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The Essence of RPGs

What makes something a role-playing game? The Essence of RPGs was a serial in three parts running here at that offered an answer to this question by tracing the essence of these games to two sets of player practices, rule-play and role-play . Each of the parts ends with a link to the next one, so to read the entire serial, simply click on the first link below, and then follow the "next" links to read on.

Here are the three parts of The Essence of RPGs, each of which begins with a link to the corresponding part of the source serial:

  1. Children of TSR
  2. Rule-play
  3. Role-play

Cross-posted from If you enjoyed this serial, please leave a comment over there!

The Essence of RPGs (3): Role-play

Over on ihobo today, the final part of the serial looking at the differences between dramatic role-play and its brutal alternative, often misleadingly called ‘Old School’ role-play. Here’s an extract:

From the earliest days of the tabletop role-playing game, there were two main camps for how the story-play would operate, two different sets of player practices for role-play neither of which was specified by the game itself. The first, and the one I was involved in right from the start, could be called dramatic role-play, a form that takes its influence from storytelling and mythology – the kind of psychological patterns identified by Joseph Campbell as the heroic monomyth (or ‘hero’s journey’). In dramatic role-play, what is most interesting is how characters inter-relate to one another, and as a result those of us engaged in dramatic role-play very quickly realised that the dice were a liability more than they were an asset. We learned to fudge dice roles for dramatic effect, and never regretted it. Characters in our games still died, but they died as a consequence of their actions, not as a result of mere random chance.

You can read the entirety of The Essence of RPGs: Role-play over on today. My thanks to everyone who has supported this serial, which has been a pleasure to write!