This single question in all its many forms is really a great place to start talking about the topic.
Role Playing Game
This term currently has two main definitions and a lot of subtext under each one. Only one of them will be talked about in this blog. I am sorry to all of you wearing the naughty nurse outfits and looking for hand cuffs. This blog is not for that kind of role playing.
One of the best definitions of a Role Playing Game that I have ever heard is “Role Playing is ‘Lets pretend’ like you used to play as a small, but with more rules.” So if you used to play Cowboys and Indians, Ninja and Samurai, House (with or without the costumes) or any of the thousands of other versions of the game where you pretend to be someone else, and act out their ‘Role’, while using your imagination to tell a story of any sort, then you have played a very basic role playing game.
The three most common versions of RPG’s right now are Tabletop, Live Action, and Console/Computer. Sorry to my friends out there that see Console and Computer games as different, but this is my blog and those are the breaks the way I see them.
Table Top games is where most of this started, and it is the side of things that is currently facing the biggest challenges. Table Top RPG’s require getting people together (yeah it’s a social thing) and having everyone agree on a set of rules, a person who will be in charge, and then making up different characters (Roles) by the rules agreed on, and letting the person who is in charge set everyone else on the path to tell a story. Some times the person in charge lets the other players drive the story, other times the person in charge has a story to tell and the other players become the main characters. There are a few other ways it can go but that is the most general break down. When challenges come up, be they fighting, social, or intellectual there is a method in the rules that lets you figure out if what the characters want to do succeeds or not. Methods and results vary.
Live Action (LARP or Live Action Role Playing) games started out with people trying to merge the old Lets Pretend with more rules, better costumes and in some cases figuring out fights with fake weapons. Many of these grew out of either Historical Reenactment groups or from people playing the Table Top games and going ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if…’. Live action games get a bad rep, well, for a lot of reasons. To me it seems like a natural extension of the Table Top world.
Computer / Console RPG’s are an interesting version of things. They can allow you to play all by yourself, they can allow you to create costumes and give you a really visual place to play that you could by no means afford in the non digital world. I mean really would you rather tell your friends at the table you are tossing a fireball at the vampire, toss a pouch full of cornstarch at someone in a costume in a Live game, or actually see the flames come out of your characters hands and watch the freaky blood sucker burn to ash right in front of you? MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) games try to combine getting people together at a table and the computer ‘I don’t need other people’ thing together in the same place at the same time.
Personally I think there is something positive in all of them. Not having typing skills that rock (sort of needed for MMO’s), and having no costuming skill at all (definitely needed if you are going to play Live) leaves me with Console and Table Top as my main venues. But to be completely honest, I love Table Top the most any way so it does not really hurt my feelings.
Now then if you want some examples… lets see here
Table Top – Dungeons and Dragons (any version), GURPS, Strange and many others
Console / Computer – Suikoden (Play Station), Final Fantasy (Play Station) Curse of the Azure Bonds (yeah that’s an ooold PC RPG from SSI like back in the 80-86 days), World of Warcraft (yeah the big boy of MMO’s right now) and again many others.
Live – Minds Eye Theater (born from the Vampire and World of Darkness RPG’s and the Camarilla), SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism – and yeah you are all doing a LARP whether you admit to it or not) and do I really need to say many others again…
So that covers the basic technical description, an idea about the ways it can be done, and some sample titles for all the different ways it can be done. But does that really answer the question I asked?
If it does not for you then let me just offer up this last little bit, a personal way of looking at an RPG. An RPG is my favorite way to get people I enjoy spending time with together to have some time sharing a story, building something creatively, and socializing with individuals who share at least one interest with me. That is an RPG.
Oh and for all you doubters out there who were expecting me to say something about worshiping Rush Limbaugh or the dark magics needed to summon an honest politician, yeah this is a close as ya get 😉
Gimme the Dice, I need to check for traps.