The thing I love most about role-playing games is how they force my brain into creative, collaborative, and improvisational modes.
RPGs in all of their forms are dynamic. The constantly changing circumstances forces players to think on their feet. While this is true for everyone at the table, it’s particularly true for game masters. As the narrators, storytellers, and world forgers, the game master is constantly called on to react to changes at the table. It encourages a mental flexibility that has benefits beyond the game.
I often feel at my mentally sharpest when I’m actively running a campaign. I find myself better able to roll with the world’s punches — like the work meeting that goes sideways — when I’m game mastering because I’m already done that at the table. My brain is limber and react to the chaos because that’s what I do every Sunday night when we’re playing Dungeons & Dragons.
This isn’t to dismiss the benefits of being a player. A good campaign, particularly those with shared world building and lots of role-playing opportunities, can be every bit as mentally invigorating to play. Games that descend from the indy side of things (e.g. Dungeon World, Fate, Fiasco) introduce game mechanics designed to encourage player agency.
Back to game mastering, I also love that RPGs encourage creativity and research. My campaigns led me to research medieval mining techniques, the world’s greatest cavern complexes, airship design, Egyption tombs, and some of the stranger corners of history. I’d never have spent time reading up on a World War I crusier that was dismantled and reassembled on an African lake during the 1930s if not for my Weird Pulp campaign. Hell, the that campaign is legendary within our group for inspiring at the table research into things that enhance the game.
Role-playing games keep me thinking. They encourage collaboration, world building, creativity, and research. What’s not to love about that?