This article refers chiefly to video games. See Tabletop RPG for old-fashioned pen and paper games.
A type of game
in which the player controls a character or party of characters
in a statistically abstracted way. Most are based around one
, stats, Character Customization
, and experience
points, as characters grow in power
over time. While RPGs are a diverse genre, they are all defined by the core reason why people play them—namely, the desire for a sense of achievement that does not require an intense commitment to mastering them. To this end, most RPGs give you easy checklists to tick off (like side quests) at your leisure
and clear success metrics and rewards (like leveling up), and also let you tune out and come back at any time. Another way a lot of RPGs engage players is by satisfying their desire to watching their characters grow as the game progresses (both in power and as people
Role-playing games (commonly known as "RPG
") have their origin not as video games but pen-and-paper systems
with dice-based combat and character generation, descended from a combination of tabletop wargaming and collaborative theater. Dungeons & Dragons
was the first such system to be sold, followed by other early systems such as The Fantasy Trip
and Tunnels And Trolls
. These type of role-playing games are all now
known as Tabletop RPGs
The early video game RPGs focused mostly on simulating the combat aspects
of Tabletop games, with other aspects following after. Video game RPGs can be divided in a number of ways, which are elaborated below.
- Western RPGs (WRPGs) often focus on greater Character Customization and free-roaming exploration. The main Player Characters in this genre tend to have little predefined personality, allowing the players to determine their characterization via interactive dialogue. Western RPGs traditionally bore a great resemblance to Tabletop RPGs, Turn-Based Strategy, and Tactical RPGs—thanks to their roots in War Gaming—but many modern examples go against said roots by emphasizing real-time combat, while de-emphasizing tactical control of the Player Party, which is often delegated to the AI. Western RPGs come in three main flavors (though hybrids are also common):
- Dungeon Crawlers focus on fighting, looting, and grinding, with little interest in the story or world exploration. The earliest Western RPGs belonged to this category, codified by the Wizardry series and the earliest Ultima installments, and are conceptually related to Rogue and its likes (see below). This subgenre has gone out of favor during The Nineties, with only the Diablo series and its many clones still going strong.
- Sandbox RPGs were codified by the aforementioned Ultima series from part four onwards. This subgenre is all about free-roaming exploration, character customization, and environment interactivity. Its incumbent king is The Elder Scrolls series, though the growing number of Wide Open Sandbox games with RPG Elements threatens to erase the distinction between these two categories.
- Narrative RPGs are the youngest subgenre codified in the late nineties by Planescape: Torment and the Baldur's Gate series. Such games put the spotlight on their storytelling aspects—a compelling character cast and an engaging storyline—and, in this, are often compared to contemporaneous Eastern RPGs. More recent examples of this category include Mass Effect, The Witcher, and Dragon Age series.
- Eastern RPGs (ERPGs) often focus on cinematic narratives and memorable characters, usually (but not always) with more linear gameplay and less direct customization than Western RPGs; Eastern RPGs typically feel like visual novels, movies or anime. Until recently, most such games came from Japan, and are thus nicknamed JRPGs. A good point of distinction is that WRPGs typically have some Character Customization, whereas an ERPG will more likely have a preformed Player Character, who might have some customization applied to their abilities but always looks the same. Eastern RPGs tend to use a turn based or pseudo turn based system where the player individually inputs actions for every character in the team each turn. Good examples of this genre are the Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Pokémon franchises.
- Action RPGs (ARPGs) is an amorphous collection of gameplay styles united mainly by having real time combat whilst still remaining an RPG (as opposed to an Action Game with RPG Elements, though distinction is rarely easy). In the Eastern RPG context, ARPG is a distinct subgenre, defined by its opposition to turn-based and menu-based combat of traditional ERPGs, while in the Western tradition, it is more of a "genre modifier" (see Video Game Genres), as real time combat can be introduced into any of its three subgenres. Most common categories of Western ARPG are Diablo-clones, FPS/RPG hybrids in the vein of Deus Ex, and Hack and Slash/RPG hybrids like Dark Souls.
