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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default What is a role-playing game?

    As on tin.

    What is a role-playing game? It is a simple question, but I doubt it has a simple answer. If you feel it is an important distinction you may focus in on table-top and/or pen & paper role-playing games. Or you can include computer RPGs (if you don't think that shared name is just a historical artifact). Take whatever perspective you think will best answer the question.

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    SolithKnightGuy

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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    For TTRPGs - I've found that a good method to explain for those who have no idea - "It's a storytelling game with the exciting bits played out like a tactical board game."

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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    A game in which players take on the roles of imaginary characters who engage in adventures, typically in a particular fantasy setting overseen by a referee.

    First result on google, but I removed the word 'computerized'.

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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    Generally, I consider it a role playing game if it's one in which you play imaginationary characters in an imaginary world, and make in-character decisions for them within that world, typically with a set of rules used for resolution of uncertain outcomes and/or consequences to intended actions.

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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    Lately, I've been calling TTRPGs 'make believe with spreadsheets.'

    It usually gets a laugh, but also gets the point across.

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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    It's games of "Let's pretend", but with rulebook's.
    Cluedrew, you may recognize some of this
    Quote Originally Posted by 1978 Runequest
    This book is dedicated to Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax, who first opened Pandora's box,
    and to Ken St. Andre who found it could be opened again.
    (Arneson & Gygax were the creators of D&D, Andre of T&T).

    INTRODUCTION
    WHAT IS A FANTASY ROLE-PLAYING GAME?

    A role-playing game is a game of character
    development, simulating the process of personal development commonly called "life". The player acts a role in a fantasy environment, just as he might act a role in s play. In fact, when played with just paper and pencil on the game board of the player's imagination, it has been called "improvisational radio theatre. " If played with metal and plastic figurines, it becomes improvisational puppet theatre. However it is played, the primary purpose is to have fun.
    OK that's from the game that mostly replaced (over my objections) D&D at the tables I played at years ago.The part I agree most with is of course "However it is played, the primary purpose is to have fun." Which I hope we don't lose sight of.

    Frankly I'd be happy if the "R" was removed, and we called them something like "table top Adventure games (when I was young, I saw the acronym "FRP" more than "RPG").
    I believe the first published of the term was by Flying Buffalo in a Tunnels and Trolls supplement that said it was "compatible with other Fantasy role-playing games", i.e Dungeons & Dragons (please someone check this).

    I have mixed feelings about Runequest, while I found the rules more intuitive than D&D, and I absolutely preferred it to the other non D&D RPG's we played, it was never quite as fun for me as D&D, but I often think when some list what they don't like about D&D, that Runequest is what their looking for.

    Spoiler: some history
    Show

    The first version of what became D&D was the rules system inside Dave Arneson's mind.

    The rules are there because players want some idea of what the odds are first, and it's easier to choose from a catalog than write on a blank page.

    When D&D started there was no mention of role-playing on the box!

    While the 1977 Basic set did indeed say "FANTASY ROLE-PLAYING GAME"

    The phrase "role-playing" was not part of the 1974 rules.

    Notice that the cover says "Rules for Fantastic Medieval Wargames", not role-playing!
    As I said before, I believe the first use of the term "role-playing game" was in a Tunnels & Trolls supplement that was "compatible with other Fantasy role-playing games", but early D&D didn't seem any more or less combat focused than the later RPG's I've played, (in fact considering how fragile PC''s were avoiding combat was often the goal!) so I wouldn't say it was anymore of a "Wargame". I would however say it was more an exploration game, and was less character focused.

