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Friday, September 22, 2017

The Unexpected Miracle

A few days ago I wrote a post postulating about the most important factor in being a successful DM.  No fights broke out, but there were a few opposing opinions.  That's good.  That's what I want.  Discussion, dissension, deviation and diversity of thought are what makes our hobby so great.  They can also be its worst enemy, but that isn't this post.

Today I want to talk briefly about that thing that happens when you're so deep into your game, player or DM, that the world around you dissolves so completely that there is only the game.  For the player, there is only the character, the foe, the puzzle, the NPC, the monster.  For the DM, there is the entire game world.  For both, there is a foggy veil between the real world, and the story.  So intensely and completely have both parties come together around the table, that whatever the pressures of 'real life' have been up to that point they vanish in a blue and green swirl of sulfur-filled smoke, the deep chanting of the cult as they reply to the call of some ancient evil, and the fear of the unknown behind the curtain of darkness at the foot of the cave.

This is the Unexpected Miracle of Role Playing Games.

I was listening to Iberionex's podcast and the phrase was coined by Catherine Just, but as I heard and thought about it, I realized that it could apply to gaming or any creative pursuit.

She was talking about that moment, immediately or soon after a creative pursuit where the artist realizes that the work has produced something wonderful, a moment that has coalesced from hard work, technical skill, unusually good timing, and perhaps a few factors both unknown and not planned.  It seems to me that I am always searching for that in my role-playing experience.

It doesn't happen often.

Like Bruenor the master weapon smith, who may produce fine or even excellent work on a regular basis, his craft may yield an Aegis Fang only once.  Could he have produced weapons of equal or greater wonder?  Perhaps, but he got busy so we will never know.

What I find even more incredible about the Unexpected Miracle of role playing is that it only happens when the group has this gestalt.  If any of the players are busy on a phone, if the DM is more focused  on his interests than those of the players, than the moment where it all comes together and will be remembered long after is gone.  Poof!

Many of us, if not most, have stories about exciting, amazing times around the table.  Perhaps we have more than a few.  We also have legends.  There are moments in our personal gaming history where all things around us dissolved, when the swords clashed or the spells burned and a great moment is encapsulated in a sphere of Time Stop woven with Permanence to create what I believe is  the true art, the penultimate realization of the role playing hobby.

It cannot be forced.  It cannot be 'decided upon'.  The Unexpected Miracle simply occurs.

Has this happened for you?  Will it?

Game on.


  1. While I agree you can't plan for it or force it, you can cultivate it.

    Simple table etiquette rules like "no phones at the table" or "be ready with your turn before it gets to your turn" really help the flow of the game.

    Eliminate the easy obstacles and this fuge state may be more common!

    1. A good point. It's always easier to create great art if you have the tools and technique in your arsenal. Setting the stage for a great play helps...and for gaming these sort of house rules are important. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. That has definitely happened for me...and I hope that I have helped that happen for others. The complexity some of us face is the using a Virtual Tabletop it is exceptionally difficult to manage those distractions. Joe in Vegas could have the football game on, or Suzie in Iowa could be making dinner or talking to her sister on the phone. These deep connections for me have always come at a face to face game...and that is something that I miss.

  3. I wrote about this phenomenon a while back, but I like your emphasis on how when those special moments arise, everything else melts away.