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Roleplayers! Don't be afraid to Rollplay!

Disclaimer: Before we get to the topic at hand, I feel the need to highlight that I have not grown up in USA and I might have a different view on RPGs' trends and history. For example, D&D was never that popular in Poland. There where far fewer players of DnD, than of Warhammer, World of Darkness or Call of Cthulhu. Because of that, Polish roleplaying scene in the 90s and early 2000s was more saturated with dark and grim motives, and more narrative play, than leveling up and overcoming powerful enemies. So, while the statements about RPG fandom might not be true where you live, the rest of the article can still be of use to you.


There seems to be an understanding, that rollplaying (having your game centered around the dice rolls) is somehow lesser to focusing on the story and acting in character - in other words - roleplaying. But, the fact is, that rolling the dice and having unpredictable results is a big, fun generating, chunk of any RPG session... and was for ages. In the old-timey times of RPGs (so 70s and early 80s) rolling dice to generate the narrative was a normal thing to do. With the advent of TSR products (especially adventures), gamers abandoned this method and turned to more scripted way of playing - something that, the mainstream experiences to this day. Don't get me wrong - I am glad we have this approach - producing adventures and expansions for RPGs allowed the publishers to stay afloat, allowed gamers everywhere to experience narrative ideas of other people and expanded our hobby in new and exciting ways. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, we, as gamers,  lost the ability to skillfully benefit from random dice rolls in a narrative way. This article aims to bring back some of that old-school charm, show you the benefits of using some random fun in your game.


Embrace the (Bad)Luck:  
RPG is not playing some luck-less euro style boardgame, we do not trade in the Mediterranean. Luck is a big factor during a game session and should be embraced. So many times I have seen players getting angry at a failed dice roll, and so many GMs relying on successful dice rolls to keep the story rolling forward. Instead of seeing dice result as "live or die" outcome for the narrative - think of an alternative. No matter the die result - find a way to push the story forward. Think how movies and books do it - the enemies capture the incapacitated heroes, failing to persuade the baron forces the protagonists to sneak into the castle masquarade ball, and so on... and so on.
Think of failing the dice rolls as adding another obstacle - something that can make the coming scene, while improvised, an interesting addition to the game session. Think of underlying goal of the characters, not what the test represents, but what the character is trying to achieve in the long run. And when they fail, put an obstacle that makes it harder to achieve the goal (he players got wanted to break into the castle, but when defeated, they are being put on slavers carts, to be sold as slaves in the city 2 days away).
Even, if the GM doesn't have an idea how to push the story, maybe players will? So many times, my players pushed the story forward (The Baron didn't allow you to attend his ball, but you need to get there, what are your options?). 
Try to remember that any result should lead to an interesting outcome and not a dead end. Always give the players a way to come back to their goal, but toss an obstacles or few on their journey.

Once you will get a hang of the dice not spoiling your adventure, add some extra randomness to your games with random tables

Tabletop now with more Random Tables:
Random Tables where common in older RPGs.  They would be used for everything, from effects of eating strange fungi to generating a full characters backstory. Some of them survived and are still visible in today's games. The most common of them are random encounters tables. When used correctly, random tables are a great tool bringing an interesting variety to your game session. You can find them in D&D, Deadlands and many other games out there, but there is a "gold mine" of good random tables available online. There are even websites and blogs dedicated entirely to them - like the Age of Fables, or the Dungeon Dozen. Just google for rpg random tables and You can find some great ones. Or, create some of your own specific to your campaign - and if you do so - share them with the world!

Read Tarot straight from your table:
Ok, you have nice set of random tables for your game, what to do now? First - learn how to read tarot!
No, honestly, even if you don't believe in divination and magic and all that stuff, go and find out how to read tarot cards - it will benefit your improvisation skills in gaming and teach you how to read symbols and abstracts and turn them into a narrative. While this skill is great for GMs, it can benefit players as well - giving them ideas for "out of the box" resolutions for problems. You will notice that this skill is easily transferable to using with random tables. Suddenly, a simple random monster entry, or a single sentence will spark your imagination and allow you to create narrative on the fly.
At first, you can start by creating scenarios for your game this way, so you have enough time to think and expand on each and every thought that comes to you.
When you get a single entry, try to ask yourself a series of questions that will expand the narrative. Let's say, you got a random encounter from a table. Some monster(s). Don't just make them charge at the characters - make them interesting. Ask yourself what are they doing there, what is around them, what they where doing before, what are they planning to do next? Ask yourself open questions and create a basic story for them, flesh out the entry a bit. Remember that whatever result you roll you are able to fit it into the narrative with interesting results.

Spice up your game with Randomness:
You don't have to jump into creating whole sessions on the fly with random tables. Some people find it challenging (at least at first), others simply prefer exploring carefully crafted adventures. But nothing is stopping you from adding a little randomness here and there. Almost every other cRPG has some random elements, even if it is only random loot. But other games embrace it (like Borderlands for example) and that makes the games more interesting and more unique.
Start by introducing some random segments in your game. Random loot found on enemy dungeons (even a single trinket), random encounters while travelling, random rumors in towns (especially that you can always backtrack from rumor - saying it was only a rumor and not true) or random traits for NPCs etc. Start small and start expanding - you will be surprised how a small random element can create something memorable for the whole gaming group.

Go on, have some random fun.