    Frankly while role-playing is alright, it's the 'enjoying a "world" where the fantastic is fact' part that is much more interesting to me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dungeons & Dragons,
    Book 1:
    Men & Magic
    These rules are strictly fantasy. Those wargamers who lack imagination, those who don't care for Burroughs'
    Martian adventures where John Carter is groping through black pits, who feel no thrill upon reading Howard's Conan saga, who do not enjoy the de Camp & Pratt fantasies or Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser
    pitting their swords against evil sorceries will not be likely to find Dungeons & Dragons to their taste. But those whose imaginations know no bounds will find that these rules are the answer to their prayers. With this last
    bit of advice we invite you to read on and enjoy a "world" where the fantastic is fact and magic really works!
    E. Gary Gygax
    Tactical Studies Rules Editor
    1 November 1973
    Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

    [HYPERBOLE]While I'm ever grateful to Holmes for his work translating the game rules into English, perhaps he (an academic psychologist) is to be blamed for mis-labelling D&D with the abominable slander of "role-playing" (a psychological treatment technique).
    It's too late now to correct the misnomer, but D&D is, was, and should be a fantasy adventure game, not role-playing, a label no good has come from![/HYPERBOLE]

    Quote Originally Posted by Ernest Gary Gygax on role-playing
    If I want to do that, he said, Ill join an amateur theater group. (see here)
    .
    While Dave Arneson later had the innovation of having his players "roll up" characters, for his "homebrew" of Chainmail:
    http://www.todayifoundout.com/index....ngeon-masters/

    At first the players played themselves in a Fantastic medievalish world:
    http://swordsandstitchery.blogspot.c...thday.html?m=1

    So a wargame was made into a setting exploration game, and then was later labelled a "role-playing" game.
    While it's still possible to play D&D as the wargame it once was, I'm glad that the game escaped the "wargame" appellation, which makes the game more attractive to those of us with 'less of an interest in tactics, however I argue (to beat a dead horse), that the labeling of D&D as a role-playing game is hurtful ("Your not role-playing, your roll-playing! etc.).
    Just label D&D an adventure game, and people can be spared all the hand-wringing, and insults when acting and writing talents don't measure up to "role-playing" standards, and instead we can have fun exploring a fantastic world together.
    Please?
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    D&D Alignment history
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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Lightbulb Re: What is a role-playing game?

    In theory, a(n?) RPG can be a variety of things. In practice, RPGs Equal Combat.

    See also:
    -Combat, Diplomacy, Stealth

    -RPG Elements

    -Role-Playing Games

    -Tabletop RPG Tropes
    Last edited by Endarire; 2017-04-25 at 12:55 AM.
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    And I do agree that the right answer to the magic/mundane problem is to make everyone badass.
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    If you're of a philosophical bent, the powergamer is a great example of Heidegger's modern technological man, who treats a game's mechanics as a standing reserve of undifferentiated resources that are to be used for his goals.
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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    For the most part? A mediocre at best boardgame tacked on an excuse to allow for acting that would get you kicked out of 1st grader's play tryouts, with a side of spreadsheets for flavour.

    Still stupid fun though.

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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    Quote Originally Posted by Endarire View Post
    In theory, a(n?) RPG can be a variety of things. In practice, RPGs Equal Combat.
    With several noticeable exceptions (Fiasco, Microscope, Smallville), thus making this a pretty bad definition element.
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

    I'm not joking one bit. I would buy the hell out of that.
    -- ChubbyRain

    Current Design Project: Legacy, a game of masters and apprentices for two players and a GM.

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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    I often describe it as a "cooperative storytelling game." If we're talking about D&D, I'll sell it as a "cooperative fantasy storytelling game with a strong emphasis on tactical combat." If you're looking to define roleplaying, I must recommend this article by the Angry DM (which states, in summary, that roleplaying is putting yourself in the shoes of another person and making decisions based on their traits/beliefs/goals).
    Currently running: Shackled City!

