There was a time when all I wanted to do was roll dice to punch Orcs in the face and hack Skeletons to tiny bits.
Okay, if we’re being honest, that was yesterday? Earlier this morning maybe? And don’t get me wrong, rolling dice to burn things and blow stuff up still really appeals. It probably always will. (Oh, there’s a “but” coming.)
But, I think the psychology behind some of the more destructive fantasies is worthy of examination. No, I’m not in danger of attracting police attention. Rolling dice and using spells to level buildings is plenty sufficient to keep me off certain watch lists.
So, why all the harshness within TTRPGs?
Maybe it’s an imbalance in the Divine Masculine? Maybe my chakras are misaligned. Maybe it’s an imbalance in my Sacral Chakra? It could possibly be something deeply psychological, and little more.
See, your humble narrator used to get picked on a LOT from the time I was in elementary school all the way through high school. Bullies would ride up to little Jeff and steal his book bag, pull his coat up over his head, or count coup as they rode by to just punch me. Middle school kids can be the most cruel little heathens you can imagine. (I will attest to this now that I have kids of my own at that age.)
That was about the time I discovered roleplaying games. I was 8 or 9 when I was introduced to Marvel Superheroes and Dungeons & Dragons. Ah, good times. That’s where the fantasy took root.
I still got picked on regularly, but now I had a mental outlet for all the pent-up aggression.
Now that I’m older, I think I would have benefited from meditation and all the Zen Buddhism I discovered in high school. I still admire those monks to this day. But, a d20 roll and 1d6 damage had to suffice back then.
The friends I discovered from gaming were true friends. We kinda shared that common “nerd” bond. We played all manner of games where the bad guys got beat sometimes in the most brutal fashion possible. Every one of us enacted some sort of revenge fantasy on orcs (bullies,) goblins (kids teasing us,) and skeletons (general childhood frustrations.) I forgot to mention, Drow were the girls who turned us down and openly mocked us asking for a date. (I had two friends who were big on that one. <cringe>)
The good thing is, NO ONE WAS HURT IN THE REAL WORLD!
I can’t stress this enough. TTRPGs are a great way to blow off steam. Think about a bunch of carefully painted miniatures on a battle map, slugging it out with sword and spell. D20s and damage dice going back and forth. I would dare say that is far healthier mentally and physically than, say, ambushing and beating the unholy living sh*t out of some kid who bullied us on the playground last month.
I hate to use school shootings as another example, but it’s true. Teenagers tend to make a lot of heated emotional decisions that have permanent consequences. Thinking back on it, I could have been one of those kids. Literally. If we’re being totally honest, it’s not like I never thought about it. But I never did it. Cooler heads always prevailed. That was 30+ years ago.
Obviously, that would never, ever happen now. I truly weep in my heart for the kids and families who have suffered at the hands of school shooters and unwarranted gun violence in America. Thank God I and my friends found better ways to channel that aggression without hurting anyone. I sincerely wish more kids would pick up a d20 instead of a gun.
If I’ve learned anything from being an “Old Grognard” it’s that roleplaying can be a good outlet for heroic fantasy.
Supers RPGs such as ICONS are fabulous for making bullies pay for their wrongdoing and making the little guy the hero of the story. That’s sort of the nature of comic books, isn’t it? Science nerd Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider and gradually becomes a force for epic good. Little Billy Batson says “SHAZAM!” and transforms into a guy with powers rivaling those of Superman. It’s not just about beating up bad guys, but learning what being a hero is all about!
I think that’s the other lesson to be learned here. Our fantasies in any RPG are also a wonderful way to explore all the good things of which we’re capable. Truth, justice, friendship, compassion and freedom are all possible within a game session. Through roleplaying, we can experience life the way we desire it to be. We can try out new personas that are somewhat like our own, but in a way that helps us explore and no one gets hurt.
Have a great day/night wherever you are. Please be kind in the real world. Please be the change you want to see. Thank you for being here. I’m grateful for you.