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As a boy I learned to play Dungeons & Dragons. I don’t mean this Dungeons & Dragons. I mean this one.

Since then, I’ve learned and played a variety of role-playing games, including the latest version of Dungeons & Dragons. I enjoy all that I’ve played, and liked the look of most that I’ve read.

But there’s something missing in most recent role-playing games — fate. Role-playing games now offer players too much choice. Not for nothing did Dungeons & Dragons, the grandsire of all modern role-playing games, put instructions for random generation of character ability scores first in its book.

In the real world, you have the innate abilities that fate has granted you. Some people are strong; others are weak. Some strong people are also smart; some are stupid. Some agile people are healthy; some foolish people are repulsive. A wide range of ability is possible in any given person.

The grand trick of life is to accomplish what you want within the framework of your innate abilities. Pining for ability you wish you had but lack will do no good. You must progress from where you are. That might involve improving on what you can accomplish with your innate talent. It might involve learning to leverage the talents you do have to compensate for other talents you lack. But it’s the great task we all face.

Early RPGs modelled that. You let the gods of the dice dictate your ability to you, and from that fated ability set, you decided how to make your path through life. You would likely choose to pursue an occupation based on your strongest abilities. But you might choose an occupation you preferred out of mere taste, and used the strengths you had to make up for mediocrity in the conventionally accepted prerequisites for that occupation. And of course, some occupations would simply be closed to you.

That’s an RPG that can help a person cope with life. Now all we see are childish escapes.

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