- Tactical RPGs are related to Eastern RPGs but with a high focus on moving around a gridlike system, often with abilities that take advantage of this to attack multiple people at once, or to fight from a distance note However, what seperates the Tactical RPG subgenre from other RPGs is that they tend to greatly resemble Strategy Games, but with RPG Elements. On TV Tropes, this type of game is thus lumped in with Turn-Based Strategy, as the two genres are very close. More recent examples of Eastern Tactical RPGs, however, have also incorporated Real-Time Strategy elements. note
- A further subdivision is a Strategy RPG (SRPGs) which more closely resemble Real-Time Strategy or TabletopRPGs. The distinction separates games that are on a grid system with standard Eastern RPG characters (with abilities, more attack options, and so on) and games that are on a grid system but characters are more properly units (they typically have only base attacks, may not have equipment, and so on). A good comparison would be Final Fantasy Tactics to the Fire Emblem series. The former is a "Tactical RPG" and the latter is a "Strategy RPG". note .
- Roguelikes take their name from the early 1980s ASCII graphics game Rogue. They are defined by the combination of randomly generated worlds and permanent death, meaning that every time time your character dies you have to start completely over in a different set of levels. The focus also tends to be much more on very complex Nintendo Hard gameplay than story.
- Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) can be any of the above genres, though they gravitate around a fusion of Action and Western RPGs (as the Trope Maker Ultima Online arose out of a Western RPG series). They also have their own distinct elements, mainly focusing around large boss battles known as "raids" and Player Versus Player interactions, as well as more tedious grinding such as fetching Twenty Bear Asses.
Whether any actual "Role Playing" is involved in many role-playing video games is often debatable. See also How to Play a Console RPG
and PC vs. Console
For the trope about assuming roles in order to practice something, see Comic Role Play
This genre is home to many specific tropes.
Types of Role Playing Games:
Tropes that are commonly found in Role Playing Games:
- Actually Four Mooks
An enemy appears as a single sprite, but turns out to be a whole party of baddies in actual combat.
- Adam Smith Hates Your Guts
The farther you get in a game, the more expensive stuff will be.
- Alliance Meter
Getting the in-game factions to like or hate you.
- All in a Row
The party follows behind the leader like a lot of little ducklings.
- An Adventurer Is You
A description of the class-based systems common to many Role Playing Games.
- A Homeowner Is You
You get to buy a house, basically just because.
- All Swords Are the Same
All weapons of a specific type look and play exactly the same.
- Arbitrary Gun Power
Video game guns don't kill instantly, they do HP damage.
- Arbitrary Headcount Limit
Arbitrary requirement that stops you from having too many characters in a party or unit.
- Lazy Backup
If you're only allowed to take three out of eighteen party members into battle, you get a Game Over if those three are killed, even if the other characters are nearby and could logically step in to finish the job.
- Armor and Magic Don't Mix
Mage characters don't wear armor.
- Awesome but Temporary
That weapon that looks like an Disc One Nuke? You lose it by the next cutscene.
- Background Music Override
Let's keep the Crowning Music of Awesome going through this sequence's battles instead of the Battle Theme Music.
- Bag of Holding
An object capable of holding other objects in hammerspace.
- Bag of Sharing
There are many characters but they share one inventory.
- Bag of Spilling
Said sharing most likely won't happen between sequels.
- Battle Theme Music
Feel those awesome riffs, man!
- Beef Gate
The game prevents you from going to places out of order by putting very tough enemies in the way.
- Betting Mini-Game
Let's pause our quest to play craps!
- Black and White Magic
Hmm, do I get to roast the bad guys or heal the good guys?
- But Thou Must
A dialogue tree where your choices are irrelevant, because the game will not proceed until you pick the 'intended' option (or ignore your decision altogether).
- Character Alignment
Your character's morality, usually on the good vs evil and lawful vs chaotic scales.
- Character Level
You level up as you gain Experience Points.
- Class Change Level Reset
Your level drops back to one when you swap jobs/classes.
- Combatant Cooldown System
A.k.a. Active Time Battle. A combat system where how soon combatants can act again is determined by their Speed stat and by the complexity of their respective previous actions.
- Combat, Diplomacy, Stealth
You can either fight, talk, or sneak your way to victory.
- Combination Attack
A special attack that occurs when two or more characters use certain attacks at the same time or in rapid succession.
- Common Tactical Gameplay Elements
Rules that add a tactical dimension to RPG combat.
