In my last post I mentioned my efforts to recruit one of my work friends into Role Playing. As part of this exercise I squandered valuable work time to write him an email that outlined some very basic concepts of the hobby.
I have smuggled it out of work for your reading pleasure...
So, I'm such a big geek that I really want to talk about this now, and I probably wasn't going to do any work now anyway…
RPGs require a structured system. All participants have set roles and responsibilities. There is usually a robust conflict resolution system and other rules in place to help arbitrate success and failure, and degrees thereof.
Most games, and there are more games out there than you could possibly imagine, require one person to take on a facilitation role. This role has a number of names, depending on which game you're playing. Dungeons and Dragons uses a Dungeon Master (DM). Most generic games use a Games Master (GM). My favoured system uses a Storyteller. Other titles include Director, Narrator and Story Guide.
Irrespective of title, they all pretty much do the same thing.
Describe the game world that the players interact with
Portray other fictional characters that the players interact with (these are called NPCs - Non-Player Characters)
Arbitrate disputes and rules decisions (i.e. prevent the 'I hit you' 'no you didn't' five year old child argument)
Move the story forward - this is the hardest bit, as it requires the GM to keep the players motivated, interested and challenged
Design the game world, plot stories and plan encounters - This is as hard as the GM wants to make it. Some games provide pre-published adventures, so the GM only needs to run the story as written. Some GMs prefer to 'wing it' and just improvise a story as they go on. Others will spend hours researching historical detail and present an entirely accurate 17th Century Venice and all the murder and intrigue that setting could suggest. Others just fudge it and produce games that are as true to life as most Hollywood movies, but have explosions and cool stuff, so that's alright.
The players create a character each, using a detailed process laid out in the games main rules. Characters have two threads - personality and statistics. Some people confuse the two, but they're knob heads.
A player's role is to interact with the world that the GM presents, and to interact with the other players. 'Interaction' can include - climbing walls, lurking in shadows, seducing wenches, murdering cuckolding uncles, stealing stuff, being witty, plotting revolution, disarming bombs, shooting people dead, driving cars - whatever.
Different games have different focuses. Dungeons and Dragons, for example, is massively focussed on killing monsters and getting magic items. Works in a similar fashion to World of Warcraft et al.
The procedural games I mentioned, Gumshoe, focus on unravelling mystery, finding clues, solving puzzles and often running away from horrific monsters. Then there are the social games, that focus on politics, social hierarchies, intrigue, betrayal and revenge.
Nobody plays games that focus on love, forgiveness and chastity.
Many games have rules that govern when and how your character can go mad, how 'good' or 'bad' a person they may be and deal with complicated themes.
Many others deal with simple themes, like smiting evil and killing monsters.
Next time we'll talk settings, genres and tropes.
Dice - We throw these at Power Gamers