Role-Playing Game, a game where the main focus is assuming the role of a fictional character.

Basic introduction (for non-gamers)

RPGs exist now in many mediums, but they started as pen-and-paper (Dungeons & Dragons, 1974). This traditional form is currently called "tabletop roleplaying games" (TTRPG). Classically, the ruleset takes a form of a book where the setting and mechanics are described. The setting might be detailed and is most often rich and fantastic (Tolkienesque worlds dominated the landscape), but still the most of content is left to the imagination of the players, especially to the "Game Master" (or "Dungeon Master" in D&D). GM is the player that acts out as 'the world', provides the story (pre-made scenarios might be used), makes decisions for NPCs (non-player characters) and resolves random events. Often a person in this role is practically a facilitator of the game session, although possible actions and influence depends also on the game system.

GM — Game Master

XP — "Experience points" — gathered during some games to gain upgrades.

As for mechanics, the classic elements are numerous tables of probabilities for many situations potentially of importance for players (fighting tended to be of primary focus). Random results are often resolved by using many different types of dice, sometimes thanks to comparing dice values with numbers from character sheets.

Sheets most often describe psychological and physical traits like strength, intelligence, charisma etc., skills and collected or equipped gear (the exact set depending on a system) of a character. Basic (shortened) rules of D&D are freely available, so you can see an empty character sheet at the page 177. An important value usually present in classic RPGs is the Experience Points (XP), gathered during the game, that allow players to upgrade their characters to their liking.

Modern RPGs often leave the rigid scheme described above to explore a much more diverse range of topics and solutions. We currently may have Micro-RPGs (e.g. one A4 page, or even with a lower word-count), GM-less, dice-less (e.g. token-based), existential, erotic, and also musical titles (see below). TTRPGs are growing as a business, the most work is for writers, but sometimes composers may have also something to do. For example, some pre-made adventures (available for purchase by Game Masters) provide recordings of background music for players' enjoyment and immersion.

Even more than in board games, in tabletop RPGs there is a growing interest in using ambience sound and soundtracks, from media files or with specialized apps. There are many project in this field, but mostly they stay in the area of pre-made tracks, without a lot of creative input expected that would resemble found sound manipulation (understandable, as typically GMs have lots to do anyway). As for the performance, the field is naturally dominated by voice acting.

Examples (with music)

AP — Actual Play is a type of RPG media, but in board gaming, the abbreviation is used for a design issue: Analysis Paralysis

Actual Play (AP) is a type of media where people play games of RPG as a live/edited podcast/video. These are some good places to see how a classic or modern RPG is played.

  • One example is Adventurers & Artists podcast, where the D&D session is accompanied by live non-idiomatic music. Here is the first episode of filmed game series, which is a continuation from games staged live (the video intro presents the backstory).

  • If you prefer to listen to music in popular genre, BomBARDed will have you covered. This one is audio only, but should be easy to follow also for people who don't know RPG. Here is the first episode: https://bombarded.podbean.com/2017/08/ The second episode will present a fight done by in-game characters. The music here is rarely improvised.
  • Another genre proposition is Mythic Thunderlute: A D&D Podcast Musical. https://www.mythicthunderlute.com/

RPGs to check out

22 links here (see all).

Library entries inspired by RPG

RPGs are very rich, it's worth to get inspired by them and it's possible in many aspects.

See also

Agenda — player's typology derived from RPG theorizing

LARP — Live action role-playing

Improvisational theatre — similar in opening the narratives, especially when you consider LARP.

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