    Characters I've played for more than three sessions:
    [3.5] Ephraim Therele (CG gray elf focused transmuter 4/Master Specialist 3/Loremaster 2)
    [3.5] Gandrin "Thunderfingers" Melifar (LG gnome illusionist 3/Master Specialist 3/Shadowcraft Mage 5)
    [PF] Reglay Pent (N human conjurer 15 + Archmage 2)

    Campaigns I've run: Mummy's Mask, Age of Worms, Red Hand of Doom, Kingmaker, Guardians, Rising Dawn

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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    Quote Originally Posted by GreatDane View Post
    I often describe it as a "cooperative storytelling game." If we're talking about D&D, I'll sell it as a "cooperative fantasy storytelling game with a strong emphasis on tactical combat." If you're looking to define roleplaying, I must recommend this article by the Angry DM (which states, in summary, that roleplaying is putting yourself in the shoes of another person and making decisions based on their traits/beliefs/goals).
    Interestingly it is Angry's articles and views on roleplaying being in-character decision making that cemented my opinion that roleplaying is the exact opposite of storytelling. That's 'living' a fake life. One that may, after all is said and done, enable you to look back and tell interesting stories of the 'experiences', just as in real life. But just as in real life, making decisions isn't 'living' a story. It's the opposite of creating or revealing an underlying plot and narrative, it's making choices and outcomes and consequences happening as a result.

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    BarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    TTRPGs and CRPGs probably shouldn't be in the same category. Very different mediums with different limitations and methods of player interaction.

    A TTRPG is a game where players take on the role of fictional characters in a fictional world, with rules that help determine the results of the characters' interactions with the world and each other.

    Anything more specific than that probably would not apply to all of the vast array of different sorts or TTRPGs - They are not all collaborative story telling games. They are not all adventure games. They don't all have a single referee or story teller. They don't all focus on tactical combat, or any combat.

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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    Quote Originally Posted by Thrudd View Post
    A TTRPG is a game where players take on the role of fictional characters in a fictional world, with rules that help determine the results of the characters' interactions with the world and each other.

    Anything more specific than that probably would not apply to all of the vast array of different sorts or TTRPGs - They are not all collaborative story telling games. They are not all adventure games. They don't all have a single referee or story teller. They don't all focus on tactical combat, or any combat.
    That's still too specific - there are other rules sets that fundamentally don't work that way, and instead have rules for determining who gets to narrate what happens to said fictional characters in said fictional worlds.
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

    I'm not joking one bit. I would buy the hell out of that.
    -- ChubbyRain

    Current Design Project: Legacy, a game of masters and apprentices for two players and a GM.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    I usually go with: it's kinda like an action movie where you play the main characters. Sometimes you just do stuff, other times you have to roll dice to find out what happens.
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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    Quote Originally Posted by Knaight View Post
    That's still too specific - there are other rules sets that fundamentally don't work that way, and instead have rules for determining who gets to narrate what happens to said fictional characters in said fictional worlds.
    Those aren't roleplaying games. They are storytelling games.

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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    As on tin.
    What is a role-playing game? It is a simple question, but I doubt it has a simple answer. If you feel it is an important distinction you may focus in on table-top and/or pen & paper role-playing games. Or you can include computer RPGs (if you don't think that shared name is just a historical artifact). Take whatever perspective you think will best answer the question.
    Without gleaning from previous answers, I'd say "Interactive storytelling with rules" pretty much encmopasses it.

    As for the game part, it's a form of play (role- to be specific) with rules, and having rules makes it a game.
    What you have rules for depends on the system and what house rules you have, just like when you play Monopoly or Chess.
    Dungeons and Dragons is about being monster-slaying heroes. Star Wars is about kicking Darkside butt. Shadowrun is about opposing greedy megacorporations. So they each have apropriate rulesets for that.

    As regards storytelling, Humans are addicted to stories.
    Thousands of years ago we would gather around campfires and tell stories of heroes, gods, and monsters.
    Today we have books, TV shows, movies, computer games, etc. We spend loads of time on stories, even more than we do on games.
    Roleplaying gamers are just people who are more addicted than most.
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    What is dead may never die, but rises again, harder, stronger, in a later edition.
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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    Those aren't roleplaying games. They are storytelling games.
    Said games still frequently involve playing a role, so no.
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

    I'm not joking one bit. I would buy the hell out of that.
    -- ChubbyRain

    Current Design Project: Legacy, a game of masters and apprentices for two players and a GM.

