So, last night I got together with a bunch of old friends and pretended to be an anarch in a classic WoD one-shot. We revisited the Convention of Thorns and reenacted it for the benefit of a friend's small tabletop group. Damn, it was fun.
It was the kind of fun that got me thinking about other games, ones I've been involved in executing and the ones that have risen up to replace it now that I'm no longer running the local live-action scene. Thinking on it even more (a welcome distraction from other stuff I've had to think about recently), I hearkened back to my days as a player in these games. In so doing, I came to a very important revelation.
Being entertaining trumps the accumulation of wealth and power, no contest.
D&D, the founding father of RPGs, has created what can best be deemed a hostile player-vs-gamemaster relationship. The players control characters in the relentless pursuit of points, power, and wealth while the gamemaster tries to inhibit those accumulations and (gods forbid) perhaps separate players and characters from some of the stuff they've accumulated in the name of challenge, story, and drama. Somewhere in there, the value of entertainment got lost in the shuffle, and the spirit of sitting around the campfire and sharing stories to entertain was corrupted.
As Bob Dylan would say, "Sure was a good idea, 'til greed got in the way."
I think back to all the times I've had the most fun gaming, and they all come down to those moments where everyone hated me or I was most assuredly going to die a horrible death - but someone was reacting to it and things moved forward. I've been the guy in the black suit curling his mustache and tying pretty Penny to the railroad track. I've been the shadowy manipulator behind the throne that everyone knew was really in power and wanted to usurp. Heck, I've even been the lone fruitbat human in a houseful of vampire - delighting in fooling them and making them figure out who I was, why I was there, and what I wanted. It never once crossed my mind that the points and powers I'd worked so hard to accumulate would go down the drain along with the character sheet when I died, because I knew that in dying I was making fun for other people. I've never been content to hunker down, keep my head low, and accumulate points so that I could eventually hang with the other people that had lots of points and get to play the "real" game. I marched into their meetings, challenged their right to be there, and sometimes I got killed for it. I always always always had fun, and I like to think most of the folks I played with did too.
So next time you're contemplating how many more sessions you have to ostrich through to raise your MC or buy that power that'll allow you to finally take your place in the danse macabre, stop and ask yourself where the fun really is. Challenge the people with the points to use their unassailable monstrosities to create fun for others. Point out that you can still roleplay and have fun without being unstoppable. Rub somebody the wrong way so they react in character. DO SOMETHING!
And remember, you can't win at an RPG, but you can't lose either.