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Real emotional range in an RPG

I was just watching an episode of Angel and one of Protoganists died (for about a minute.) A couple of scenes later, he is with his girlfriend who demonstrates anger and grief at almost being abandoned. It was a scene I could not imagine ever actually being acted out in an RPG. Described yes (My character is filled with grief) but sitting around the living room with my 4 buddies and almost breaking down in tears with performed grief, well ... no.

Maybe that is my own failing, but it seems like I would be embarrased to be in the room if if actually happened. Is this is just my personal story arc or is there an "acceptable" or expected emotional range that we expect from a RPG?

Been there. It has happened. It's rare, certainly, but mainly because true grief is rare in heroic genres.

And yeah, it's embarrassing, a little... but grief is embarrassing in real life, too. Seeing someone grieve makes us uncomfortable, and that is the root of embarrassment.

I've run games where players have shed real tears in very emotional played-out scenes. So it happens. It's uncomfortable and heart-rending and a little embarrassing and a lot of wonderful.

I've had two experiences that I would call truly "emotional" during an RPG session. Neither were embarassing*. They both happened in long-term groups among players that were close friends outside the game. Both were serious, tear-inducing scenes.

But in my recent forays into Nar gaming (in the past couple of years or so) I've noticed a big increase in "emotional play" in general. Given the way Nar games work, they tend to revolve more around the thoughts and feelings of the real people playing, and I tend to just "feel more" when playing them.

It's like the difference between watching Breaking the Waves and Die Hard. They each have their place.

*The embarassing game was the Everway playtest in which we had to get up and "dance in the style of your character's background." And we all did it. I hope there's not a video of that somewhere.

Yeah, I've had a tear-enducing scene back in college - the group was smaller than normal as not everyone could make it to the game, but by the end of one scene one of the players was very emotionally stressed-out.

Too, I've been in Ravenloft games run by a very talented GM/ST/etc where a number of us were seriously scared, frightened, terrified... and had to remind ourselves that it was only a game.

But yeah, I do think that it is highly dependent on the group, the circumstances, and the like.

Personally, I use the emotional attachment of the players to their characters as a sign that the game is going well. If the players have emotional investment and get mad, scared, angry, sad, grief-stricken etc about the events of the game it is a good sign - I know that they care!

I think it comes from my background in coaching sports - I know that if a player gets mad or upset a little bit (but not enough to be disruptive to the team) then it means that they have their head in the game - they are motivated and focused.

Laughter and joy are also emotions that I really focus on too. I have seen players giving each other high 5s at the end of sessions, spontaneous cheers and applause. One of my players played a bard that wrote a poem chronicling a difficult session that moved a few to tears and was really emotional for all of us. It also capped off a year long campaign and was the last session for that group, which might have had something to do with the emotional outpouring.

I have to admit that I have never been embarassed about the emotion that people feel in the game. It seems a bit strange to me, but I also play with a male and female group where most of the players have known each other for a number of years (up to 20 or so) so the environment is supportive and safe for everyone.

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