This is the third post where I specifically talk about being a better role player. All of these are posts on how to get better at playing the game. You can feel free to ignore them, and if you are having fun playing then keep having fun. Especially if all of this seems like more work than you are willing to put into a leisure activity.
Last night, and again this morning, I began to think about the concept of suspension of disbelief. Which meant it caught me by surprise when AngryGM published a post that included a discussion of this same topic. I thought about postponing my post, or not linking to his article. But it really is part of what I wanted to talk about next. And I want to acknowledge his work and give him credit where it is due. Please remember that we may be talking about similar things, but from a different perspective.
I want to start by talking about the concept of suspension of disbelief with a funny story a friend of mine liked to tell. He was watching a movie with a friend, John Carpenter’s The Thing. And he was fine up until the following scene:
That scene was too much, he called BS and drew the line there. My friend liked to joke about how anyone could have been fine with the movie up until that moment, and that was the moment where he drew the line. But that is really what that moment is for people. For me, I talk about how when I first went to see the movie Volcano in the movie theater, at that time I was working in customer service for the cable company that serviced the areas affected by the events in the movie. And I got so caught up in the movie that I began wondering how busy the call center was until I shook my head and reminded myself that this was a movie. The point is I get the concept of suspension of disbelief, and how it is different for different people.
But, when you sit down to play a role playing game, especially a fantasy game like D&D, as a player you need to be prepared to ignore or push back against that moment. To remember that the point of this is to employ your imagination. And realize that this is about ‘play’. When you get right down to it any RPG is just playing make believe only with a little more structure.
How does this make you a better player? I have talked about knowing what your character can do in previous posts. But that also means you need to think like that character and try things that your character would know was not impossible, even though in your head it could not be done. To put it simply: use your imagination, and suspend your disbelief about what you can do.
In the boys game, there is one kid, he is very bright, but also very grounded. For him his character is what is on his sheet, he does not try anything crazy. And he will often question when something happens in the game that doesn’t make sense to him. And we have to constantly remind him that this is a fantasy world, and not all the rules of the real world will apply.
On the other hand, another kid looked at the rules, his spell list, and came up with a combination that was very imaginative: cast Blink on himself, and when he blinked he appeared in the air above a target and cast the Thunderwave spell directly below him to smash a monster. That is the kind of imaginative and creative thinking that will make you a better role player.
In the end, remember that you are playing a game, treat it as such. Open your mind, suspend your disbelief, and approach things from the direction that your character would think, instead of thinking like a person in the real world.