So what CAN be an RPG?

Hey all… been a while since I did a quick question/rant/whatever thing and so I thought I would just toss this out there… especially since a while back I tossed out a topic called ‘What IS and RPG?

Back in that older post I talked about Table Top, Live Action and PC/Console RPGs. But also that the origins of RPGs are really the “Lets pretend with rules.” I have also been thinking about some of the odd combinations of games that have come up over the years and… well ok so my brain runs in odd circles some times. Just let me roll this out and I hope you will see what I mean.

In my opinion, in the end, EVERY game that has characters, or that you can add a character to, can be an RPG. Let me start out with this example. Magic the Gathering, when it was first introduced instructed you that you were a great wizard, and your deck was your spell book and your resources, and so on. So you were playing out a wizard duel. They also very quickly  came out with a few oversized cards that were supposed to represent you as your wizard self. In some ways that sounds like having a character sheet and a random system to determine success or failure. Not only is your deck your randomize but it is also your inventory list. Pretty much how you do things in an RPG. Some of my friends and I build decks to tell a story. We put things in there that have a main character and supporting cast and all the things they need to complete their story, and everyone else’s decks are the bad guys. Again that is like lets pretend with rules…

There are a number of games that have incorporated miniature combat into an RPG so you can do strategic combat and still role play your heroes. Things like Heavy Gear where it was built that way from the ground up, or BattleTech which added Mechwarrior so that you could take your pilots out and continue the story. So why not go all out and grab something like Hero Clix and make an RPG session with it since almost every figure is a character by name?

Or how about taking all the angst and drama in Zombicide and just going ahead and add an acting/in character element to it and turning it into an RPG board game?

Considering that it is an Augmented Reality game Pokemon Go is sort of the largest Live Action MMO RPG that I have encountered. I just thank my stars that most folks dont dress up in person for that one unless they are at a convention.

If you watch things like the Poker championships on cable sports channels as yourself how many of those players are dressed up and taking on a persona and are not their usual self. Are they role playing? Does that make their poker games a role playing game?

I think that pro wrestling might be the very first live action RPG. I mean sure things are scripted but they have to have some kind of flexibility just in case an accident happens. If someone gets hurt for real you need to adapt your script to compensate for that and the narrative planning has to spin. So reality becomes your randomizing factor. But you are still playing lets pretend with rules.

And then what about things like Fantasy Sports Leagues? You are creating fictional teams with real players. Again reality becomes your randomizer. I have heard water-cooler talk about how a players comments really fit his play, or how they could imagine the player saying that to the team members the League player had selected and that is why all of his team members did so well. Its still lets pretend with rules.

In the end depending on how thinly you want to pull at the strings I am pretty sure you could call just about anything an RPG in the end… dealing with your boss? Talking to the IRS? How many other things could you rack up where you are a character in a narrative with supplies and a random factor that can change the story at any moment? I wont go that far but I may have made you at least think about it for a second. 🙂

So in the end for me… I say that anything with characters in it… fictionalized entities in any way… can become an RPG with just a little effort and or imagination.

Just my opinion… whats yours?

Now gimme the dice I need to see how many NPCs I am interacting with on a daily basis.

  1. #1 by dantherpgman on March 11, 2019 - 5:40 am

    Well I take a more traditional definition of RPG, but I agree you can find RPG elements in many other games or even life situations : )


    • #2 by authortao on March 11, 2019 - 3:34 pm

      I totally agree. Normally I would call an RPG an RPG but it seems like there are so many opportunities to give that title to other things I would run an article on it. 🙂


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