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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    I see two basic starting points for modern RPGs:
    • Hacked tabletop wargames that start out like an MMO raid but where you can do anything including subvert the entire goal with things the designers couldn't have anticipated.
    • Interactive collaborative storytelling with rules for conflict resolution and that help inspire the stories.

    The first one is literally what D&D started out as and its lineage is very clearly seen in most RPGs (4e just used a boardgame not a wargame basis). The second one is what the Storyteller system claimed to be and what a lot of modern post-Forge systems do well. But most games are a mix of the two approaches.
    Currently in playtesting, now with optional rules for a cover based sci-fi shooter.
    Games for Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, and Silver Age Marvel. Skins for The Gorgon, the Deep One, the Kitsune, the Banshee, and the Mad Scientist

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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    Quote Originally Posted by Knaight View Post
    Said games still frequently involve playing a role, so no.
    If someone else is making choices for your character to fit a narrative, no, they're not. No more than if someone made choices for you in real life to fit an underlying narrative.

    Edit:
    However, I misread your original statement, in which you said 'who gets to narrate'. That's not the same thing as determining what happens with the narrative. It sounds more like 'who gets to adjudicate and determine the outcomes/results, then describe them'. In which case its the same thing but viewing it through the lens of (or rather, placing the focus on) describing the final outcome/results.
    Last edited by Tanarii; 2017-04-26 at 11:01 AM.

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    MonkGirl

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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    Playing a role, relying on entities controlled by an outside force (other players, a GM, AI, dice or RNG, the writers of the game) to provide events for you to react to, which they react to in turn and so forth, thus driving some kind of sequence of events.

    I think that definition accounts for "just storytelling", and covers noodling away at sidequests and minigames and raiding dungeons for loot as well. The role and story can be ill-defined, pre-defined, or anything in between. Sometimes your role involves controlling more than one character, but as long as there's a distinct viewpoint(s) you can safely call it a tactical RPG or what have you.
    Last edited by The Vanishing Hitchhiker; 2017-04-26 at 03:15 PM.

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    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    Those aren't roleplaying games. They are storytelling games.
    I find this type of gatekeeping pretty useless in any practical sense.

    They're not the type of roleplaying games you like - that's cool.

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    SolithKnightGuy

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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    I find this type of gatekeeping pretty useless in any practical sense.

    They're not the type of roleplaying games you like - that's cool.
    Sorta true. But to play devil's advocate, if you define it too broadly, Overwatch becomes an RPG because the characters each have names. Heck - they even have backgrounds and chat. But I don't think that most would define it as an RPG.

    Plus - I didn't think he said that storytelling games are bad.

    You don't want to exclude people who play the games. But if you define it too broadly it loses all meaning.

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    Plus let us not forget that the two labels need not be exclusive. By some definitions, all role-playing games are storytelling games (but not the other way around).

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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    If we take it literally, any game with role-playing is a role-playing game.

    It's true that the most widely-played games with role-playing also have a great emphasis on tactical combat, but that's not what distinguishes them; we don't need to come up with a synonym for "game with role-playing" just to wall off ones that don't emphasize combat. The whole sphere of indie story-focused RPGs does exist as a sub-genre, but still falls under the RPG umbrella.

    As long as we're talking about tabletop, at least. At its broadest, in electronic gaming "RPG mechanics" means anything with levels and experience - concepts derived from tabletop RPGs.

    That said, I'm not that much a fan of the term. I've started to prefer to think of tabletop RPGs as "improv games," which focuses more on the "you can try to do anything" element that separates them from both traditional tabletop games and any and all electronic games.
    Last edited by BayardSPSR; 2017-04-27 at 01:18 AM.

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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    Well, this is not an easy question to answer. On one hand, you have an idea of what an RPG should be, but a lot of marketing for digital games uses the term RPG so freely it looses meaning - was Diablo really an RPG? I wouldn't say so, having class and levels does not an RPG make.

