Before writing these monthly blog posts I usually take a couple of days to figure out the topic. This month's topic coalesces around themes of fate and chance. I was prepared to go with the title "Disclaiming Fate" but that was before I disclaimed fate by pressing shuffle on my music and low and behold... good ole' Bob Dylan with words most prophetic.
Roleplaying games presuppose agency among participants in elaborate games of make-believe. We come up with skins other than our own to enact, imagining for a moment that we are someone or something else, living experiences beyond the mundane of the everyday. It's an intoxicating subject for us personally because it strikes to the core of our being. My favorite activity on the playground was the sandbox. Alas, games of athletics and skill have always eluded me but games of imagination? Fictional symbols and hierarchies? I've always been 'good' at those.
Within the framework of play in an imaginary space there exists a push and pull dynamic between the shared collaborative world of the participants and the individual shards they inhabit. Though the rules of may change, the commonality among these game systems is a resolution mechanic to determine the uncertain.
With either system, the purpose is the same: to disclaim agency in favor of fate. When the dice roll, we know not where they will land. When we say a scene must end "light" or "dark," we scribe down the future as predetermined, even if the details remain unseen.
Yet, we play these games to find out what happens. There are no indicators of score, or even competition really. You can make your character better, you can do what you want - so why allow for the possibility of failure, or even death?
One way I've tried to frame this thought is through the lens of constraints and possibilities. Perhaps that's just a fancy way of saying fate vs. free will, but I'm not sure.
We all live with the reality of inevitability. We are born into circumstances we cannot control, shaped by environments difficult to escape. Life constrains us in ways subtle and obtuse. Yet, within that framework, we all have the agency to calculate, prepare, fight, and control. The possibilities are endless, even if the loops conform around the edge of inevitability.
We all die the same. The universe, as far as we know, is not unique.
But what if we were unbounded? What would immortality look like? Devoid of the constraints of fate, would we see patterns all the same? Or would the infinite canvas of possibility paralyze? What is something without circumstance, subject to the whims of only itself? Is that the holy? Does it remain such if the self defines?
Me, personally, I like rolling them dice every once in a while. It's fun! And you never know what'll happen until you do.
I can see the whole history of the human race,
It's carved right there, on your face -