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Thematic Struggles

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Spun off from the thread in Introductions:

why do we so often set up "thematic struggles". Does life (which fiction is based on) really have any theme? Every person has their own ideas on what's important. For most people throughout history, it's just been getting through from day to day.

We use thematic struggles in fiction because, while fiction is based on life, it is not a representation of real life. It simply cannot be, because fiction has to make sense; real life doesn't for exactly the reason you mentioned.

A work of fiction, of which RPGs are related, are stories where the main characters central. Thematic struggles are relevant because they illustrate an internal conflict within that character. They aren't meant to represent your garden variety, day-to-day life. Good fiction works best when it puts characters in a situation where their actions (and concepts like their alignment) reflect a big internal shift, or a deepening of their conviction.

Themes are useful because they are shorthands for conveying meaning. In real life, we have all day, every day to think about things and work. But in an RPG, a GM has only few hours each week, maybe less, to convey what it is he or she is trying to get the players to see. By holding a theme of "Order vs. Chaos," there is a central pole around which the adventures can be planned. If Chaos is continually shown to be a destructive force, the players will learn to assume "Chaos=Bad."

Once they have learned this fact, and accept it at face value, it allows you as a GM to use it to convey something else. By presenting instances where Chaos is not only not evil, but also good and productive, you can covey a world that has more subtly and nuanced ideas about life, both in the game, and, by extension, out of it.

TL, DR version; We use themes and thematics struggles because they are useful tools to tell interesting stories.

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