I finished up a contracted project this week, which means that I've got some free time to fool around.
Okay, actually it means that I can start working on the next round of revisions on Project 2016 and on a short piece for the anthology my local writing group is putting together. But I can pretend that I'm going to take some time to relax.
Really, one of my favorite pastimes is one that mixes well with my work. It lets me explore stories and try to get inside a character's head to see what they'll do when confronted with different situations and options. It lets me take part in a narrative that may go down unexpected roads. It lets me get a sense of who a character is without having a specific set of events planned out and pinned down.
Have you figured out what I'm talking about?
RPGs have, in the last five years or so, become one of my favorite hobbies. I played my first session of D&D back in 2012 and had more fun than I think I've ever had in my life. I've tried other systems since then--World of Darkness, one of the Star Wars systems (shout out to my RPG buddies from grad school--I miss you!).
I started playing the first Dragon Age game around the same time, and while video games aren't and will never be my "thing," Dragon Age and Mass Effect are two series that I'm pretty much always down to play, and I've played each game over and over.
I think, for me, the appeal hits on two levels. The first is the performance. I love theater--I had aspirations for being an actor at one point. Though I'm not able to pursue that professionally, it is still nice to get to play around and stretch those muscles (you never stop being an actor, I think--but you do sometimes stop trying to make your money that way).
The second draw is the way that the games help me figure out a character. I've never written anything that stars a character that I played in an RPG (though my WoD changeling Val is begging for a story), but I have sometimes based my characters on things that I'm working on. It lets me put the character in a situation where I don't know what will happen. This isn't really possible in a story that I'm writing because, as I've mentioned, I start with some pretty thorough outlines. Knowing what happens or what needs to happen changes the way that I approach the character.
Playing with a character in an RPG lets me take the character out of the box. In tabletop, I don't know the endgame. I have to rely fully on the character's instincts, even if those instincts mean that the character is going to run right up to something that will probably try to kill them (I played a chaotic good druid once and nearly died pretty much every session).
Even playing a character based on one of mine in a video game is useful. I know the story (because I pretty much only play two series of games, and I know how all of the current stories end), but the situations aren't the same ones that I put my characters in. It gives me a chance to sit down and figure out what different situations might pull from my characters. I've learned a lot about who some of my characters are this way.
So I'll still be working on projects in the coming weeks. But I do plan to spend some time playing--because the playing, even when it feels frivolous, helps.