- Convenient Questing
Your next destination will be the closest area that you haven't been able to get to before.
- Critical Encumbrance Failure
You're perfectly fine with 87 pounds of weight, but add one more item and you'll collapse in a heap.
- Critical Hit
An attack randomly does extra (often double) damage.
- Damage-Increasing Debuff
A negative status ailment which in some way increases the damage its subject takes.
- Damage Over Time
A unit receives a negative status that inflicts a small amount of damage at regular intervals.
- Defend Command
A command that lets you take less damage, but you don't get to do anything else in the meantime.
- Diminishing Returns for Balance
As you increase your stats, each increase has less effect, forcing you to balance your stats more.
- Disc One Final Dungeon
A dungeon that pretends to be the last one in the game, but is nowhere near it.
- Disc One Nuke
An exploit where a powerful item or technique is achieved early on in the game.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?
You've saved the world, but durnit, you're not too good to deliver my apples to the baker!
- Dungeon Maintenance
Game mechanics may be a given to the players, but they're a lot of work for the locals.
- Easing Into the Adventure
Before you start the adventure properly, you'll be shown cavorting around your tiny home town.
- An Economy Is You
All stores in a city are centered around selling things you in particular will need.
- Elemental Crafting
The most important aspect of a piece of armor? What material it's made from!
- Equipment-Based Progression
Occasionally an RPG will make characters more powerful by having them find better equipment, instead of leveling up with experience points (or by having them level up their equipment).
- Equipment Spoiler
Finding an unusable piece of equipment means that someone able to use it will join the party at some point.
- Evolving Attack
Your attacks and skills can level up on their own, if you use them enough.
- Experience Points
You get them by killing enemies (or possibly completing other tasks or objectives), and when you get enough your Character Level or abilities increase.
- Exponential Potential
As you level up, you get so many spells that gameplay starts getting confusing.
- Fairy Battle
Something that looks like a normal random encounter, but isn't.
- Fake Longevity
Things that pad out a game's length so they can brag about having "100 hours of gameplay!"
- Fake Ultimate Mook
A massive, terrifying monster that is surprisingly easy to defeat.
- Fantasy Character Classes
The most common character classes in a medieval fantasy setting.
- Fetch Quest
A subquest unimportant to the actual plot which must be completed to continue.
- Fight Woosh
Graphic effect that happens when you go into a Random Encounter.
- First Town
The biggest city in the game, the center of everything.
- Flavor Equipment
Functional gear that is useless to the player but distributed among NPCs and their dwellings to reinforce an illusion of a living world.
- Follow the Plotted Line
You somehow always end up where the plot says you should be, no matter how little sense it makes that you should be there.
- Game System
- Gaming Stat Tropes
The numbers behind the game.
- Gladiator Subquest
At some point, you will have to fight in an arena in gladiatorial combat. Either as part of the main quest or as a subquest.
- Get on the Boat
In an RPG, at some point you will have to cross the ocean to reach another continent.
- Global Airship
A mode of transport that lets you reach any part of the world map easily.
- Good Morning, Crono
The main character starts the game in bed, as his mother or friend wakes him up.
- Go Wait Outside
You are asked to wait outside while something is finished; even if you come back in immediately, it's already done.
- Guest Star Party Member
Someone who joins your party temporarily as a "guest".
- Guns Are Worthless
In RPG systems, guns are generally weaker than swords.
- Hard-Coded Hostility
A faction which cannot be negotiated with and is perpetually at war with every other faction.
- Healer Signs On Early
One of your first party members will bring healing abilities with them.
- Healing Potion
An item that restores health.
- Health/Damage Asymmetry
Playable characters have low health, high damage output, while monsters have high health, low damage output.
- Heroes Prefer Swords
In an RPG, the main character always uses a sword.
- Hit Points
A number attributed to your health that indicates how close to death you are.
- Impossible Item Drop
Enemies drop weapons that they could not plausibly have.
- Improbable Power Discrepancy
Enemies are given statistics based on how powerful you are expected to be at that point, not how strong that enemy would be based on common sense.
- Inevitable Tournament
If there is a fighting tournament held somewhere in the game, chances are 99% that you will compete in it.
- Inexplicable Treasure Chests
Where did they come from? Who put them there? Why does nobody else but you ever open them?
