A couple of years ago, I was approached by a player who was considering getting back into roleplaying after an extended hiatus from the activity. It transpired that he had dropped out because he found himself objecting to the concept of magic on religious grounds – the idea itself was blasphemous to him, and he had been wrestling with his moral objections for an extremely long time following a particular bad experience that had left deep psychological and moral/ethical scars. He didn’t give any details about the incident, just its effects on him.
I don’t intend to discuss the rightness or wrongness of his beliefs or his attitude. I respect that HE believes in his faith, and neither saw nor see any need to debate it. He was an extremely intelligent and creative, and we had a long discussion about philosophy and ethics and morality and religion. He made a number of contributions to the campaign in question that will shape it for years to come. I was really looking forward to his participation.
Ultimately, he decided that his faith would make him too uncomfortable if he were to play, to the point of hindering his potential enjoyment of the game. And that’s what this particular blog is all about.
For all its depth, its capacity to inspire and to motivate people to educate themselves on a vast array of subjects, its capability to examine deep issues of morality and philosophy, ultimately an RPG is a GAME first and foremost, and the reason you play a game is for enjoyment. If you happen to find such debates and explorations entertaining, that’s fine; but you always have to afford people the right to believe what THEY believe, regardless of your own opinion on the subject.
That means that some subjects should always be taboo within your game, and that these restrictions will change with every player that comes and goes. The minute that you transgress against one of them, at least one person at your table will stop having fun. And if they stop having fun for too long, they will find something else to do that is more satisfying to them, which damages not only your game, but every game that the affected player might have participated in for decades to come.
I’m not angry or upset that this particular person chose not to play; while it’s my personal belief that we would both have benefitted from his participation, the choice was his, and it was his right to make it as he saw fit. What’s more, I believe that if one person at the table is not having fun, the ‘wet blanket’ factor drags down everyone else just a little. Sometimes, that’s necessary in order to keep others satisfied, but it’s still something to avoid when possible.
No, my ire is for a person whose identity I don’t know – the person who so transgressed apon this player’s personal beliefs that they drove him out of gaming for a decade. Whenever I think of this subject, even tangentally, I mourn the lost contributions that this player could have made. So think about that the next time you decide that it would be fun to push the your player’s boundaries, and make sure that you aren’t pushing too far or too hard.
Oh, as a postscript: It’s my understanding that the player in question has found himself a game elsewhere and is enjoying himself greatly, having made his peace with the moral qualms that prevented him from joining my campaign at the time. More power to him!