This is going to be a strange post, even for me, so buckle up. In Buddhism there are Four Noble Truths. They go roughly like this: 1) Suffering exists, 2) the reason it exists is because we want things, 3) the way out of suffering is to let of wanting those things, and 4) there’s a way to achieve that. Because those are universal concepts that apply to everything, I want to look at the Noble Truths of the Tabletop.
Thich Naht Hahn once said that suffering is the disconnect between the way things are and they way we want them to be. We desire certain things, we want particular ideas to be true, and we suffer because that’s not how the world works. I don’t know where to begin when applying this to roleplaying. We hold ideas in our heads about how often our group should get together. There are hopes of how we want our dice to roll. People have ideas about how much a hardcover game manual should cost, and how much they should have to pay for shipping. Too often we are disappointed when reality does not conform to our expectations.
The Noble Truths of the Tabletop
This doesn’t even address the people who intentionally inflict suffering on others, under the guise of being helpful. Sure, it can be helpful to show someone the truth, present them with the facts, so they can realign their expectations. The closer our subjective desires are to objective reality, the less our suffering becomes. Some people, though, weaponize the truth not to enlighten but to point out how wrong you are. They seek to hurt, not heal.
I think we all need to get better as seeing things for what they are, rather than focusing on what they’re not. Subjectively, I don’t enjoy “murder hobo” style games. Objectively, I can acknowledge that something is the best darn “kill things and take their stuff without consequences” game on the market. There’s no need to say that it’s a bad game because it isn’t something I’m into. There’s no need to say that people are bad people just because they disagree with me (unless, of course, they advocate for cruelty, in which case we disagree because they’re bad people).
You can find your own path out of this particular darkness. It starts with critical thinking and ends with basic decency and compassion. These are games. It’s not a religion, or a political ideology, or the cure for cancer. There’s nothing more bizarre to me that people suffering over how to create, collaborate, and have fun with other people.
About Dancing Lights Press
Dancing Lights Press publishes story games that embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation. Our print books are affordable, at $10 or less. The 6×9 digest format makes them convenient to carry around. The spotlight belongs on the creativity of the players as they converse and collaborate on plot, worldbuilding, and character development. Roleplaying is an activity, not a book. Our titles are merely part of the delivery system.