Is the joy elusive at your gaming table? If you’ve had campaigns that feel heavy, difficult to keep up, or full of inter-player tension, or if you’ve had great campaigns in the past, but the chemistry just isn’t right anymore, you might have a culture problem.
If rules are a superstructure, and play and imagination and story are all the finishes to create a beautiful RPG tower, session zero and the decisions made about rules set, boundaries, and snack arrangements are the foundation upon which you build. But foundations are still built on something. Before session zero you have the culture of your gaming group. If you’re not considering what that culture is, bedrock or swamp, you may find yourself doing a lot of extra work to keep the building standing. Even still, the tower might topple.
If you want to build your campaign on bedrock start thinking about vulnerability. Get this right and gaming joyfully gets a lot easier. It’s the secret ingredient you had when you were a kid, and roleplay was as easy as breathing.
Childhood Roleplay and Easy Fun
Vulnerability is being able to get hurt. Shame and Vulnerability Researcher Brené Brown describes it as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.” Children are remarkably vulnerable. They are physically weak, trusting, and dependent. They are also comfortable with being vulnerable.
Consequently, children don’t need rules to feel like they’re “playing right.” They just have fun. They buy-in imaginatively with no thought to judgement and create fantastic worlds to play in with nary a prop or codex.
Their imaginations flow out of them. All the games of cops and robbers and house are all imaginative roleplay. Young kids haven’t been shamed into thinking there is something naive or stupid about their play.
A little of that immature wonder would do our roleplaying tables some good.