I'm sure there's at least one of you out there who know the last half: "...but what you fight for." It's something from a little RPG (and graphic novel series) called Mouse Guard. To me, it represents one of the single most innovative concepts to be introduced to the roleplaying game, because it encourages a strong story tie, instead of having story as something added on for flavor. It also means that the gameplay mechanics have a meaning beyond "have fun and roll dice", which...while it's not bad, it's certainly not what I'd like all my RPG experiences to boil down to.
The Next Component
RPGs have been evolving from step one. It started with Chainmail, and when D&D came around, it had successfully moved the ideas of wargaming into the realm of the individual character, as opposed to armies. As D&D picked up steam, the different roles/classes that a character could have expanded, and story elements started to drop into place, particularly with the advent of new settings. The "roleplaying" aspect evolved, as a way to provide faces behind the characters, and to ensure that they faced interesting new foes along the way.
The concept of putting beliefs into your character's actions, particularly combat, is one further step along the way. By fueling the gameplay with character, you create an entirely new dimension to roleplaying, especially in the game. Beliefs are particularly important because of two things. First, they're big. A belief is not really contained within a person, but is in a way outside of that person. One might believe in freedom, or justice, or revenge, or the love of a friend, and all of those things force a character to move beyond themselves, which is one of the biggest steps in maturation of a character. Second, they don't often change. A character may have doubts from time to time, but when they really believe in something, that belief is one of their greatest strengths, and so it's not subject to change. That makes it ideal to be represented as an attribute.
The biggest stumbling block for incorporating beliefs into the game is that many systems out there (most, in fact), don't incorporate them. Mouse Guard and Burning Wheel (the basis for Mouse Guard) are the only two such systems that immediately come to mind. That doesn't stop you from making your character's beliefs a very real part of the game. In Mouse Guard (to the best of my recollection), Beliefs can serve as a catalyst for actions, and a source of DM reward.
One very simple way to facilitate this? XP. If you're a player, talk this out with your DM. Here's the idea: by default, all encounters yield only partial XP. A fight, however, that upholds or tests your character's belief in a major way yields full XP. The gradient in between those two can be filled in at DM discretion. If your DM calculates XP per group, then he simply splits the XP, and then doles out partial XP to characters whose beliefs aren't upheld or tested by the encounter.
What do I mean by "upholds or tests"? Well, the simple rule of thumb is that if your character can bring a belief to bear on the situation, legitimately, then that would probably qualify. It's a very fuzzy area, though, so let me give some examples.
Example: Baube the Rogue has the belief "It's best to go it alone." If, through a fight, he demonstrates this belief by going it solo, not depending on his fellow party members or substantially helping them, he would earn extra experience for that fight.
As yet another implementation of the belief idea, the DM can put players in situations where denying their belief yields a reward. Following their belief, though, can earn XP. Not only does this mean for character development, but it also includes development into the course of gameplay itself.
So In Conclusion
This ought to provide you with some interesting ideas to make gameplay in whatever RPG you favor a little deeper, more meaningful. Have other thoughts on how to implement this? Let me know in that little comment box beneath!
- Good evening, afternoon, or whatever time it happens to be there, ladies and gents! I happen to be Andy, who happens to be a freelance web designer, musician, writer, and whatnot.Roman Catholic, student of tabletop gaming, and someday soon I'll have my own designs in the field!
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