Thursday, August 2, 2012


Since this is a blog about role-playing games, I guess I should include some kind of outline for what a role playing game is, and how exactly you play a role playing game. I assume most visitors to the lowly blog are already well-verse in the mechancs of the game, however for those few who stumbled over here, I'm including this entry just to clarify specifics and, maybe, convince the occasional newcomers to give the games a try...

A role playing game (RPG) is a sophisticated form of make believe, in which players ( 4 to 6 of them, 5 being ideal) create their own game persona (called a "player character"), and verbally acts out the part of that persona in a specially designed "game world" controlled by the referee (or "Game Master"). Let me clarify that:

The players pretend to be fantastic heroes, and the Game Master pretends to be everyone else. When D+D talks about 'play acting/ role playing' they mean, the player controls their character's action in the game world. The player does not stay ' in character '  like a theater performance, (although, there are times when the player will have to act out his/her intentions, or introduce their song title / catch phrase etc) but rather refers to their character in the third person , like:

" Sir Justice the Brave will go down the halls, and stop 10 feet in front of the door. He looks on the ground for any clues as to who went through the door ( and then breaks into 'character' and says something , with a hero's humorous inflection, along the lines of... ) "Do I , Sir Justice the Brave, notice any of my enemy's footprints? I would spot such signs, for I am, The Bounty Hunter of Botany Bay. "

And then the Game Master, who acts as world builder and omniscient narrator, would look at the map of the hall way and inform the player:

 "Yes, you see your enemy's tracks, and it looks like he was dragging something behind him, possible another body..." or ..."No, you see that this hall is deserted, and has not been traveled in many hours..." depending on what the map indicated. The map is key.

During a game, the players will interact with each other, and act cooperatively in pursuit of a common objective, (mostly accumulating wealth and power), in a risk filled adventure (also called a "module"). Only the referee (Game Master) knows the contents and logistic of the game world, and it is up to the players to explore and discover it's secrets.

The Game Master also operates the populations of these worlds (called "non player characters" ), some which actively help, or hurt, the players over the course of the game. The more the players discover, (and the more goals they achieve), the more their character's abilities improve, and the more their character's personality is developed, as he/she advances in experience. For example, the player acting as the wizard would gain experience points, (and an "in game reward"), for casting a spell that slays an attacking troll (so many points for the troll, and whatever treasure he had nearby). So, even though the Game Master created this world, players can actually gain enough experience and power to actively change the world. Instead of competing directly against each other ( technically there are no winners or losers, but the Game Master portrays neutral, good, and evil characters), the players work as a team, (because success is easier with the combined skills and abilities of various player characters), thus increasing their chances for survival, which increases their chances to climb up the experience ladder, and effect the game's setting (a Utopian kingdom, or the Game of Thrones type world). Ultimately, as long as the player characters survive, there's no end to "the Game".

The 'rules' of the game are only used to determine the outcome of a decision- some degree of success or failure -and reflects the chance of that success or failure as realistically as possible. During the 'adventure', the players will inform the referee of a proposed action ( "Sir Justice will walk up to listen at the door. Do I hear anything beyond ?") and the referee will inform him of the outcome by referencing the rules ( The rules say Sir Justice, an elf charactrer, has heightened senses and can hear as far as 60 feet ), saying, "Yes, you can hear the scurrying of rats running away from the door" or "you hear the sound of metal on metal, like a machine, off in the distance" or whatever is within 60 feet from the door ( the villian dragging an unconscious ally). It's the Game Master's duty to prepare, design and run an interesting , well balanced adventure through which the player character's will journey. It's time consuming. It's a labor of love.

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