Stuffed Animals are fluff to the core
The players in my current campaign learned how to play D&D from me. Except that with the possible exception of Bubu Singe, they play without learning how. I don’t mean that they’re bad players. Rather, instead of trying to understand the rules, they just imagine their characters and say what those characters do. Terms such as “hit points”, “armor class”, and “level” might be familiar to them, but the meaning behind them is non-numerical. They understand that they’ve become tougher through their previous adventures. And they prefer magical armor to regular armor and regular armor to no armor at all, but I’ve never had to explain why finding a shield +1 changes one’s armor class from 2 to 1. Instead I just have to describe the shield. Yes, sometimes I do have to resort to “you can just tell it’s better than your old shield. “
Bubu Singe does have an appreciation for the mechanics, but he has perhaps sensed my ambivalence about them, and maintains a healthy distance. Ambivalence is the right word. There is a part of me that loves the idea that you not only describe, but generate a universe through dice and random tables. Or at least finds the idea compulsively engaging. There’s another part of me that’s learned that what gives me joy about the game is the feeling that I’m generating a universe in communication with other people. I was a little frustrated in some recent games when the players either refused or overlooked the opportunity to do what I expected them to do. Like someone suggests to Tetsukichi that he should go back to the place where his future father-in-law died to retrieve his body and Tetsukichi replies that he doesn’t remember the way. But what followed was hopefully more satisfying, because it was driven by player actions. And strangely, The House of the Lucky Dragon seems more palpably real for being conceived on-the-fly. (I should admit that the Oriental Adventure daily event tables were helpful in “seeding” my imagination.)
When Bubu Singe runs a game, he lets my character pretty much try to do whatever he wants, and when I “get to the edge of the map,” he lets me suggest what’s beyond. Or to give a specific example, once he started a session by saying, “Ok, since last time, you’ve made two friends in the city—what are they like?” And these two—"a priest" and "a young widow"— have developed into key NPCs.