become who you pretend to be.

Hi Reader,

Welcome! Please, come in. Our dogwood is finally blooming, so I put some of its flowers in a bowl of water.

Back in high school, I was a theater kid. Mostly tech, but on stage a few times. I hadn't decided if I was there to hide myself or show it.

One day after school, I wandered past the auditorium’s stage door. On the door-glass, someone had taped a sign. In a high school student’s scrawl, the sign said:

WE, the Bavarian Illuminati—WHO CONTROL EVERYTHING—issue you this warning:

That was it.

I never figured out who wrote it. But it's stayed with me for 35 years.

You become who you pretend to be.

I've decided that can be bad or good.

When it’s bad:

You’re hiding your feelings—from everyone else, but inevitably from yourself, too. Your identity feels false. You’re living a lie, although most of the time, you think that's a rather harsh way to put it.

You’re role-playing, but it’s not a game. If it ever was one, it stopped a long time ago. Most days, you forget it’s an assumed role at all.

You need to remember.

Tabletop role-playing games are great for this. Safely inside their "magic circle," you try on identities you know are false. Once or twice, you recognize yourself in them. Just a piece. It glimmers in the game’s half light. It retreats, but maybe you follow it. Regardless, the vision stays with you.

It's becoming second nature to pretend to be someone. Games help you pretend to be someone else. Sometimes, it can be anyone else.

When it’s good:

Every day, you try on the person you want to be. Every day, that person fits you better. You act as them longer and get closer to being them full-time.

In cynical moments—which may be most days—it feels fake. The vestiges of your old life are littered around you. You wonder if you're just pretending.

But you'll become who you pretend to be. Or pretend to just be pretending to be.

Because you know that "fake" person connects to something vital. Healthy, full of life. Hold onto that.

When you play role-playing games, you might play a fantasy of your one-day self, to flex. Or an effigy of your old self, to bat around. Or someone in between. Games let you explore all their contours, connections, and contrasts.

Find games that let you do that.

Let go of games that feel flat or hollow—rat races of XP, dead monsters, and gold.

Cleave to games that open up emotions you didn’t know you still had.

It works if you work it. Keep working it. Trust the Bavarian Illuminati:

You become who you pretend to be.


P.S. I'm pushing for something vital in every part of Defy the Gods. But the one character who really feels like this email is the Revenant. They died, but they escaped the Underworld. Whoever they used to be, they're not them anymore. They're figuring out who they want to be, and they ask their friends reflect that back to them. Check it out over at the public beta!

Everlasting, Neverending Game Night

🌈🚀 Reliable wonder engine. I make narrative role-playing games that imagine a weirder, queerer, more connected world.

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