People often quote Coleridge about, “that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment which constitutes poetic faith.” While I have long been an admirer of Coleridge, for the longest time I couldn’t quite understand what he meant. For me, the idea that the poet would send the reader into a kind of sleep-like state, “only to yield ourselves to a dream,” felt inadequate.
In relation to roleplaying games, I do not suspend my disbelief in the slightest. I am waiting to engage in the active participation of the “dream” because, at heart, I want to believe in the World, the Game, and the emergent Narrative. Perhaps this simply means that I am not a poet and would rather engage in frivolous imaginary games.
My point, however, is serious: I want to believe in your World. I desire to be convinced by the humanity (or not) of your fantastic characters. I hope to dream along with you and share in this glorious imaginary endeavour. I do not willingly suspend my disbelief; rather, I willingly engage my trust. For the duration of play, I need to know you believe too.
For a little while, if you will indulge me, I seek to be transported out of this mundane and petty, corrupt “real” world of lies and instead escape to a realm of magic and wonder. I wish to travel and explore strange new lands, to discover the wonders of what only you – as the GM and as a unique human being – can conjure.
When I roleplay, I seek to identify with my character – we are as one, player and avatar – and to experience the Otherworld through imaginary senses. I beg that you would not sully the journey with trivialising distractions, doubting the supernatural power of the dreams we share, “with our eyes open.”
While this is most certainly a game, this is a transformative game. A place were we can imagine alternative realms and realities. It is a game of imagination and camaraderie, a shared fantasy perhaps but no less magical for the unreality of it in the eyes of the outsider. For us who travel within the Otherworld, it is a time for belief and trust in the vision of the Gamemaster. I, for one, choose to believe.