What do you like in your RPG?


Registered User
I was reading an article in the New York Times today and they made a statement about what makes for good science fiction:

You Saw What in 'Avatar'? said:
There is, at least, consensus among “Avatar” critics that good science fiction operates on an allegorical level. In novels like “Dune,” films like “Star Wars” or television series like the recent “Battlestar Galactica,” Ms. Newitz said the fantastical elements of these works offer a place of “narrative safety” to contemplate real-life issues like environmental decay, totalitarianism and torture.
In my personal experience, my favorite RPGs have also provided a metaphor to explore real-life issues. I was curious how many folks would agree with the statement that "good role playing games operate on an allegorical level."

An example for me is that I've been reading a number of books (The Third Reich series by Richard Evens, I Will Bear Witness by Victor Klemperer) to prepare for my next campaign. The campaign will be very similar to living through President Clark's regime in "Babylon 5". Most of my current group of players will probably not stick around for it since they really prefer the High Fantasy, swords and spells swinging, I'm the King of the World type of game.

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Thornir Alekeg

On the face of it, I would disgree with your statement. I'm not feeling that the exploration of real-life issues is necessary to be a good roleplaying game. Does my desire to beat the BBEG constitute a metaphorical exploration of repression? I don't think so.

Of course there may be more to this than appears on the surface; things like heroism and epic quests in a time when most people feel they cannot make a real difference in the world. It isn't what makes a roleplaying game good, but there may be individuals motivated by a desire to do something they are incapable of in the real world.


First Post
I was curious how many folks would agree with the statement that "good role playing games operate on an allegorical level."
Not me.

If some kind of allegory arises, unbidden and subtle, fine. But I don't consider TTRPGs to be tools for enlightenment, means of education, or handy reminders of stuff we already well and truly know. Not to say I don't appreciate some of that in life in general. In fact, learning is a lifetime endeavour, AFAIAC.

But yeah, personally, I see TTRPGs as tools for the exploration of fictional worlds and cultures, as means of expression, and as handy reminders that yes, it's OK - actually, important! - to continue to be childlike, in some ways, sometimes.


Well, I have this idea that every person has some basic reasons for why they play pnp RPGs. Every person has some underlying hungers or wants a PnP RPG can fulfill, which other activities cannot.

These reasons are usually:

Freedom to choose our character's identity, make his choices, and temporarily act out his role. Succeeding on your own terms (in game), by attempting things and succeeding at them. Fame is usually represented by in-game renown and the support of the other player character (becoming "popular"). Fortune has to do with monetary or physical gain for the character, or with other kinds of rewards.
Even though combat isn't unique to PnP RPGs, I included frustration because humans in general are violent and aggressive. Violent behavior does bleed into even imaginary role playing.

Taken together these elements form a kind of feedback cycle during play. The freedom of choice reinforces the establishment of an identity. Fame, success, and fortune rewards the player for participating in the activity. Combat allows players to vent petty frustrations and to get a sense of excitement- in that character death would represent the loss of the fame, fortune, success, and identity of the character. So combat appears to be a legitimate risk. Which makes winning the combat that much more rewarding.


I was curious how many folks would agree with the statement that "good role playing games operate on an allegorical level."

I don't think allegorical content is necessary for a good roleplaying game.

At a very basic level, the definition of "good" is vague and thus perforce varies by person -- so whether allegory is good, bad, or indifferent will therefore also vary.


The avatar reviewers kind of lost me there. Dune is a faithful retelling of arabian medieval history and Star Wars bears one or two similarities to 633 Squadron. Bit baffled how these offer a narrative safety?


Just because there is an intellectual elite that that every thing as a special meaning or must be some type of intellectual essay.

Take Star Wars it is just a good old fashion space opera. There is not suppose to being any hidden meanings in it. While I don't mine allegorical based stories some times I don't want them all of the time. Especially in role playing game where the DM is normally far from being a great author or where it might spark a political fight.


I like to build things.

I'm always the DM, have been for the 29 or so years I've been playing. IRL, I build businesses and/or change/reform them. Strangely enough my hobby parallels that.

If ever I had the chance to play again, it would have to be in a game where I can explore the history, culture, current events and whatnot of the world. I like that sort of detail. The combat just "pays" so that everyone else can enjoy it too.


One of my campaigns has/had some pretty obvious allegorical content, since it was expressly based on CS Lewis' Narnia, especially the Narnia-Calormen conflict, and on the Song of Roland. It deals with religious conflict and the nature of truth. Players don't need to consider any of that to play, though.

My current 4e game has little deliberate allegory; though stuff may emerge in play, and I don't think suffers for that.

Hand of Evil

If my players get wrapped up in the story and world that is all that counts; it is the payoff from the investment, it is my job to get the players into it, there is prep.

The packaging, it has to grab them. In game terms, this is what the game is going to be about, good vs evil, civilization climbing from ruins, the overthrowing of horrors, or just plain adventuring.

Next is the investment. This is where the player get into the game, I have to get them to invest their time. There are tricks here but player interaction and feeling they are contributing and have some control is the most important.

The reward; for the investment I have to provide rewards, this is what makes the players come back. There are a lot of things that can be said about it but it comes down to one thing; did the players get value for their investment.​

Everything else takes care of itself.

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