A behavioral analyst takes on tabletop roleplaying

I stumbled across a very interesting article in which a certified behavior analyst (basically a clinical psychologist) takes an interesting look at why roleplaying gamers love their weird hobby so much.

Read it and tell me what you think.

If you hadn’t played before and never saw the appeal, would this help you see why someone might want to spend their precious free time huddled around a table with a handful of other people and figurines and maps and dice?

If I hadn’t played before, this article would’ve made me want to try it. It’s a bit of a nerdy/sciency/esoteric take on the subject, but I like that kind of thing. And anyway, it didn’t take much to make me want to try it back in the day. I thought “Well, this sounds weird” for less than a minute before my skepticism melted away, and the first time I played a game I was hooked.

I don’t play nearly as often as I used to. As I get older (and brain surgery didn’t help), it gets harder to be an effective Gamemaster, from a sustained-energy standpoint if nothing else. And unfortunately, nobody else in my immediate circle can run a game or wants to try.

But even when several weeks elapse between games, I’m always thinking about either running a game or making one. It’s funny how this thing grabs hold of some of us and just doesn’t let go.

4 thoughts on “A behavioral analyst takes on tabletop roleplaying

Add yours

  1. Have you considered taking a look at any of the ‘quickstart’ rules available on RPGnow or Drivethru? The reason I mention them is that given your pattern of playing and your ambitions they may suit you. So rather than having to read a 400 page rulebook you can just read typically 40 pages including an adventure. You play the adventure maybe as a one shot session or maybe a couple of sessions. Then you move on to the next quickstart booklet.

    The frequency of your play means that they are probably being released as fast or faster than you could play them.

    You don’t need to do any prep as the first adventure is normally entirely self contained and they typically come with a raft of pregen characters.

    For you you also get to see a wide range of game mechanics. As an indie game developer the more ways you see of doing things the more you can challenge yourself to produce the best your game can be. I know you know Rolemaster but Mutant:Year Zero also has a critical hit system that is worth taking a look at if you have criticals in your game.

    A few years ago everyone was producing ‘Lite’ versions of their games as a sort of try before you buy option. Now those have given way to these 40 page quickstarts. So as an exercise could you reduce FAR down to 40 pages without its character creation rules (you don’t need those as a QS rules come with pregens)?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have done a bit of that — it’s time I checked again and did some more reading. I don’t usually play them, though…maybe I should. It’d be good exercise for all of us in my little family gaming group. I’ll have to take a look at Mutant: Year Zero. I actually have *only* criticals in my game (no HP at all). Seeing another implementation of crits can only be a good thing.

      I absolutely could produce a 40-page rulebook (or something close). I’ll probably try to do that for playtesting purposes before I try to actually detail everything out. I can learn a lot from having people read the streamlined rules and trying to play them, and people are more likely to give the short version a look in the first place. 🙂


    1. Thanks for the reply and the follow! I always fail when I try to explain why this hobby is so fascinating or how it hooks so deeply into the psyche. I’m going to have to look up Adler, Bandura, and Skinner so I can follow what you’re talking about there. 🙂 Who knows, maybe it’ll also help me be a better GM and make my own game better.

      But aside from that, your description of how roleplaying invites thought (I’d say demands it) and and how the game rewards thoughtful play is the best explanation I’ve seen of why someone might like it — and also how I got hooked on it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Website Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: