This is where talk about literary theme again and everyone groans. I hold fast to the idea that you need that conceptual thread running through adventures and campaign. No, I’m not saying that everyone needs to adopt my style of play. Or that my way is the only correct way to do things. I would argue, however, that murder hobos wandering about randomly murdering people and taking their stuff barely qualifies as an adventures. Several session of spree-killing isn’t actually a campaign. Plot is more than a thin justification for the player characters’ actions. But theme is the engine that fuels that plot.
Tabletop roleplaying is so much more fun when it’s about something. The entire point of escapism is to get away from the everyday world. We want to be heroes, with the power do do things we can’t in reality. Sometimes that means roaming around a setting that’s as unlike our ordinary lives as possible. Other times it’s tackling issues we feel powerless about, vicariously confronting them through allegorical means. Yes, I realize that to some degree this does cover murder hobos. I’m just disturb that, given a wide range of possibilities, they’ve decided that engaging in mindless, guilt-free slaughter is their go-to choice.
Make your roleplaying experiences about something. It doesn’t have to be profound. Let it be about the power of friendship, or the bonds of family. Have the theme be the ways that love can conquer. Find the one thing that ties it all together. That will help you work out who the villains are, and what the adventure goals will be. It will make coming up with challenges easier. A theme can even help players figure out how to roleplay their characters.
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#RPGaDay2020 – Thread
RPGaDay is an annual event held each August. It asks tabletop gamers to use provided daily prompts to express something fun, interesting, and positive about the hobby. David F. Chapman (Autocratik), the award-winning game designer, created it.
About Dancing Lights Press
Dancing Lights Press is a lo-fi publisher of tabletop roleplaying systems and system-agnostic creative aids, including the best selling Building series, the DoubleZero action thriller system, and Hippogryph, a fantasy story game system with traditional roots. Our products embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation because roleplaying is an activity, not a collection of expensive rulebooks.