“I Wanna” Isn’t Good Enough

Resolved: that one of the reasons why we get into roleplaying games is to engage in wish fulfillment. I’m not going to argue against that one. Goodness knows there are a lot of games that I’ve given up on in large part because things showed up in there that were sufficiently antithetical to what my wishes as fulfilled would look like. Yay fulfilling wishes.

There are some wishes, though, that it really doesn’t make sense to fulfill, and one of my biggest pet peeves is people who put something together that doesn’t go with the milieu in which the game is supposed to be run. They want to do something—but that something is strictly forbidden by the metaphysics, or is vastly beyond the other PCs in game-effectiveness without an assurance that the player will use the power responsibly, or just plain does not fit anywhere in the existing setting no matter how many crowbars would be broken in the attempt to shoehorn it in. And that something—maybe it’s trying to be Unique, maybe it’s The Only Way They Can See That Character (probably both), maybe it’s just that it doesn’t fit with the tone or social circumstances and they’re not willing to deal with the consequences of being that completely in clash with their surroundings. Heck, it might just be a newbie mistake, in which case the problem is only if the newbie in question won’t let it go.

I’m not a really strong stickler for rules most of the time: my policy is, if I think I can trust you with the concept, and either you or I can come up with a justification for varying from the existing rules/fluff/whatever, then sure, let’s give it a shot! And I’ll admit, I’ve occasionally asked if such and such a rule could be stretched a little to give credence to a concept (usually aiming for things that wouldn’t have much mechanical impact or just wouldn’t come in handy more than the once or twice it would take for that particular decision to say what it meant to about the character).

But the game is not meant to be nothing but “play what we want”. It’s a group effort, and if one person’s idea is messing up everyone else’s enjoyment or suspension of disbelief (or just giving the wrong sort of migraines to the GM; we do kinda need them mentally intact), that’s going to be a problem. And throwing in impossible metaphysics just because someone “doesn’t want to” play as the world is written, without any sort of justification—this is a bad thing. It throws off the expectations that everyone else is bringing to the table to the point of breaking suspension of disbelief; in games where verisimilitude matters, it forces the GM to spend time and brainspace on trying to come up with a consistent justification that could be spent on making the game better for everyone; depending on the concept and how it clashes with the world, it might even completely throw off balance in the party, both social and mechanical. That’s far too much damage to the group experience for far too little benefit to one person.

If you’ve joined a wind ensemble, you don’t get to whip out a vuvuzela and start a solo in the middle of a piece. If you’re taking up a sport, you can’t force rules on the referee. Only the self-employed or the heads of companies get to dictate the rules of their workplaces without allowing others input, even if they can sometimes make suggestions. Why should playing in an RPG be any different?

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