Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Loose Definition of What Constitutes a RPG, According to Me ;)

I posted this in response to a thread started by Greg Christopher (Errant RPG Blog) on Google+ in which he explains how the OSR helped him define what constitutes an RPG game. I'd link it directly, but then I'd actually have to know what I'm doing ;)

Greg, thanks for the mention :)

I played in a Tunnels & Trolls game run by Scott from the Huge Ruined Pile blog via Google chat. We had sessions that no dice were rolled - every challenge / encounter / puzzle was role played. We also had sessions where dice were being tossed for hours.

So, here's my take on the current argument: If every challenge / encounter / puzzle / whatnot can be solved by a character's die roll, it is no more a roleplaying game then WoW or EQ or Rifts. You are playing a game with social interaction, but you have little if any chance to actually get into a "role".

This is my problem with 4e - pretty much every "challenge" is made to be resolved by "roll play", not "role play", and is worked out on a game board (or encounter map or whatnot). That seems more like Decent then a roleplaying game to ME.

If you started gaming with 3.5e or later, what I see mostly as a social board game you may perceive as a RPG game. From my experience, your perception is wrong. It doesn't mean the definition of what constitutes an RPG can't (and hasn't) changed. Massive Multiplayer Role Playing Games is a very profitable corner of the gaming industry, but MMRPGs don't resemble RPGs that I grew up on. I've rarely if ever seen actual roleplaying in these game by ANY definition of the word, even on "Roleplay" servers. Yet I've still had fun.

"Fun" is the key word here I think. Definitions don't matter much as long as you are enjoying the game you are playing.

That being said, I agree with Greg - some of you are doing it wrong ;)


  1. I've just started reading The Secret Fire, and it mentions role-playing should be the key to success more than dice rolling, although I'm not that far into it yet.

    The whole dice-dice-dice game-play of 4th Ed. turned me off it, although I did give it a go. My Old School game is much better, with the only dice rolls so far being the one combat we had; rest was sheer role-playing and a lot more fun. Wish the pathfinder game I was in was more that way :(

  2. This argument harks back to Runequest vs OD&D. Chivalry & Sorcery, Rolemaster, Hero System, GURPS and a whole host of RPGs that have detailed tactical combat/skill system have been bashed for roll-playing.

    It was annoying when it came up then as it is today.

    If a game is roll-playing it is the fault of the referee not the system. Wizards makes the situation worse with D&D 4e by promoting a roll-playing style of player.

    In short it is a problem of presentation not system.

  3. Role-playing vs roll-playing is a delicate balance in my mind. The dice when used well flavor the game without ruling the game. An narrative only games feels more like LARP without the props and an endless dice rolling fiesta leaves nothing for actual narration and plaing the role.
    I think the dice give the players a sense of control / interaction with the narrative that is determined by more than just what the DM says.
    In my mind dice are essential to combat and ability/saves as they occur in the game. Other than that dice can be used as the DM & players determine in their games. If someone enjoys either of those extremes of LARPlite or Dice-o-rama have at it. Fun is the key. I always gave my characters in COV a back ground and often liked to role play their attitude and comments, but never felt obligated to "stay in character."

  4. I think the key words I used above is "nearly every encounter" when it comes to rolling the dice. That is why 4e fails so horribly for me (and i wanted to like it so much when i first heard of it). 4e is set up so every encounter / challenge is resolved by dice. That to me makes it a failure as an RPG.

  5. I hear ya Tenkar, over reliance on the dice prevents both thinking and actual role playing. Thanks for the comments here since Google+ is not on my conversational screen.


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