Have wargames made me a better roleplayer?

Perhaps it seems counterintuitive, but can miniature wargames make a person a better roleplayer? I can already hear the objections. “What? Are you crazy? A game that is nothing more than a glorified hack and slash encounter can’t possibly help your roleplaying! That’s just inane!”

I quite possibly could be crazy, but if so it’s for reasons other than my above claim. I’m not trying to convince all you role-players out there to go buy some pewter and put the smack down on your friends. And I’m certainly not saying that people who play wargames are inherently better at roleplaying than those that don’t. What I am saying is that I’ve noticed an improvement in my own role-playing since I started playing Warmachine a year ago, and here’s why.

Combat in a roleplaying game does serve a purpose: to provide a dangerous setting for characters to play out their physical struggles with an opponent and to provide a challenge for the characters and players to overcome or avoid. That’s not to say you can’t have a good game without it, but I do think it’s an opportunity for the wise roleplayer to emphasize his character’s personality. A ruthless character may choose not to leave any enemies alive. A crafty character may use stealth or the environment to his advantage. An extravagant character may fight with a daring but flashy style. A coward character may avoid direct conflict altogether. How a character handles a situation where someone or something is trying to kill him can certainly reveal a lot about that character and removing these encounters can deprive a player of these opportunities.

While I personally don’t want combat to become the end-all-be-all of a campaign, I have to be honest – sometimes it’s fun to roll some dice and attack some monsters. Combat, whether dramatic or gratuitous, gives me as a player a chance to flex my tactical muscles in overcoming an opponent (satisfying my competitive nature) and provides a stage for me to play up my character’s personality. However in the past year since I’ve been playing Warmachine, when I have sat down to a roleplaying game I haven’t really felt the need to get into combat. It’s not that I don’t enjoy a fight when it’s appropriate to the story but I don’t feel like I’ve missed anything if combat never happens. All of the urges to go out and strategize ways to defeat some enemies get fulfilled during my weekly Warmachine games.

So while moving little pewter men around my dining room table doesn’t in and of itself make me a better roleplayer, it does allow me to concentrate on the parts of a roleplaying game I want to emphasize. And in my mind, that’s an improvement.


  1. Hmmm…interesting idea. I wonder if the same could be said for people that MMORPG and then also PnP RP? Do they also get their “primal” urge out of the way and prefer rather to focus on actual RP?

  2. Oddly enough Saultydog and I had a conversation with a MMO player who alluded to that exact fact. He’s a very rules light guy when he plays RPGs, but enjoys the fully automated kill-guys-and-take-their-loot aspect of WoW.

    I don’t know if WoW really gets leveling out of his system per say, but it’s certainly an outlet for a different type of gaming.

  3. I think gamers SHOULD run out and buy a bunch of pewter. It’s a commodity rapidly increasing in market value!

    But on a less asanine note, Seraph said it best: “You do not truly know someone until you fight them.”

    Ok well he didn’t say it very well at all but the sentiment is true. Conflict, as sage Herr Dankelzahn explained to us, is a profound part of existence.

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