Monday, June 3, 2024

We're Not Playing the Same Game

The Battlezoo ancestries products are not just another set of 'alt ancestry' products for 5E. They offer a unique experience, allowing players to step into the roles of dragons, monsters, mimics, and even dungeons, a concept that sets them apart.

However, these products highlight the rift between most of 5E and the rest of roleplaying.

5E is becoming a heavily identity-based, non-human, and almost cartoonish game solely interested in escapism. It is practically an opiate-level of escapism in some social circles, where players get addicted to this "complete break" from reality, and these heavily antihomophobic ancestries only seek to highlight the disconnect between reality and fantasy.

This explains much of 5E's divergence from the role-playing I grew up with, which is mainly reflected in the OSR. In my time, we would all play humans or human-like backgrounds and "sim the character" through a heroic life. 5E is moving towards an almost story-game-like level of disconnect and escapism from reality. This also explains why characters can't die, the over-emphasis on safety tools, and the "you can't do that to my character" feeling that is going on.

While 5E can do "traditional roleplaying," where players play mostly human-like characters and "sim" a heroic story, that is not the direction of the game and what is popular.

When people talk about tabletop roleplaying and 5E, it pays to figure out what you are talking about before you get involved, and this is true with communities, too. You will join a primarily "identity roleplaying" group and expect to be talking about traditional heroic simulator gaming. You will be blindsided by people wanting to take on the identities of talking flowers and plush toys.

I also like this "identity-based" roleplaying genre, so I am not downing it.

I don't mix the styles since they are focused on very different things. I can, at times, but the mood in each deserves to be the game's sole focus.

But I do see a clear difference here.

There is a lot of friction between these two play styles, which causes issues. I grew up with the more "heroic life simulator" - like The Sims game, where mostly human-like heroes struggle to save the world, better themselves, and fight the demons within. Star Wars is a good example. This is your typical OSR-style play.

Then you have those who want to "live another life" in a humanized anthropomorphic form, who play not for the "heroic sim" but more to escape reality, put on a cosplay costume, and assume a role far removed from their human body in this world. This is where 5E (and Pathfinder 2 is like this) is going and is heavily anime-influenced.

It may be time for 5E to abandon the old-style "hero sim" entirely and adopt the more identity-based play genre. Make it so you buy your form, abilities, and a few special powers with a point pool and have no "preset ancestries" the game ships with. Like you buy a dragon form, wings, claws, breath weapon, and armored scales with your ancestry points - and just "say what you are." If you want to be a talking flower plant person, buy that form and powers, and just "say what you are." You could create a human, too, if you wanted, but the game, by default, should allow you to build any "talking form" you want and play that.

Identity 5E is a game different from Traditional 5E.

While the rules are the same in both, players can cross over between games, and the expectations of what a character or adventure is differ so wildly that the two groups might as well be living on two different planets.

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