What actually is a Role-Playing Game?

Welcome to the wonderful world of Pen & Paper role-playing.

But what is it – such a Role-playing game?

Note: For those interested, we also produced video material (currently just in german) here.

I always like to answer this Question in the following way: It is a mixture of

  • interactive novel,
  • board game and
  • improvisational theatre.

Essentially, it’s about this:

A group of people sit at a table, drink, eat and play a game.

Most of the players take control of a fictional character (a Player character or short PC) in a story. One of the Players is now called the Game Master and shoulders the responsibility to shape the rest of the story.

He or she helps the Players discover the secrets of the story in a number of scenarios: Fighting with Monsters or Villains, or snapping a trap in the catacombs of a treasure cave.

He or she takes control of allies, enemies and other contacts within the story that the heroes will encounter – in short all the characters of the plot that are not controlled by the players (this makes the whole thing an interactive novel). Characters controlled by the Game Master are called Non-Player Characters (NPC) or Game Master Characters.

In addition, the Game Master describes how the surroundings react to the PCs: A loosely trodden stone triggers an avalanche; A footplate in a tomb sinks into the ground when the hero of the story steps on it; a giant, rolling stone threatens to overrung the characters, etc.

You don’t just babble what comes to mind, there are pre-determined rules of the game that are dictated by the chosen bame system (hence the mention board game).

The rules of the game simulate the physical laws of the game world and are intended to reflect the desired gegree of realism – what the Figure can and cannot do, which action is easy and which is difficult.

The character’s abilities are mostly determined by a random element (aka. dice). If the character is good at something, the likelihood of success is high, is the character bad, (hopefully) a little luck may help.

Players slip into the role of their chosen character and, from their perspective, have to make the decisions that seem most sensible from their respective point of view. There is no script and no fixed specifications, it arises from the circumstances of the situation and the imagination of the players and how much the players can or want to put themselves into the shoes of their respective characters (hence Improvisational Theatre).

During the game, a story emerges that (if it goes well) everyone has fun and has been influenced by everyone.