Gaming - In General
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July 30, 2009, 3:25 pm

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Explaining Roleplaying - The MoonHunter Way


Everyone has their own take on what roleplaying games truly are. This is mine.

Role playing games (RPGs) are unique combinations of imagination, storytelling, acting, and standard Games. A group that gets together to play becomes a troupe. Each session they come together to play is called a run. One of the players is designated the lead player, called the GamesMaster or GM. The GM supports and directs the play of the others. The other players take on the roles of characters. Play normally occurs sitting around a table top, but any area can be used. Like in Imagination (You might of called it “Lets pretend”, “Cowboys and Indians”, or “Ice Rebels and Stormtroopers”), each player takes on a role of a character, a person in an imaginary time and place. The play occurs sitting around a table, with players describing and occasionally acting out what their characters do. Sometimes props are used, including maps, miniatures, and tokens, but they are not required for play. The action occurs in the minds of the troupe.

By playing, the troupe creates an ongoing story based on the characters being played. The lead player (GM) has many of the responsibilities of an author or storyteller, by creating and presenting the setting, situations, and supporting characters for every scene in the story. And that is where the GM’s similarities to an author ends, as a GM does not control the protagonist/ heroes of their story. The other players do. The players are writing most of the story. The GM can be considered something of an editor for this group story, as they make sure everything fits together.

A game scene is just like a movie’s or play’s scene, beginning and ending when the action ends, the setting changes drastically, or the type of action changes dramatically. The GM, like an author, determines the level of description for that scene. Downtime is the same as narration or transition scenes, where large chunks of time/ space occur and little is played out except some bookkeeping. Uptime is the time that most story/ movies occur in. Most actions are narrated through with occasional die rolls, or other mechanics, being used to judge results. Uptime scenes could be only a few moments of the characters life to an hour, or even a day. Tactical time is for action scenes, i.e. chases, fights, or other conflicts. It uses additional dramatic rules to keep track of all the action. Every scene is made up of impulses (call them turns/ segments/ or rounds): a moment of action or change in the scene. (Consider an impulse a moment of action captured on film, though that section of action may be on the cutting room floor instead of view on the screen). Every character in a scene will be able to do something over an impulse. In most cases, impulses are only kept track of during tactical time.

Actual play is performed to an extent. The GM presents the setting, situation, and the dialog/ action of a supporting character in their best storyteller manner. The players “act out” (gestures, facial expression, accents, and occasionally getting up and showing actions) and verbally describe the actions their characters’ take. The GM interprets their actions fairly and impartially and describes the results. The rhythm continues, back and forth until the end of the run. (See example to the side.) Every now and again during play, a point of drama will come up. A point of drama is some kind of conflict or obstacle that the character needs to be overcome to advance their story.

That is when the rule mechanics come into play. This is a game. And, a game implies fairness through rules. The GM has the role of referee, selecting the appropriate dramatic system and resolving the action. All physical and metaphysical actions are resolved directly using rules, augmented by roleplaying. Social and mental situations allow for more character/ players input, so the resolution system is modified by the character’s roleplaying. The use of rules is what makes it a game, rather than an acting exercise. Games are normally played to win- some criteria for victory. A roleplaying game is unlike a traditional or conventional game, as there are no winners or losers, only players being entertained. Each Run presents new and interesting challenges for the players (and the game master). Sessions continue until the GM declares their story is over.

A roleplaying game has rules that function as guidelines to play. There are three types of rules: mechanic, play, and the most important, the common sense rules. Mechanical rules provide way to describe things in game terms, and how to use those descriptions to resolve actions and points of drama. They provide a common language for the troupe to use to avoid misunderstandings about the game. Most rule booklets revolves around mechanic rules. Play rules are the game etiquette and social rules the troupe follows while playing. They cover such things as food and drink in or at the gaming area, the permissibility or boundaries of side conversations, the amount of rules talk allowed during a run, loudness levels, levels of politeness for the players. These rules are not normally written down, but agreed upon by all members of the troupe. New groups should work together to find a comfortable set of play rules. The common sense category defines rules based on, well for lack of a better term, common sense. They are actually the most important rules to a game. Most games imply these rules exist.

There is another category of rules. However, they are not official rules. House rules are rule variations that a given troupe uses. These rules could be different interpretations of the printed rules or rule variants that group uses. They are perfectly acceptable. The GM is the final word on all rules being used for his/ her game. All the players playing the game should be told what rules are being used for any game they are playing in before play starts. Most GMs present players with a campaign packet. The variations should be noted prominently in them.

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Comments ( 2 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted Mourngrymn
December 12, 2005, 12:09
This is great as always Moon. I have something similar ot this in my core manual, although not nearly as long or detailed. Makes me want to review it and edit it.
Voted valadaar
June 30, 2016, 8:45
Another of a long line of excellent articles by Moonhunter!


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       By: Strolen

King dresses as a commoner occasionaly and makes his way through the town. It is an unknown occurance so nobody expects it. This time he is mistaken for a thief and jailed. Not wanted to reveal himself, and always curious for the experience, he allows himself to be arrested. PCs also get arrested for something, probably guilty but pay a fine. How they act towards the 'king' could greatly change how their first meeting will be as the players always meet the king at some point.

Ideas  ( NPCs ) | September 11, 2003 | View | UpVote 2xp

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