- Infinity+1 Sword
The absolute most awesome weapon EVER! You must collect twenty thousand bear asses first.
- Infinity–1 Sword
Not quite as good as the Infinity+1 Sword, but it requires significantly fewer Bear Asses to acquire.
- Informed Equipment
Characters' equipment won't show up visually on their character model; they may be wearing Diamond Armor, but it looks like the same old Stripperiffic costume to me...
- Inn Security
Whenever the plot requires a stay at the inn, you will always wake up in the middle of the night for a plot event.
- Irrelevant Sidequest
Everyone seems to constantly ask you to do sidequests that have absolutely nothing to do with your main objective.
- Item Crafting
Creating your own items and equipment out of handy-dandy ingredients.
- Just Add Water
Items can generally be created by just sticking two or three things together and hitting "MIX".
- Job System
Eastern RPG system whereby classes have distinct equipment and abilities but can be changed at any time.
- Joined Your Party
You now have 18 party members! Good luck figuring out which ones to use.
- Karl Marx Hates Your Guts
Where it's impossible to make money because everything always costs the same, so you can never sell at a profit.
- Kleptomaniac Hero
Looting is a very important aspect of RPG. Everything that's not nailed down is yours to take.
- Last Disc Magic
In Eastern RPGs, although magic is usually less efficient than melee attacks, a spell or set of spells later in the game will be much better than the rest.
- Law of Cartographical Elegance
Land masses will never extend across the edge of the (usually square) world map.
- Leaked Experience
Characters not in the active party will get some percentage of the experience that the active party gets.
- Let's Split Up, Gang
At some point your party will be split up into two or more independent groups.
- Level Grinding
You gain statistics and abilities by killing monsters over and over again.
- Level Scaling
As you level up, so do your enemies.
- Level-Up at Intimacy 5
As you build an emotional (or sexual) relationship with an in-game NPC, your character gets physically stronger or gains skills because of it.
- More Friends, More Benefits
Games where the best result can be gotten by seducing or wooing every single person who seems even remotely interested in you.
- Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards
Melee classes are better at lower levels, while wizards are better at higher ones.
- Low-Level Advantage
Don't level up as much as possible for optimal advantage.
- Mana Potion
An item that restores spellcasting ability.
- Manual Leader, AI Party
The player controls one character and the rest of the Player Party are controlled by the game's AI.
- Mass Monster Slaughter Sidequest
Annoying quest to kill X number of a specific enemy, frequently randomly encountered enemies.
- Match Maker Quest
A Quest where the player helps an NPC win over their true love.
- Mechanically Unusual Class
A character class whose mechanics are unusual in comparison to its fellow classes.
- Metal Slime
A monster that appears and runs away very quickly, is hard to kill, but gives very good reward if you do kill it.
- The Minion Master
A player character whose role is to create many, many NPC minions.
- Modern Day & Sci-Fi RPG Class Equivalents
A collection of classes or class-equivalents for non-fantasy RPG-settings.
- Money Spider
Even monsters need to carry money. (What do they spend it on?)
- Monster Allies
Where monsters fight alongside the party instead of against it.
- Mutually Exclusive Party Members
Certain characters will refuse to join you if other characters are already in the party, or will leave when someone else joins. Sometimes controlled by the plot, but other times it's just that the two simply can't be in the party together.
- News Travels Fast
As soon as something important happens in the plot, everyone in the world will know about it.
- Nintendo Hard
Want to defeat that Bonus Boss? Get ready for a long and brutally hard battle.
- No Experience Points for Medic
Only killing nets a character rewards, healing and defending don't.
- No Hero Discount
Even though you're out there saving the world and their lives, shopkeepers will still charge you full price.
- Nominal Importance
Only people that are relevant to the plot or a sidequest will be blessed with names. Everyone else will be nameless or be referred to with generic or descriptive titles.
- Nonstandard Skill Learning
Certain skills/perks cannot be acquired by regular means within the game system—only by clearing certain story events.
- Noob Cave
Because even god-slaying heroes need to start somewhere. May include a Rat Stomp and probably a Warm-Up Boss
- No Stat Atrophy
Once you raise a stat, it will never go down again.
- Now, Where Was I Going Again?
