Role Playing Game

A role playing game (RPG) is a game where each player takes on a role like actors on a stage. The types of scenarios played out can range from historical recreations, fantasy or science fiction (or more).

RPGs include:

Tabletop Games - played with paper, pencil, and dice. Massive(ly) Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games or MMORPGs, are virtual persistent worlds located on the Internet in which players interact with each other through cybernetic avatars, that is, graphical representations of the characters they play. look at another wiki: http://en2.wikipedia.org/wiki/MMORPG

Computer Games - solo or multi-player. Some are both. See also InteractiveFiction


Cripes, you forget the genesis of RolePlayingGames - the tabletop game! Long before anyone was playing on computer, people played D&D and its brethren in dining rooms and living rooms, with paper, pencil, and dice... and pizza. Lots and lots of pizza.

And polygonal dice... Ah! The Dodecahedron... How lovely and solid it seems, compared to even the icosohedron.

"I've got a DungeonMaster's Guide... I've got a twelve-sided die..." -- Weezer


People still play the tabletop game! BTW, the description above forgot the great and mighty DungeonMaster, storyteller, etc. -- GuillermoAlcantara

And there's also the newer phenomena of a FFRP, which is generally played online. There are no rules and the players are trusted to react in a realistic way. There are generally administrators who make sure that nobody is entirely unkillable. -- WireHead?


As a young player starting out with DungeonsAndDragons, I was impressed with all the polygonal dice. Later, I began to resent them. How often do you use d12, anyway? And what's the deal with the d30? Who needs that?

Later, as I began to understand the virtue of simplicity, I admired those game systems that tried to get by with one die - usually the ubiquitous six-sider or the ten-siders. These games included Toon, the White Wolf games (Vampire, Werewolf, et. al.) and (I believe) Shadowrun . -- francis ...also GURPS uses d6 exclusively.

Star Wars also used six sided die. Unfortunately, they aren't OpenEndedDice (like Shadowrun). This causes a problem with higher level characters: they have more dice for skills, but somewhere around 7 dice, you start rolling close to average (7 * 3.5). This means you start playing averages, which is sort of bad for a "hero" type RPG. The setting was fun though, and the system simple (unlike games like Rolemaster, which we called RollMaster?). -- JeanPhilippeBelanger

The original Traveller RPG used six-sided dice. The second edition of Traveller (MegaTraveller?) introduced the "Universal Task Profile" (or some such thing) which, allowed for different levels of difficulty. Tasks went from "trivial" to "impossible" and it was pretty much up to the GM and the player to decide how difficult the task was...

Didn't "Top Secret" also only use d10? -- MikeSmith

Yes, with criticals on doubles, if I remember.

Why the emphasis on the dice? In high school I used to play D&D with some friends once a week. Sometimes we would get so wound up in the roleplay that we could go a full day without rolling a die. When we got around to it it was usually because our characters had gotten into some argument that needed to be resolved by force. Those were the days! -- JanLarsen

It really depends on the players: I remember playing with a Paladin who would go into a hotel, detect evil and kill anybody who tested positive. It's pretty hard to roleplay in these conditions, except for repeating the line "we don't know him, officer". -- JeanPhilippeBelanger

Games like Amber (based on RogerZelazny's series) were made to be played completely without dice. -- IainLowe

I think, what you are describing, JanLarsen, is a good RPG session with a good DungeonMaster (DM). That is also why the tabletop RPG games are always superior to the computer-based RPGs. As a DM, you have the option of obeying the source of random data (the dice) or you can ignore it if the situation is right.

A DM can make sure that a Paladin who kills everybody he detects as evil meets an opponent who is evil but for some reason isn't detected as evil. -- KenWronkiewicz

He was going to be jailed. They player got the point and stopped.


