Role Playing Games

What's Role-Playing?


If you could be anything, what would you be?

(Insert your answer)

Okay, so you're a… what was it you said before? Yeah, one of those. You're going into a convenience store and see little girl looking into a sewer drain at the corner, kinda like she lost something.

What do you do?

(Insert your answer)

Fair enough.

Now, understanding this is a one-way conversation, I really have no idea what you just chose. See, you might have decided to continue inside the store. You might have gone over to ask the little girl what she was doing. You may have shouted at the girl to stop playing near the road. You could have done pretty much anything, but the one thing you would have been doing for certain is role-playing.

Role-playing is getting into the head of someone, even yourself, and playing out in your imagination a scenario that isn't really happening.

What's a Game?


Take a coin. Flip it. If it's heads you win. If it's tails you lose.

Okay, that wasn't a very fun game, but its been around for a long time.

Why is it that we flip coins?

That's right, we use it to make a fair, unprejudiced decision.

So, What are Role-Playing Games?


Well, there's this great place at the intersection of role-playing and games.

It takes the element of theatric imagination found in role-playing and gives it a fair, mechanical way of determining if you succeed at what you attempt.

Using our two examples above, let's say you ask the girl what she's doing.

"I dropped my bear." She looks very sad.

So, for our example, you decide to help the girl. You look down into the sewer drain and see a teddy bear on a little ledge about 3-feet down.

Now you may have started off this exerement saying "I'd be a telekinetic."

You might decide to use your psychic powers of mind-over-matter to levitate the toy up into the girls loving arms.

Flip the coin. Heads, you get the bear. Tails, the bear slips and falls deeper into the sewer.

You might also have begun the exercise saying, "I'd be a child psychologist."

If so, you might begin a conversation with the girl about why she feels like she needs the bear, and even attempt to rid the child of her burdensome attachment to the thing.

Flip the coin. Heads, you convince the girl she never really needed the symbol of her fears of paternal abandonment. Tails, she cries and kicks you.

Welcome to role-playing games.

Now, in most role-playing games, the character, story, and game mechanics are a little more sophisticated.

Your character generally has a few abilities like "strength", "jumping", or "guitar". These often have some sort of rating to tell you how good or bad you are at using these abilities.

The game session is generally built around a plot, like any other story, with a beginning, middle, and an end.

The game-mechanics often use dice or some other randomizer that gives you a range of success—so instead of using a coin where the options are "win" or "lose", you might roll a six-sided dice (like the dice in most board games). If you roll a 2 or 3 you don't succeed, if you roll a 4 or 5, you do. A roll of 1 might mean you fail gloriously, and a 6 could mean you don't just succeed, you do it with style.

Now, role-playing games are widely diverse. They can be dramas or comedies, action adventure or introspective head-theater. Most people associate them with swords and sorcery, but they can be set in a space opera, ancient China, a modern espionage setting, or a zany Saturday morning cartoon. The genre potential is pretty much unlimited.

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