What even is a role-playing game? A role-playing game, or simply a RPG, is a game where someone takes on a character and embodies them for the duration of a game. Over the course of years many different types of games been developed that all could be described as role-playing games. To differentiate between the different types of RPGs, sub-categorical names are used.
Pen & Paper
This site is almost exclusively centered around pen and paper role-playing games. The moniker refers to the pen and paper (usually along with dice) used for the player’s character sheets. Typically, groups of four to five people gather in homes or at game shops and play at a table – sort of like playing a boardgame, except instead of a board, most of the action happens in the players’ heads.
HeroQuest: core rules describes pen & paper roleplaying games as follows:
“Roleplaying is a hybrid experience, combining elements of game play and collective storytelling. A group gathers together to talk its way through a spontaneously created story. All but one of the participants, called players, creates a fictional character (called a PC, for player character) defined by various abilities listed on a record called a character sheet. Using these abilities, the PCs pursue various goals in an imaginary world portrayed by a participant called the Narrator. The Narrator controls various other people and creatures in this fictional environment. The players describe how their PCs pursue their goals; the Narrator challenges them by putting obstacles in their path. Sometimes these barriers to success come in the form of supporting characters who oppose them; at other times, they’re impersonal physical or mental challenges, like a lock that must be picked or a cliff the characters have to climb. Whenever the characters try to overcome a difficult obstacle, the Narrator decides how difficult it will be. Using numbers attached to their abilities, the players roll dice to see if they prevail. The Narrator rolls dice to represent the resistance posed by whatever challenge they face. Their success or failure, as determined by the die rolls, changes the direction of the story, in either a big or small way.
Apart from pen & paper games there are Live roleplaying games. A Live is a roleplaying game where players walk around and impersonate their characters by talking and acting like they would. Usually live roleplaying games have few and easy rules and gamemasters don’t lead the plot. Instead the players do whatever they want to do (within a certain frame of possibilities determined by the setting and the rules). They all act simultaneously. There might be character sheets with characteristics and ability values. However, usually there is no dice rolling involved, instead conflicts are resolved by other means. Live roleplaying games that are especially rule light are sometimes called Freeform games. One example for this is our (yet unpublished) adventure The Witch of Ravenhill, where conflicts are resolved conflicts are resolved by rock-paper-scissors. Some live roleplaying games have ten player others might have several hundred. All of them play in a certain area, acting like their characters and pursuing their goals. The gamemasters do not tell the story. At the most they give impulses and outside influences. But most of the time they answer questions about rules and observe conflict resolutions like rock-paper-scissors. The rest is done by the players. Sometimes all characters pursue a common goal, but more often than not they belong to several smaller rivaling factions. Some players like to wear full or rudimentary costumes (e.g. painted t-shirts, head wear, make up etc.). However, this is usually not mandatory (unless stated otherwise in the rules).
Other Role-Playing Games
Along with pen and player, further RPG types include live role-playing (in which players dress as their characters and thereby physically embody them), live-action role-playing-games, simply LARPs (same concept as the one just mentioned, with the addition of weapons made of foam), and computer RPGs (wherein one plays games alone or with others on a smart device). Parlor games often bear a resemblance to the aforementioned RPG types, are however only of marginal importance to this site and its publications. However, we do run a second website about Trollball.
Of course, other forms of role-playing games also exist, which however do not have much in common with the highlighted types of games mentioned thus far. Those include, but are not limited to, sexual role-playing games and games used for educational or political purposes. On Humakt.com we do not concern ourselves with those types of games at all. Should those be the ones of interest to you, then you should look elsewhere.