I Hurt Myself

There’s something about role-playing and the fantasy genre that lends itself to bad melodrama. It’s often not enough to just be brooding or upset, that has to be the character’s entire raison d’être; player characters have to be moodier and more tortured than the protagonists of a bad teenaged TV drama.

A small part of the reliance on angst is likely the result of inexperience or unskilled writers (for the same reason as the aforementioned bad teenaged TV dramas). But another reason is likely the need for shared emotion. It’s hard to relate to a badass wizard-warrior who is prince of an ancient race, or a dark elf born in a fantastic underground kingdom, or even a half-elf born from violence following a period of war and raised by a noble house.  But it’s easy to relate to angst, feelings of not belonging, and inner turmoil.

At the table, angst and drama is easy because subtle emotion is harder to convey. Gamers are not actors and cannot express complicated emotions with a single look. Overacting and being overly dramatic is a necessary part of the game. Subtleties will be lost across the table with three people talking and the sound of plastic polyhedrals bouncing around.