GMs: Never let players question your GMing decisions. Players: Question
everything. This about sums up roleplaying gaming.
The role playing
games that one sees on computers and video game consoles are one permutation of a much older legacy. The originals were played with a book of rules, pencils, paper, dice, models and imagination - a form of low-tech virtual reality. D6 dice are Older Than Dirt
, while D20s are apparently Older Than Feudalism
, though no one knows what they were used to play. These are still popular today, in many forms, the most widely known of which are tabletop RPGs
and tabletop wargames.
The default format for a tabletop RPG is for one player to be selected as the Game Master
while the others each create Player Characters
who will collectively act as the heroes of the game's plot. Individual sessions or "episodes" of the game are commonly called "adventures", and the ongoing game story itself is usually called a "campaign," a holdover from these games' own
heritage from tabletop wargames.
These tabletop RPGs get a lot of flak from society
— usually due to misinformation or simply misunderstanding. Common myths include that roleplaying games lead to devil worship, that players (and not their fictional personae) carry out magical spells, and that players actually become
. Inexplicably, the stigma remains even after World of Warcraft
and its ilk have made it seem almost normal for the guy at the water cooler to insist
on telling you about his elf.
Another subset of the tabletop games category is the tabletop wargame
, of which the most common format is an area set up as a battlefield (which may have a background map or miniatures to represent terrain) on which counters or miniatures are placed representing combat units. Players take the role of generals and attempt to defeat their opponents. The game may have a Game Master
, or may rely solely on clearly defined rules. Historical and fantasy settings are most popular, the best known fantasy games probably being Games Workshop
's internationally successful Warhammer
and its Sci-Fi Counterpart Warhammer 40,000
Tabletop wargames are Older Than Radio
("War Game") being created in 1812 by Prussian Leutnant Georg Leopold von Reiswitz and used by Prussian officers for training. Reportedly, the Kaiser and his Generals spent many long nights playing the g— er, conducting exercises. H. G. Wells
was also a fan, and wrote several books ("Little War" and "Floor Games") on the subject that have become iconic.
Yet another subset is the live-action role-playing game (or LARP). LARPs
are similar to tabletop RPGs in how they play, but instead of sitting around the table, players actually act out the story physically. Since these situations don't lend themselves very well to long stat sheets or rolling dice, most LARPs use greatly simplified game mechanics, ranging from the "rock-paper-scissors" system used under White Wolf's first-edition Mind's Eye Theatre
rules to semi-contact boffer-weapon systems clearly influenced by the Society for Creative Anachronism and other recreationist groups. These games vary greatly in size, from intimate affairs similar to traditional RPGs, to massive events such as those run by the International Fantasy Gaming Society
See Tabletop Games
for the broader category of games these fall into.
Tropes commonly used by tabletop RPGs include: