RPG Games Guide
RPG: RPG Games Guide – how to choose the right RPG game for you. Especially if you’re moving from games consoles to the table top. It’s time to roll that D20..
Ever wonder about those pen-and-paper creative-type talky games that people are into? They’re called RPGs (role playing games) and they’re more accessible than you’d think, so long as you’ve got at least two other people who want to have a go with you. It’s cool, whether you’re a beginner or an advanced player that’s curious about other RPGs out there. There are so many RPGs to choose from, and they’re just waiting for you to support, try, and share, from the free indie game/spoof Pokéthulu to the big double Ds (Editorial note: That’ll be the one and only Dungeons & Dragons, then)!
You’ve probably heard of RPGs at some point – either through movie references or from your friends. Role playing games have been around ever since there was, well, role play. And, although hardcore gamers and loads of university students know roleplaying games never went away, they are enjoying something of a resurgence in times of recession. A pen and paper, a single rulebook and a couple of dice mean there’s no cheaper way to entertain yourself and your mates for the next four or five adrenalin-fuelled hours. Of course, if you’re just starting, role playing games can be confusing, and sometimes the types that are out there can be overwhelming. Let’s look at a few different types of RPG.
Narrative / Tabletop RPG:
Narrative and Tabletop RPGs involve the players being (almost) themselves while sitting around in a comfortable setting, with one player acting as the Games Master (GM). Players create their own character and declare their actions through narration (“My elf warlock now tries to make a fancy pattern to distract the Bombadil”), or what their characters are saying (“My character tries to make light conversation by asking, ‘Well, how was your day, Malcolm Seven?’ whilst looking around for a swift exit”), and the GM describes what the results are from the actions. This is where D & D and White Wolf’s World of Darkness games lie.
You have to try it to experience it. The action is a lot less stilted than it might sound, because it’s only too easy to start imagining yourself as a character and what you’d do in a given situation thrown at you by the GM. Within minutes, even as a beginner, you’ll completely immersed in their character (and you really won’t want them to die / be maimed / contract a nasty poisonous rash / get caught). Also, you’ll marvel at how much banter and in-jokes evolve through an RPG. They’re fun. Honestly. Otherwise people wouldn’t play them.
Other hugely popular tabletop RPG games include those based on the Cthulhu mythos. These are often set in the 1920s or the Victorian era, and feature characters that have no magical powers whatsoever, and usually spend their time bickering, and falling to pieces whenever faced with any genuine action or horror. Many a Call of Cthulhu game has resulted in players actively avoiding the village full of monstrosities by spending an entire evening hiding in the local (fictional) pub. Except for the gung-ho types who inevitably die horribly or go mad. Now, although Call of Cthulhu – or indeed any tabletop RPG – basically involves sitting round in a room nibbling things and talking, a lot of older players like to take these RPG games to the next level by having wearing period costume and quaffing vast quantities of port and Bombay Blue Sapphire gin. There’s nothing in the rules against dress-up, even if you’re sitting in the comfort of a friend’s living room.
Live Action Roleplaying (LARP or LRP)
Live Action Roleplaying (LARP or LRP) RPGs are a form of interactive literature, where the players are in a much larger setting, and they act out what their characters do. The players will interact with each other on their own, usually without a GM. However, most paying LARP events will have stewards and referees (people checking that the game is safe and manageable) and also, in some cases, NPCs (non player characters – crew who know what the plot is and put on cameo roles to help the real players interact with each other and with the story). LARP or LRP can be any genre, but White Wolf’s Mind’s Eye Theatre is a good start. Vampire: The Requiem and Vampire: The Masquerade are both hugely popular. While some people call this genre ‘hardcore’ gaming, the communities are often open-minded, friendly people (just remember that there are still bad people out there, just like real life. But everyone can spot them a mile off).
Shared Author Fiction / Storytelling Games
Shared Author Fiction / Storytelling Games are generally a free-form type of RPG. These RPG games have no defined rules, but each player has a say in what happens to their character directly (as in, the elf cannot automatically wound and kill the dwarf, as that would immediately put the dwarf’s player out of the game, and that’s just not cool). General Storytelling games are held via e-mail, chatrooms, forums, or Instant Messengers.
Improvisational Acting Games / Theatre Games
If you’ve been in a high school drama class, you may have encountered improvisational games. They were intentionally made for practice (giving actors a certain character, and watching how they acted in this particular mindset), but eventually developed into their own genre. The basic rules of this are ‘No Denial’ and ‘Freeze’. In the first instance, if a player makes a statement and says that it is true, the other players must accept that claim (If a player says “Alright, that blue car over there looks nice”, another can’t say, “What’re you talking about? Nothing is there”). ‘Freeze’ means that the ‘director’ of the scene calls out ‘Freeze’, and the players stop what they’re doing. The director then throws in some facts for the actors to incorporate. An example of Theatre Games would be ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway’. They do several improv skits that resemble theatre games.
Computer RPGs and MMORPG
Computer RPGs: This is probably the most common form of RPG you’ll find. The actual game does not have the player interacting with humans, and generally don’t involve roleplay (you may complete quests in it by interacting with Non-Player Characters(NPCs) after you create your character based on its statistics. On the other hand, many of these computer games now come with a multiplayer feature, meaning that you could possibly find a server (or a multiplayer campaign) that supports roleplay. These multiplayer RPgs on the computer are known as MMORPG (Massively multiplayer online role-playing games). Examples of computer RPGs would be Diablo, Final Fantasy, Morrowind, Oblivion, Fallout, or Neverwinter Nights. MMORPG games include LOTRO (Lord Of The Rings Online) and WOW (World of Warcraft, as played by the extremely cool Jane Goldman).
Anything you want, my fair readers! Anything you can’t categorize with the other games can go here. And don’t be stingy; if you don’t think the particular campaign you’re running with Dungeons and Dragons is like anything else, feel free to put it in here. Heck, you can even homebrew your own rules – that’s when you create your own rules and setting for an RPG game. Games like that can be anything from All Flesh Must Be Eaten (a zombie horror game) to Pokéthulhu (a spoof of the popular Pokémon with the other popular Cthulhu, all in one game).
Now, this is only part 1 of our exploration into Role Playing Game culture. You’ve just reached base camp. Crack into some Mountain Dew (or, if that’s not mooky enough for you, Pomegranate 7-Up), get your D20 * / LARP gear, and go out and play!
* A D20 is a 20-sided die which RPG gamers use to determine the outcome of their actions. If you’ve just leaped across a roof or are talking your way out of trouble with a nazi guard, dice with 20 outcomes are a good way of finding out if you successfully leaped to the other side like a cat, just managed to grasp a drainpipe with your fingertips, or clattered to the streets below and are now in serious need of medical attention.