It pains me to report it, but the cultural memory of tabletop RolePlayingGames may be fading. I was recently having dinner with a net-artist friend of mine - she does various artsy computer programs, including online video games - and when I was discussing the RolePlayingGame zine I edited in my early '20s it became apparent that she had no idea that RolePlayingGames ever had a tabletop aspect. Her only awareness of the field was stuff like UltimaOnline?, and I had to take about 15 minutes to explain the basics of how it worked, her asking questions like "So you guys would just sit around a table, right? Did you use computers, or... just paper and pencils and dice?" -- francis

Well, it was something of an element of GeekCulture? anyway, which was a pretty small niche of the general population (until relatively recently, arguably). I'm almost of the mind that people that play various computer-based online RPGs like EverQuest (which I've never even seen, let alone played) take the games more seriously than did some of the most hard-core tabletop RPG gamers I know. Some of this may have to do with more sensory involvement, I certainly have gotten sucked into RPGs like the Final Fantasy series of games, as well as Diablo, but then I've also gotten sucked into non-RPG video games. What amazes me is people who spend real money, and often lots of it, for things like weapons and equipment for their EverQuest characters. I heard a while back that a MMPORPG (massively multiplayer online roll-playing game - EverQuest, Mankind, Ultima Online, etc.) that was so big in Korea, people were going to other player's houses and laying a beat down in order to extort their character's items from them. I suppose this may be a more distended, extreme version of buying tons of books for your favorite RPG. I did that a lot, and it was pretty costly over all. Carting everything around got annoying too. I haven't actually played any tabletop RPG in a few years now, and I used to play a lot, but if I did, I'd probably go back to game that emphasized story and game play over anything else. One of the niche favorites the group I used to play with regularly was Kevin Siembedia's Beyond the Supernatural. -- DanMoniz


The fun of playing with a regular group every week was the main reason I enjoyed RPGs. Some groups with good dynamics are still playing. I can see the interest in on-line gaming, though. You trade off some personal interaction (and pizza) for a greater pool of players. The chances of finding like-minded players increases, but the relationships formed (among real people) are usually less well developed. -- SeanOleary


Actually, the two (online and tabletop) merge fairly well. I have been playing in, or running, a game for the last two years via various online communication tools. We started with IRC, went to MS NetMeeting, and are now using OpenRpg for our "chat" needs. Combined with InstantMessaging, and our game's wiki, it all works out well.

One of the things we have noticed is that the group size needs to be smaller. Four players + GM is the hard ceiling we have come up with, with the group fluctuating from 2-6 players at times. Three or four definitely works best when playing via IRC type chat. -- BrianMcCallister


I wonder if anyone tried using a wiki for online RPG. I've seen that in forums, so why not here... (yeah, I'm too lazy to search on my own ^^;)


This page is crying out "RefactorMe!"; it's quite a thicket, though.

Sherpa, an ultra-lightweight RPG, has novel random-number source which emulates a D10 (as you can't use dice whilst walking along). The GM needs a digital wristwatch which has a stopwatch with hundredths-of-a-second precision; it helps if it has a lap-time facility. At the start of the session, he starts his stopwatch. When he needs to roll a D10, he stops the timer (or gets a lap time); the last digit is the generated number. He then restarts the timer (unless he used a lap time). See:

http://www.panix.com/~sos/rpg/s2.html

This page alludes to FreeRolePlaying, but doesn't wiki-link to it. Well, it does now!

-- TomAnderson
The WikiWikiWeb itself could be seen as a role-playing game, even with the use of RealNamesPlease.
The dilemma I always faced when playing or running any RPG's was the attitude of the players. Either they were complete munchkins who couldn't really play characters to save their lives, goofballs who turned everything into a farce, or drama queens who you wanted to tell to roleplay just a tad less most of the time (overacting that was bad acting in the first place is just, well, annoying). Ultimately, I guess the answer is to find a game that appeals to the archetype: Champions is the ultimate game for stats-crunching munchkins, World of Darkness for the pathological dramatists, and Paranoia or some other farcical RPG for the goofballs. Really, the only wrong way to play is to not have fun.
Very true. Although I have discovered after more than 20 years of role-playing, that as you get older and more mature, you gravitate toward systems that focus on development and have more flexibility to create what YOU want, not what someone else wrote and sold to you. I can't stand D20 anymore. I ran that base system for too many years and now I find myself using GURPS. I ran Top Secret and Star Frontiers in the past and had fun but now I am too old to want to learn separate systems for different genres. I wish there was a good, simple generic system out there that ran off a percentile system and rankings that didn't have any direct mention of dice.

-- Todd

Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE) has a system that comes pretty close to this, I think, called Rolemaster. We used it back when I used to run games. (About two decades ago!) ICE went on to acquire the franchise for LOTR-based role-playing games. To my surprise, they're still marketing Rolemaster: http://www.ironcrown.com/RMintro.htm -- DanMuller

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