Don’t Try This In Real Life: Stuff That Only Works In-Game

There are certain strategies, tactics, methodologies, and and assumptions that work perfectly well in roleplaying games (RPGs) — both tabletop, and computer — that, if they were tried in real life, would make said life terrible, terribly exciting, or very, very short.  And I’m not talking about the obvious things, like eating stuff out of garbage cans to make you stop bleeding… well, actually, yes, we’re going to talk about the obvious things. Mostly because ‘obvious’ is a word with any numbers of assumptions to it. So…

  • No, do not eat things that you find in garbage cans.  This is something that mostly comes up in video RPGs, because combat is a big deal, characters get hurt, it’s often a pain to wait around three months in game time while your broken clavicle heals, and this is supposed to be fun, right?  I mean, you may be only playing this game because you broke your clavicle (collarbone, for people like me who had to look it up) in real life and can’t go out and exercise… no, wait, broken collarbones would keep you from playing video games.  Bad analogy.  Look, just go eat this pork chop and get your health bar back up so that you can go kill more humanoids and take their stuff.
  • Do not go up to random humanoids, kill them, and take their stuff. Critical Hits refers to this sort of behavior as ‘murder hobos,’ and it really is an excellent way to describe your regular tabletop RPG adventuring party. Even the good ones.  Particularly the good ones, actually: one of the things about hobos is that they have an actual work ethic. Which is another way of saying that a Good-aligned party will keep killing the appropriate acceptable-to-kill humanoid species out of a sense of obligation long after the equivalent Evil-aligned party got bored and went to do something else.  Videogame RPGs have this problem, too — but they simplify it by teaching you a variant of ‘red circle means kill, green circle means talk.’ Much easier than in real life, huh?
  • Cops will not eventually stop looking for you. Most of them don’t take bribes, either. And the ones that do probably won’t take them for very long if you’re going around driving cars through schools. Fair warning, there.
  • You cannot turn six tin cans into a corrugated iron wall.  Even though every single computer RPG in the world with a crafting minigame will apparently allow you to cast Summon Building Materials at will, using various piles of junk as the material component of your spells.  Seriously, there should be some sort of sparkle when you convert the stuff, because what you’re doing is magic. Remarkably reliable magic, too. And don’t get me started on the way games expect you to MacGyvering your way through life…
  • There is a limit to how much you can MacGyver your way through life. Yes, a skilled mechanic can use baling wire and chewing gum to get a car working again… long enough to get to a shop, which has real tools and a phone to order parts and good lighting.  Jury-rigging is what you do when you can’t fix something. And there’s some stuff you just can’t fix at all.
  • You are not more persuasive than Cardinal Richelieu. This particular character was not my first choice of example, but when I told my wife I was writing this article she narrowed her eyes, scowled, and said “Persuasion checks” through gritted teeth. As a gamemaster (GM) she had more than her share of earnest players who carefully designed their characters to not so much be ‘persuasive’ as ‘capable of telepathic domination of anybody that they spoke to.’  While I feel that I never abused doing that sort of thing, let me assure you: you will never be able to walk up to the President of the United States and convince him to abdicate in your favor.  Not that you should want THAT job, anyway. It ages people.
  • You cannot teleport your way through life. Or skip over the boring parts. Although I suppose that people have already worked this out already.  Personally, I’d love to fast-travel everywhere / wave my fingers and say ‘Time passes.’  I suppose that somebody in DARPA is working on allowing me to actually do either, for a given meaning of ‘me’ that actually means ‘not me.’
  • Lastly: you will not be able to get your horse to carry that refrigerator. Or your dog that set of full plate armor, or your boon companion / reckless troublemaker the twenty tons of oozing hides that you’re going to take back to your basement forge and turn into magical leather helmets by beating on the scraps with a hammer. I know, I know.  When I put it that way…

To be fair, though: I’m not really being fair at all. These are games, and games are supposed to be fun, and often times reality is less fun.  Which is why many of us are playing games; to, you know, relax and not worry so much about reality…


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