I wrote the following essay ten years ago (2008). I reprint it here without edit or revision. The first time I ever mentioned the phrase “santa vaca” in conjunction with D&D. Dungeo…
Please note that the essay linked to above is about ten years old and I would expect that Mr. Wick has changed some thinking in the decade since. But in case he hasn’t…
An adventure guide such as D&D is not and cannot be a story or a game.
1st, What is a story?
When you get right down to it, a story is an account of events which have happened. In as much as the events in an adventure guide are occurring it thus can’t be a story.
What are they then?
The best answer I can come up with is, an imitation of life. Playing in an AG cannot be real life, but it can be an imitation of life, with all the confoundments – yes, it’s a neologism. I’m an American, it’s a tradition – there of.
2nd. What is a Game?
The best description I can think of for “game” is, “An organized enterprise with simple rules giving the participant(s) a series of challenges towards achieving a goal.”
Now I see this in poker and chess, But not in D&D. I see where a guide – DM if you prefer – could give his players challenges and goals, but they are not really essential to play. The players could just socialize during an adventure, but where’s the game in that?
As for simple rules, I just don’t see it. When you have a hundred pages of rules – some quite detailed – some individual rules may be simple, but en mass they can be a mess.
In short, I don’t see where anyone has yet to design and publish a role playing game. I’ve seen and read and played a number of what I would call adventure guides, but no RPGs. As to John Wick’s advice to add some role playing – damn it – to play, I agree. With the added stipulation that one forget all that malarky about “game” and “story” and go ahead and have an adventure.
So it’s make believe. I see nothing wrong with make believe.