On the Role of the Die: A brief ludologic study of pen-and-paper roleplaying games and their rules
by Joris Dormans
Extract from Game Studies - the online journal of computer game research
Today, there is a huge variety of roleplaying games. Almost diametrically opposed to the fantasy hack-and-slash play of Dungeons & Dragons are the games published by White Wolf. At the other end of the spectrum are the games of White Wolf, which advocate a very different picture:
We no longer tell stories - we listen to them. We sit passively and wait to be picked up and carried to the world they describe, to the unique perception of reality they embrace. We have become slave to our TVs, permitting an oligarchy of artists to describe to us our lives, our culture and our reality. [...] However, there is another way. Storytelling on a personal level is becoming part of our culture once again. That is what this game is all about: not stories told to you, but stories you will tell yourself. Vampire is about bringing stories home and making the ancient myths and legends a more substantial part of your life (Vampire, 1992, p. 21-22, my typesetting).
White Wolf links roleplaying to children's games of make-believe. The company states that the lessons of these games are still valuable for adults: "this play-acting helped you to learn about life and what it meant to be a grown-up. It was an essential part of childhood, but just because you have grown up doesn't mean you have to stop." In White Wolf"s view the rules of the game are only there to "avoid arguments" and to "add a deeper sense of realism to the story" (Ibid, p.22). The game-rules and settings provided by White Wolf certainly are designed to facilitate the publisher's focus on grown-up themes and stories. Players of their games more often report roleplaying experiences with a strong significance or emotional impact than players who stick to games of fantasy and science fiction.