OK, I saved my game three months ago and I'm picking the game up again... so where was I supposed to go?
- NPC Roadblock
When NPCs stand in your way and prevent you from getting where you need to go.
- One Man Party
An RPG where one character can easily become far stronger than the rest of his party.
- One Size Fits All
Clothing and armour can be worn by anyone, regardless of its source or the wearer's size or gender.
- One Stat to Rule Them All
Put as many skill points into this stat as you can, because it's much more helpful than any of the others.
- Only Shop in Town
When a town you pass through only has one shop for buying and selling weapons and armour.
- Opening the Sandbox
The point in a game where you're finally able to do all the sidequests, go anywhere on the map, and so on.
- Optional Party Member
Someone who may not join your party, if you don't fulfil the requirements to get them.
- Outside-the-Box Tactic
Certain enemies are weak to tactics that are bizarre or otherwise not intuitive at first glance.
- Overly Long Fighting Animation
An animation attack in which the Rule of Cool is applied in excess, making it just too long.
- Pamphlet Shelf
Whenever you see a bookshelf, there will never be more than one book (and often one line) that you can read.
- Parabolic Power Curve
A situation where, as your character gains levels, they begin getting less effective in certain tasks.
- Party in My Pocket
Only the main character is shown walking around; other party members will appear when needed, or even walk out of his body.
- Party of Representatives
A party of characters that comprise of multiple races/species throughout the game's world.
- Perpetually Static
Rules in an MMORPG that prevents the game from being changed unduly by the players.
- Player Party
A set of characters whom you control together throughout the game.
- Player Personality Quiz
A quiz during character creation that determines your alignment or statistics.
Frequently referred to as 'loot', and like Experience Points, it's rewards (but of a physical manner) from defeating your enemies, from money to useful equipment. Arguably, stuff you get from other people as a reward for completing tasks from them count as well (the tasks of which may involve collecting Twenty Bear Asses.).
- Plot Tunnel
Linear plot sequence that forces you to put your usual sidequests on hold while important plot events develop.
- Point of No Return
There is no turning back once you cross this line near the end of the game — you can only finish the game or die trying.
- Power Equals Rarity
The more powerful an item/Mon/etc. is in a game, the harder it is to find.
- Preexisting Encounters
Encounters with enemies which you can see coming (as opposed to Random Encounters).
- Prestige Class
A character can choose to advance from a basic starting class to a more powerful, but more specialised class.
- Quest Giver
An NPC designated somehow as someone who will give you a sidequest.
- Rainbow Pimp Gear
When players equip their characters with gear solely based on stat bonuses without consideration to how it will look on them.
- Random Encounters
Encounters with monsters that occur randomly as the player travels.
- Randomly Drops
You have a 1 in 128,983,234 chance of getting the Infinity+1 Sword from that Metal Slime. Happy grinding!
- Rat Stomp
Rats - the ultimate noob enemy.
- Relationship Values
A usually hidden meter that measures the depth of your relationship to other characters.
- Required Party Member
Someone who you have to have in your group, usually due to plot reasons.
- Resting Recovery
Put the characters into a dormant state for a certain time to rapidly recover their HP/MP/etc.
- Romance Sidequest
A sidequest which has the player character enter a romantic relationship with a party member or NPC.
- RPG Elements
Where a non-RPG is given some aspects of one (menu battles, equipment, levels).
- RPGs Equal Combat
The only way to get equipment, skills and levels is to fight things.
- Resources Management Gameplay
- Role-Playing Game Terms
A glossary of common RPG terminology.
- Save Point
A specific spot where the player is allowed to save their game and restart it should they get a Game Over.
- Scratch Damage
All successful attacks must inflict some damage, no matter how little.
Any part of a video game that is not required to complete the game.
- Sidequest Sidestory
A sequence of optional sidequests reference/join up to each other to create a seperate story.
- The Six Stats
The six attributes that help or hinder you in gameplay.
- Skill Point Reset
Optional reset of a Player Character's skill and ability scores, allowing you to redistribute them.
- Skill Scores and Perks
Abstract conventions of how playable characters' skills and abilities work in the game.
- Skill Slot System
A character can only use a limited number of active skills but can replace them with better ones under certain conditions.
- Sole Entertainment Option
In the entire in-game world, there is only one kind of entertainment or only one city where you can find it.
