This post, in part, was inspired by recent content over a Fuzzy’s Dicecapades (Post 1,  Post 2 ), particularly about the video game mentality at the tabletop. But I’ve encountered players who treat tableotop RPGs like a videogame, too, and it’s a frustrating experience when they don’t realize my expectations when I run an RPG. Or when I’m a player expected to dish out MOAR DAMAGE each round.

This video game mentality has been around since…. first-person shooters, I guess. D&D Third and Fourth Editions certainly didn’t help diffusing this mentally (and in my opinion these RPGs encouraged it.) I can’t speak for D&D 5e.

I’m through trying to figure out its origins.

When I can say is this: the video game mentally is almost the opposite philosophy I learned when I started playing tabletop RPGs all those years ago.

The near limitless aspect of RPGs is what appealed to me, as did the notions of the rules being guidelines to show you how to play. And nearly every book said something like If you don’t like these rules, change them. Make the game your own. 

Playing an RPG isn’t about winning. And so on.

Yet the video game mentality is all about winning, beating the game. If you bend or change the rules then you’re cheating and that’s not fair.

Problems arise when a player with a video game mentality enters one of my games (along with their related bretheren, the-player-who-believes-game-balance). They may have played some tough CRPGs in their day, but they often expect the power through any encounter I set against them.

The end result is predictable: their characters die.

But that’s not fair. 

Sometimes their characters live.

But it’s not fair you sent a horde of Fallen Ones from Diablo against our characters.

True story. I did.

And instead of falling back, try to pick off the Shamans (like you’re supposed to do in the computer games), the players charged, relied on the power-through method, got surrounded and nearly all died. In the aftermath they found a pile of treasure and earned lots of experience points.

Let me explain, I said, I don’t believe in fairness, except the fairness and impartiality of the dice roll. I believe in opportunity and the skills to find opportunity.

It’s hard to convince players to this way of thinking. It’s best to not even try.

Maybe they’ll learn, and maybe not.

Don’t try to convert them.