Grinding to a Halt

In my woefully small sample of pen-and-paper games, I’ve only managed to play a single style. It was a customized set of rules based far more on story than mechanics. In fact, we rarely rolled any dice, and the focus was on dialogue.

I started to see a disconnect between pen-and-paper games and MMORPGs. MMOs are typically approached in a quest-based manner, where you play errand-runner rather than hero. You kill things, deliver letters, investigate strange happenings, and kill more things. But in campaigns (at least the ones I’ve seen firsthand), you’re actually participating in a story and making choices that matter.

So why are we using quest-driven story, when it’s a poor medium for storytelling? The best stories we can get in MMOs are basically action-based dungeons or particularly interesting quest chains, but those are few and far between. If we’re going to suspend our disbelief anyways by having long quest chains that don’t actually influence or have impact on the world, why can’t we just have full-on high-quality campaigns instead of quests?

I suppose this would dispel the illusion that MMOs are multiplayer, and further enforce the fact that our stories are entirely single-player. We can only truly participate in these MMO stories as “sideline heroes,” who have the “honor” of watching a famous NPC accomplish everything of significance. Not to say that everyone can be, or even should be the chosen one who saves the world. Just that everyone needs to be an important character in their own story. Kind of like real life, don’t you think?

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