Paul Mitchener came up with a new writing challenge on role-playing games called “12 RPGs for the 12th Month” (see the full list of questions here.)
Question 2: 3rd to 4th December
Which genre tropes that come up in an RPG genre of your choice do you love, and never get tired of? Why do you love them?
- a beloved trope (read: a beneficial recurring motif of a genre) is more about a classic situation setup leaving the resolution to the players, and generate stories;
- while a cliché (read: an overused or negative recognizable motif of the genre) is a predictable or foregone conclusion, something that shuts down creativity.
Tropes can be enjoyed simply as signposts of a genre (of course, Mr. Johnson will betray your team of Shadowrunners, the question is, what are your Plans B and C?) but also subverted or explored for insight, delightful surprise, narrative depth (turns out Mr. Johnson was on the up-and-up after all but he’s now been captured by the evil megacorp, what are you going to do?). Meanwhile, clichés are at best anticlimactic and at worst hurtful. Since this is a post about celebrating things we love, I won’t dwell any further on that side of the subject today.
So I love to tackle the tropes of whatever genre we’re playing: the Things Man Was Not Meant To Know in Lovecraftian horror, the No One Could Possibly Have Survived That! in superhero adventures, the Star-Crossed Lovers in romantic fantasy, the Evil Galactic Empire in space opera, and so forth.
Probably my biggest trope love as a player is the Big Damn Hero who will do the right thing in the end, no matter how practical it would be to do something else. I love playing someone who can make the big moral choices and go against all the things that make me feel powerless in real life. Total wish-fulfillment fantasy, I admit it—and yes, sometimes I play against type and make completely self-centered, unreliable, snivelly cowards or flint-hearted commissars.
And as a game-master, my favourite is “Always split the party!” Oh yes, my hearties, I love splitting the focus, constricting resources and means, and forcing tough choices.