“Engage” — Jean-Luc Picard

One of the primary elements of role playing is interaction. Whether with your character or the other players, the plot, the setting, or the rules, you are engaging with multiple things intellectual, social, emotional, and maybe physical. (LARP? Figures and dice? Dress up?)

A role playing game allows you to delve into a personality you have taken on. Maybe it’s a new character that you came up with yourself that has to be shoehorned into the setting. Maybe it’s a rip off of a character in cinema, TV, or a book, but you want to do it your way. Maybe you were given a pre-generated character at a convention and have exactly NOW to create some personality for this person. Who are they? Where do they come from? Why are they like they are? What are their likes and dislikes, their interests? Are they just you as you wish you could be? All of that is you interacting with this “fake” person.

The character, as well as the player has to engage with the setting. Maybe it is a new one to the player. Maybe it’s an established property that everyone kinda knows the basics. I have a Star Trek game I’m running set in the Discovery period and universe — ’cause I like a lot of the aesthetics of the show (and I get to use the cool as hell Eaglemoss ship models I’ve been collecting) and it allows us to do a lot without “canon” being an issue. They have an idea of the setting, but most aren’t Trekkies (or even Trekkers!) They have to engage with the setting, but it is new to them. Certain things can be assumed; other’s cannot. In a fresh setting no one but the GM knows the world, at first. How does that affect the characters’ through the players’ understanding of the plot and its stakes, or how the characters “fit” in the world? There’s really only one way to find out (short of a massive game bible…and don’t do that to your players.)

How does the story affect them, if it even does? How so? How do the characters react to each other?

When this is done well, and when everything is clicking — when there is engagement — role playing is a magical experience.