    Then there is the little problem of RPGs having many faces. PC and TT kinds have been mentioned, but what about LARP? That's certainly a role playing game, even though it can have very, very simple rules (the one I frequent has "you can do what you can do" as its core, with some potion-based magic on top). Hell, reenactment is a role playing game while you're in character, and it has pretty much no rules most of the time, except for "don't be an ass".

    Even things like improvised theatre can cross over into RPG territory at times.

    The most important thing for me that defines an RPG is that the players have agency in story - that is, a player (not necessarily his PC, tho) has a major effect on how the story will play out. Maybe he doesn't have a lot of influence on the outcome in some cases, but he can and does pick what path to take.

    This is why Diablo isn't really an RPG, IMO, your only path is "kill everything" - that doesn't make it a bad game, but it makes it not an RPG. It also means that a game with completely linear story (Far Cry 3 for example) isn't an RPG despite class and levels, even if it has two endings you can pick from - while that is, technically speaking, agency of the player, there's very little of it and it is only present in that one moment.

    And this also means that some of my above examples can be split into yes RPG and no RPG categories. Reenactment can have very strict storyline to tell with no room for any agency, or it can have pretty free-form constrains. Even some TTRPGs can stop being RPGs with a DM that is railroading enough.
    That which does not kill you made a tactical error.

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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    A roleplaying game is a game where you play a role. Playing a role works the same as in acting: you assume the personality of an imagined character and portray what they are doing, how and why in a given scenario. The game rules frame the scenario and provide a medium for your character to act in.

    It is actually exceedingly simple. 7-year-old cub scout girls get the gist of it in less than five minutes.

    Majority of people in the hobby are simply piss poor at actually explaining this because they're too caught up in idiosyncracies and superficial elements of existing games.

    Alternatively, they place too much emphasis on what inspires roleplaying games, such as literature, while failing to realize or explain that actually playing a roleplaying game is completely different from f.ex. reading or writing.

    I've seen people arguing over the distinction between storytelling versus roleplaying games. They're almost all looking at the wrong place. The difference is not that one is concerned with "creating a story" and the other isn't. Any game can be used to create a story. The difference is that a storytelling game that is not also a roleplaying game doesn't have the players assuming personalities of their characters. An example would be a card game where players are creating a fairy tale by dealing various characters and plot twists from their hand. They are clearly making a story and deciding what characters in the story do, and how, and why, but none of the players have defined roles as the characters and no acting is involved.

    Majority of storygames that have risen from the tabletop RPG hobby are also roleplaying games. They represent a different tradition from the highly improvisational wargame offshoots that defined the mainstream of the hobby, but they're roleplaying games nonetheless.
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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    Quote Originally Posted by CharonsHelper View Post
    Sorta true. But to play devil's advocate, if you define it too broadly, Overwatch becomes an RPG because the characters each have names. Heck - they even have backgrounds and chat. But I don't think that most would define it as an RPG.

    Plus - I didn't think he said that storytelling games are bad.
    No, I don't think storytelling games are bad. I *do* think it can potentially lead to poor RPG experiences to treat some non-storytelling games, that are designed mechanically to support non-storytelling, as storytelling (collaborative or otherwise) games.

    Because those games are based on the idea that the players are playing by making in-character decisions and having those result in things. As opposed to making narrative/plot-related decisions, which then affect whatever is needed to be affected. Or worse, the GM focuses on narrative/plot-related resolution, instead of in-character decision making resolution. (Edit: to be clear, the latter is what typically is called 'railroading' in non-storytelling games.)

    So it's an actually important distinction between roleplaying (in-character decision making + resolution) and storytelling (narrative/plot-related decision making).

    This is complicated by the way some people view making a narrative/plot-related decision involving characters to still be making an in-character decision, even though it's actually focusing on something completely different.
    Last edited by Tanarii; 2017-04-27 at 09:51 AM.

