Saturday, October 17, 2009
Pen & Paper RPGs Vs. MMORPGs
With the prevalence of MMORPGs like World of Warcraft and The Lord of the Ring Online, I am constantly being confronted with the question of "Why play pen and paper role-playing games, when WOW is so much better?" It is obvious when I hear this that either these people have never played a pen & paper RPG or have done so with a bad GM. I have played WOW and several other MMORPGs extensively, but yet I still keep coming back to pen and paper RPGs time and time again. In my opinion, pen and paper RPGs are vastly superior to their computer counterparts for many reasons.
First, there are severe limitations to the game play in MMORPGs. It seems that the major focus of most MMORPGs is combat, plain and simple. Almost all of a character's abilities are combat orientated, or if they are not, then they are used to support the group in a combat situation (ie. buffs and heals). Rarely in MMORPGs do I see abilities that allow players to alter the game environment in permanent and lasting ways. In fact, quests which should have a lasting impact on the world, just simply reset once the player completes them, as if nothing had ever happened. Only in a pen and paper RPG can players go on meaningful quests, which have a far reaching impact on the world that they play in.
Second is the creative component. MMORPGs can only be played from the player character's perspective, unless you happen to work for Blizzard. With pen and paper RPGs an experienced game master can build and design the world in which he would like his players to adventure in. As a GM, I often find the design element of pen and paper RPGs to be much more fulfilling than playing in someone else's world. When you run your own games, it is very rewarding to hear the excitement of your players and know that you were responsible for it.
Finally, there is the social factor. While MMORPGs may have some social components, like guilds, they lack the true interpersonal component that pen and paper RPGs have. For the most part, people only come together in MMORPGs in order to complete a dungeon or a boss, or to form teams for PvP combat. In pen and paper RPGs, people come together face-to-face and actually engage with each other in more meaningful ways. Many of the friends that I have acquired over the years were the result of my gaming groups. Creating a story together with friends creates a permanent bond that brings the group closer together. My friends and I can still reminisce about the great adventures that we went on together many years ago.