RPG ~Rockin’ Playin’ Game~

 That is the name of the only song I know by SuG. The tune doesn’t sound particularly great, but the title of the song sounds interesting. We do know, of course, that RPG stands for Role-Playing Game, but a lot of the time this is too tame a description for something that allows you to take on a character with boundless power, a rich life history, plunged into great epic adventures in vast fantastical settings (no need to go to school or work!). Indeed, if this isn’t “rocking”, I don’t know what is.

I mentioned last week that roleplaying is a word with so many meanings, and someone who dabbles in one aspect of roleplaying may not even be aware of the other meanings. One derivative I’ll talk about today is the tabletop RPG, which is an intermediary between the computer RPG and the forum written roleplay. It’s most similar to the chatroom RPG, in that it takes place in real time, with no writing quality required. However, tabletop RPGs are a lot more structured.

So in basic terms, what a tabletop RPG is is a group of people seated around a table. One of the people is a Game Master who sets out the background of the current story and decides what happens in each scene. The other people are players who each control a character in the story. Decisions are made and resolved via dice rolls, and skills are represented in numerical stats, so it is a combination of luck and skill for any successful thing — much like in real life. Most such RPGs are modelled after stories, such as Dungeons & Dragons being modelled after the sword-and-sorcery fantasy tale, and World of Darkness after the dark contemporary fantasy horror novels. People read these books and say, “I wonder what’ll happen if I were the hero. I’m sure I’d do things differently!”

What I find fun about RPGs is that it has the fun of forum roleplaying without the hassle. You don’t get the hassle of writing perfect posts, or waiting ages for your partners to do the same. Everything is fast and no one cares how well you write as long as you do awesome stuff with your powers. It’s all about meeting an obstacle and using strategy to get through it, much like a game. You don’t have to think of ways to fail too, like in roleplays, because the Game Master takes charge of that. All you have to do is beat the system, whether or not that makes for a great story for other people. I mean, who cares about people who read this kind of roleplay? In RPGs, you are undeniably the consumer, and the Game Master works for you.

It doesn’t come without its disadvantages though. For one, there isn’t really a lot of character development. Rarely does a character’s history come back to haunt him (I would highly respect any GM who tries that though) and the lack of control of what happens to a character can be quite frustrating as a result. No one wants to listen to the character’s introspection, or find that he can’t fight this boss battle because it reminds him of a childhood trauma with his father. Oh no, you absolutely cannot have an inept character in your party in a RPG. What would be the use then? Nobody would want to make such a character either, so the problem goes both ways. The GM must enforce a weakness if he chooses to, and players are going to complain that they didn’t do anything to deserve it. If the system did not dictate any such weakness, and it is not applied across the board, players are not going to be very happy about it.

RPGs are a great way to make an action-packed story in a short amount of time, but unless the GM and players are willing to break new ground, it’s possible that most of the stories become just a bit repetitive. Then again, the experience is in the players, and if they enjoy doing the same old things, it’s not up to the GM to stop them. What RPGs do teach about is catering to each other’s wants. Players should not attempt to undermine the GM, but similarly, the GM must be conscious of what his players like to do. If he is not sensitive enough to that, there may be a time when the fellowship of heroes must fall apart.

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