- So Long, and Thanks for All the Gear
A party member leaves the party for some part of the game, taking whatever you equipped them with in the process. Hope it wasn't anything you needed!
- Sorry I'm Late
When you're separated from your party, they will join up with you in the course of one or more random encounters.
- Sorting Algorithm of Evil
Villains must appear in strictly ascending order by menace.
- Spell Crafting
A game lets you create your own spells.
- Spell Levels
Each known spell is assigned to a category roughly reflecting its power.
- Standard RPG Items
We got potions, ethers, remedies, and revives, and dangit if they aren't all the same color!
- Standard Status Effects
If you're poisoned, blinded, mute, and confused... better take it easy on the magic mushrooms.
- Starter Equipment
The equipment you're given by default at the begining of the game.
- Stat Death
You can be killed if certain stats (other than HP) are brought down to zero.
- Stat Grinding
As you do specific actions, your statistics related to those actions will increase.
- Statistically Speaking
No matter how high your strength, speed, etc. goes, you still will not be able to, for example, just smash that Insurmountable Waist High Fence to pieces.
- Surplus Damage Bonus
Damage an enemy more than is strictly necessary to kill it, and you get a reward.
- Take Your Time
The only time you actually need to hurry is if there's an onscreen timer counting down.
- Talk to Everyone
It's the only way to get that sneaky clue about the dinosaurs!
- A Taste of Power
Where you are given a strong character or ability early on, but lose it quickly.
- Teaser Equipment
Shopkeepers in video games sell powerful equipment, but you won't be able to afford them until later.
- There Are No Bedsheets
When a character lies down on a bed, they will never get into sheets or blankets, but just lie on top of it.
- There Are No Tents
You can only rest the night at an inn; you can't just set up camp somewhere.
- Thriving Ghost Town
Cities and towns are much, much smaller than they should be for sustainability.
- Tier System
The Rank of your equipment or enemies dictates how powerful they are
- Took a Shortcut
You spent all that time going through the dungeon and beating all the puzzles, so how the heck did these guys get here first?
- Trauma Inn
Got killed in combat? Just spend a night at the inn, and you'll be healed up by morning!
- Treacherous Quest Giver
The person who sends you off to kill the Big Bad is actually manipulating you for their own unsavory ends.
- Trespassing Hero
Go everywhere you can in an RPG, even into private homes without an invitation!
- Turn-Based Combat
When the combat mode of the game is turn-based.
- Twenty Bear Asses
Annoying Fetch Quest where you have to collect a certain number of whatever item, usually dropped by randomly encountered enemies.
- 24-Hour Armor
You wear your armor everywhere. You eat with it, you sleep with it, you take baths in it.
- Unconventional Alignment
For when the standard good/evil and law/chaos alignment scales just aren't flexible enough.
- Underground Monkey
Enemy types get recycled from one area to another, with stronger stats.
- Universal Poison
There is only one type of poison, and generally one type of antidote for it.
- Unknown Item Identification
Generic-labelled items that must be appraised/identified as a separate step before you can actually use them.
- Vendor Trash
An item that's useless for anything but selling for cash.
- The Very Definitely Final Dungeon
The Final Boss lives here; you'll know it when you see it.
- Video Game Geography
The world map is square and wraps around on both edges. How exactly does that work? Who cares?
- Video Game Weapon Stats
Common attributes for weapons.
- Villain Forgot to Level Grind
Where the villain is still at the same level he was at ten hours ago, but the heroes are ten levels higher and therefore beat him handily.
- Wallet of Holding
Where you can collect millions of gold coins and not have your pants fall down.
- Warp Whistle
Instantaneously teleport to any location you've been to before.
- We Buy Anything
Want to sell that rusty suit of armor at a grocery store? They'll take it, no questions asked!
- We Cannot Go On Without You
You get a Game Over when the main character is killed, regardless of how many of his companions are still alive or whether they can quickly revive him.
- Welcome to Corneria
NPCs keep saying the same thing over and over again.
- You ALL Look Familiar
There are only a few NPC models; you'll see it repeated over and over again.
- Zip Mode
A subtype known as Dash Mode is extremely popular: holding a button will make the party run. May increase the chance of Random Encounters