Saturday, April 26, 2008


(Incidentally, if you are familiar with role playing games, you probably will not get much out of this post!)

Roleplaying games (the non sexual kind) have a rather unpleasent sheen in society. People who play it are often characterised as spotty nerds with absolutely no comprehension of womenfolk. That this is sometimes true does not necessarily undermine the hobby itself. While associated with dragons, goblins and ghosts, it is a much varied hobby, with various systems in it.

The genius really lies in that roleplaying games aren't necessarily games. While there can be minor victories along the path, there is no real victory condition per se in the structure. Instead the games master tells a story, and the player explores it. The players act within the rules of the system. They cannot invent what is happening- thats for the games master to do- but instead decribe their characters actions. Often when they attempt to do something they need to make a roll to determine if they can do it or not. Their abilities to perform various actions depend on the character they are playing- a very intelligent character may be able to decode a cypher, but might have difficulty breaking down a door for example. While some systems have no rolling at all, this is rare, as by having dice it adds an element of chance which can make things a little more interesting. Additionally, without dice there comes a problem of the games master deciding if an action is succesful or not, which could lead to some vicious arguments.

Essentially this is make pretend from childhood, but with far more structure. The goal is not to win, but to co-operate with other players to explore the story the games master is telling. The story can range from a simple exploration of a dungeon to a political intrigue spanning continents. I really think pretty much anyone with an imagination can enjoy roleplaying, if they can get into the system.

Possibly part of the problem is that the most popular system, dungeons and dragons, is extremely complicated. The process of creating one's character seems absurd, with a whole list of things to calculate, which can take away from the game. Theres nothing wrong with this, but this can seem quite dense to a beginner. D and D is pretty much aimed at the converted really, and has several complications beyond this which makes other gamers not enjoy it that much.

I am personally running a campaign set in the warhammer 40,000 universe, a grim version of the future, called Dark Heresy, where the players are members of the inquisition, an orginasation determined to root out aliens and heretics from human existence. It is a relatively complex system, but the character generation is somewhat less involved, and all the better for it. I have decided to begin blogging my sessions, which you can read or not depending on your inclinations....

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