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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    This is complicated by the way some people view making a narrative/plot-related decision involving characters to still be making an in-character decision, even though it's actually focusing on something completely different.
    +1 to this.

    There's nothing wrong with such games, but the play is rather detached from your character for my taste.

    I prefer making choices based upon what the character thinks is best. (And yes - I do optimize. Those are the rules of the character's universe, and he doesn't want to die by being sub-par. No different that pro baseball players not using 1910's style baseball gloves anymore even if they think it'd be cool - because it'd be sub-par.)

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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    No, I don't think storytelling games are bad. I *do* think it can potentially lead to poor RPG experiences to treat some non-storytelling games, that are designed mechanically to support non-storytelling, as storytelling (collaborative or otherwise) games.

    Because those games are based on the idea that the players are playing by making in-character decisions and having those result in things. As opposed to making narrative/plot-related decisions, which then affect whatever is needed to be affected. Or worse, the GM focuses on narrative/plot-related resolution, instead of in-character decision making resolution. (Edit: to be clear, the latter is what typically is called 'railroading' in non-storytelling games.)

    So it's an actually important distinction between roleplaying (in-character decision making + resolution) and storytelling (narrative/plot-related decision making).

    This is complicated by the way some people view making a narrative/plot-related decision involving characters to still be making an in-character decision, even though it's actually focusing on something completely different.
    I mostly agree with you, but I do beg to differ on one point. Role-playing and story-telling is not a binary. It's a spectrum.

    At one end, you have pure simulation. The character (or world) is treated as if it has all the bits and bobs that real worlds and characters have, and the player is simply attempting to "do what the character would do" with no thought for the overarching game/scenario/plot/etc. The story isn't even considered. Narrative control is non-existent--character actions shape everything directly.

    At the other, you have pure narrative. Characters are simply stage-dressing--all the attention is on the overall story and characters are changed/discarded/etc as needed. No consideration is given to playing the role of a character. The players sit outside the story as meddling deities, deciding the fate of the story as a whole. The story is the entire thing. The rule system cares much more about narrative control than of simulating the outcomes of actions.

    In the middle is where all the games I've ever seen actually happen. Players make decisions for their characters with an eye toward making the story fun for everybody. Decisions that, while in character, would be disruptive to group or table cohesion are discarded for other in-character actions that aren't disruptive. Players realize that the characters (and the world) aren't real and it's the players making the decisions, so they try to select from the available options those that help the story unfold the way they want it to. The story is an emergent property of the game is balanced against the other concerns.

    Narrative control in the middle ground is achieved in a feedback loop among the table participants (including the DM if such a role exists) rather than explicitly through the rule system. This narrative control usually comes in the form of "wouldn't it be cool if X" or players assuming as if unmentioned items exist ("I pick up pebbles from the ground and toss them at the window", when no pebbles have been mentioned).
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  30. - Top - End - #30
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: What is a role-playing game?

    A roleplaying game is a game in which a player takes on the role of a character, and roleplays - makes decisions for the character, as the character.

    Quote Originally Posted by CharonsHelper View Post
    And yes - I do optimize. Those are the rules of the character's universe, and he doesn't want to die by being sub-par. No different that pro baseball players not using 1910's style baseball gloves anymore even if they think it'd be cool - because it'd be sub-par.
    Those pro athletes are such munchkins!

    EDIT:

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    In the middle is where all the games I've ever seen actually happen. Players make decisions for their characters with an eye toward making the story fun for everybody. Decisions that, while in character, would be disruptive to group or table cohesion are discarded for other in-character actions that aren't disruptive. Players realize that the characters (and the world) aren't real and it's the players making the decisions, so they try to select from the available options those that help the story unfold the way they want it to.
    That's "metagaming". Much like Rule 0, a role-playing game is best when it contains the proper amount, used in the correct way. And, much to my chagrin on both counts, the proper amount, in both cases, isn't 0.
    Last edited by Quertus; 2017-04-27 at 10:37 AM. Reason: Autocorrect

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