lacks depth, and eventually one runs out of inspiration.
So you don’t like, dig into the character in depth?

It’s interesting to me because characters rare the primary point of all stories, for me, but especially in games.
 

uzirath

Adventurer
Do you explore, confront, encourage, or otherwise poke and prod at yourselves via your characters?
Definitely. I don't necessarily plan it all out during char-gen, but each character is some sort of fun-house-mirror version of myself. Sometimes I play up an existing attribute, other times I'm more aspirational, and every time I'm surprised by what I end up with.

If you do, does it make it harder to play evil characters or those who simply have no moral similarity to yourself? I find it does.
I do recall in high school (long ago) trying to make a character who was totally unlike me. Complete flop. I had to second guess my instincts too much. And, while as a GM I have no problem making my NPCs do vicious, terrible things, I generally feel a bit dirty if my PCs make such choices.

I design flawed PCs, certainly, but veer away from sociopathic or other traditionally evil traits. I don't usually play games with defined alignments, so we don't need to decide how much greed makes you evil or whatever. It's more about how the game world and other characters react. I like the conflict inherent in a character who thinks of themselves as "good," and does good deeds on many fronts, but also has some blind spots and flaws which make for a messy moral picture.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
Not really. I'm not into examining the human condition via elves or anything like that. If its been a crappy week and we have a great session of D&D its a nice break from the BS but nothing beyond that. I'm more likely to have my new PC influenced by some character in a book I just read. "Playing a thief like Gray Mouser sounds cool..." etc.

Had a player use his PC as a stand in for him, but unlike real life he now has the power! Didn't end well as suddenly failing a save and dying was an ordeal.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Definitely. I don't necessarily plan it all out during char-gen, but each character is some sort of fun-house-mirror version of myself. Sometimes I play up an existing attribute, other times I'm more aspirational, and every time I'm surprised by what I end up with.
Yeah, exactly.



I do recall in high school (long ago) trying to make a character who was totally unlike me. Complete flop. I had to second guess my instincts too much. And, while as a GM I have no problem making my NPCs do vicious, terrible things, I generally feel a bit dirty if my PCs make such choices.

I design flawed PCs, certainly, but veer away from sociopathic or other traditionally evil traits. I don't usually play games with defined alignments, so we don't need to decide how much greed makes you evil or whatever. It's more about how the game world and other characters react. I like the conflict inherent in a character who thinks of themselves as "good," and does good deeds on many fronts, but also has some blind spots and flaws which make for a messy moral picture.
Yeah I have the same outlook on evil PCs. It’s hard to get into their heads, and I don’t feel great doing it anyway.

When my friends and I get together there is almost always some catharsis. This is true whether we play D&D, video games, or just eat and drink.
I mean the OP contains a lot more than “do you catharsis?” 😂
If it's like a one trick pony, eg with some special ability, no, it lacks depth. A real character should develop naturally without some artificial shtick.
I mean, sure, but the question wasn’t just about “one trick pony” characters.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
I mean, sure, but the question wasn’t just about “one trick pony” characters.
Being a one trick pony, such as being "evil" is what prevents me from playing them in depth. I prefer to let them evolve naturally. Plus whatever is truly evil, like the SS, I have no interest in in playing or exploring that mindset.
 

Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
I enjoy a good evil character now and then. Creating an evil character that's interesting and gets along with the rest of the party can be a challenge. Anyone can play your standard murderhobo, but to make it more interesting than that, that's fun for me. I never play CE, but will gladly play LE. Give me a character with a code of some sort of honor to explore.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
I find it's on a spectrum, one can be doing good one minute and evil a few hours later; it is situational dependent. I guess also that I don't find gaming cathartic as much as draining a lot of time.
 

MGibster

Adventurer
I typically try to make my games into something more than just killing things and taking their treasure. So I'll cop to exploring the human condition with elves. Why not? I'm no Tolkien, Homer, or even a Sanderson but a story without any pathos isn't a good story. I can't help but think almost any character you create is a reflection of some aspect of your personality. That doesn't mean the dude with a penchant for creating rogues who habitually steal from the party is a sociopath or something. Stories have an importance beyond just entertaining us.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Do any of you do this? Do you explore, confront, encourage, or otherwise poke and prod at yourselves via your characters?

If you do, does it make it harder to play evil characters or those who simply have no moral similarity to yourself? I find it does.
Where I'm quite the opposite: in the game I can do (or try) all the crazy stuff I'd never be able to get away with in reality even if I knew how.

I can be the no-holds-barred assassin. I can be the criminal mastermind. I can be the fluffy airhead who never thinks anything through. I can be the holier-than-thou my-way-or-the-highway stodge. I can be the hero, or the villain, or even (and best!) both at once. And I can, should I so desire, try to put myself in the mindset and (im?)morality of that character and thus view the game world much differently than I do the real one.

And so can everyone else, and that's the best part.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Where I'm quite the opposite: in the game I can do (or try) all the crazy stuff I'd never be able to get away with in reality even if I knew how.

I can be the no-holds-barred assassin. I can be the criminal mastermind. I can be the fluffy airhead who never thinks anything through. I can be the holier-than-thou my-way-or-the-highway stodge. I can be the hero, or the villain, or even (and best!) both at once. And I can, should I so desire, try to put myself in the mindset and (im?)morality of that character and thus view the game world much differently than I do the real one.

And so can everyone else, and that's the best part.
I mean, we can, sure. It’s just that many of us just don’t enjoy putting ourselves in the mindset of evil characters, or the power fantasy of getting away with stuff we would t do IRL even if we could get away with it.

Or hell, even stuff we want to do but won’t because it’s wrong. Like...I can kinda see why that’s fun for some folks, but having tried it a few times both in TTRPGs and CRPGS, it’s just not fun at all for me. At best I find the Dark Side or other “evil” path in BioWare or similar video games...boring and hollow?

So I guess I don’t really get it, I just...know it’s a thing other people enjoy?

Idk, to each their own.
 

Advertisement

Top