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by Hawke Robinson last modified May 10, 2022 11:56 PM
Tabletop Role-Playing Game

Tabletop Role-Playing Game , the original format of RPG . Often RPG and TRPG are used interchangeably, however the advent of other formats including LARP , CRPG , CYOA , etc. have diluted the term RPG, so TRPG can be used for clarification between different RPG formats.

Other variants include: TTRPG[+] , Pen and Paper RPG, ..., .... 

Role-playing gaming (RPGing) is a cooperative recreational activity with many variants. 

There are two popular definitions of RPG in use today. Since they both try to condense to the smallest practical number of words, some commentary is required.

The first is from CAR-PGa: "improvised, open-ended stories in which the referee sets the stage and the players describe the actions of individual characters seeking a common goal. Playing depends on imagination and group interaction within elaborate rules."

Game publisher Darwin Bromley phrased it even more tersely with: "quantified interactive storytelling."

RPG Research Project founder Hawke Robinson provides lengthier explanations and examples with the following:

Role-playing games are childhood games of "Let's Pretend" or "Cops and Robbers" all grown up and governed with rules. They are very much akin to 

improvisational theatre or "communal storytelling." They are generally a
group activity in which one person -- usually called the Gamemaster --
serves the same function as a play director. He provides the background for
the game, has devised a plot for the players to unravel and plays the role
of any secondary characters the players encounter during their game.
Role-playing games are set against different backgrounds, some real, some
fictitious, in the same way that movies and novels use real fictitious
settings. The number of backgrounds is vast. There are even games where
players can pretend to be animated cartoon characters!
The Gamemaster employs a set of rules that determines all sorts of things,
from how far a player's character can leap to how much of an overheard
conversation in Croatian a character can actually understand. Dice are used
to inject an element of realistic uncertainty, so the players cannot be
completely sure that they will succeed in any given task.


An example by Hawke Robinson illustrates a very basic and quick example of a tabletop role-playing process:

The game referee, sometimes known as the Game Master meets with the players in a comfortable setting around a table, or anywhere they find comfortable, and begins with a description:

You and your friends have just walked into the courtyard of an ancient building. The courtyard is approximately forty feet square. The walls, built of a tan colored stone material apparently indigenous to the area, are built to the points of the compass. They are about thirty feet high. You entered from an opening in the south wall. You see the north wall has some stairs going up, and the east wall on your right has what appears to be a solid metal door hanging open on rusted hinges. The walls are crumbling in places, and much is overgrown with ivy and weeds. In the center is a large fountain about fifteen feet high in what appears to be the form of a series of three flower-like terraces. Surprisingly, the fountain is currently spouting clear and cool looking water. Looking at the water, your more acutely aware of how dry you mouths are after the long day's hike to arrive here, with no water previously in sight.

The wind is picking up as a storm from the south, with lightning and dark clouds gathering, quickly approaches. It is getting colder by the minute...

What do you do?”

At this point, those playing in the game each take turns telling the GM and the other players what actions they take. Some will have mundane results, others could have surprising consequences. Dice are frequently used to simulate the random events that can occur in life, and make it unknown in advance, even to the narrator, what exactly will happen next. For example, someone may decide to climb the stairs, where there are some loose steps, and depending on how agile the player's made-up “character” is, with a roll of the dice, that character may leap to the top unscathed, or may have a bit of a fall to deal with. Of course, there also could be trouble in the form of “ill-intentioned bandits” lurking within the entrance of the door....

“Because they are cooperative games, RPGs don't have winners or losers in the traditional sense of the terms. In
most games -- board games, card games, and dice games -- there is a clearly defined way to win, and a clearly defined way
to lose, and winning is the goal of the game. In RPGs, the concepts of winning and losing do not exist. The goal as a player
is to "help to create a story and to have fun. You may give your character other goals, but the success of your character does
not determine any sense of winning or losing. Like life, it's not so much whether you win or lose, but how you play the
game" (Stratton, What Is Role-Playing). “


List of Benefits 


  • Cooperation with diverse people/cultures/background on common goals

  • Leadership

  • Walking in others shoes/experiences

  • Exposure to other cultures, religions, histories, etc.

  • Languages/Linguistics

  • Multicultural mythologies

  • Learning/following the rules but also “thinking outside of the box when needed”



  • Mathematics

  • Statistics

  • Researching

  • Problem solving (e.g. puzzles, riddles, mazes, etc.)

  • Reading/writing (technical)

  • History

  • Geography

  • Cartography

  • Geology

  • Economics

  • Government systems

  • Politics

  • Ecology

  • Metallurgy

  • Meteorology

  • Astronomy

  • Physics

  • Demographics

  • Warfare tactics and strategies

  • Technologies past and present

  • Architecture



  • Theatrics/acting

  • Improvisation

  • Reading/writing (creative)

  • Artwork (drawing, painting lead figures, etc.)

  • Music

  • Poetry

  • Math
  • Reading
  • Learning Skills
  • Observing - Using your senses to learn about something in detail.
  • Comparing, Contrasting and Classifying - Looking for similarities and
  • differences and assigning labels.
  • Organizing - Understanding and using structures to create order.
  • Finding Patterns - Detecting repetition
  • Understanding Main Idea - Grasping the essential/major point
  • Predicting - Determining what will happen and why.
  • Communicating - Sharing and developing ideas with a range of audiences.
  • Finding Evidence - Locating proof to support a statement.
  • Questioning - Posing problems and asking "what ifs."
  • Examining - Breaking into parts.
  • Sequencing - Arranging things in an order.
  • Solving Problems - Selecting and generating alternative strategies to
  • resolve a situation.
  • Drawing Conclusions - Using clues and evidence to get meaning from
  • information.
  • Elaborating - Expanding on ideas by adding detail and connecting to other
  • learning.
  • Summarizing - Retelling in a shortened form.
  • Using Resources - Accessing a variety of information sources.
  • Applying - Transforming learning into action.
  • Evaluating - Judging using a criteria and setting new goals.


Genres, Settings, & Systems

Innumerable genres, systems, and settings abound. A very brief summary includes:


  • Dungeons & Dragons

  • Runequest

  • Robin Hood

  • Amber (Based on Roger Zelazny's Amber series, diceless game, uses cards)

  • Pendragon (King Arthur)

  • Conan

Science Fiction

  • Star Wars

  • Star Trek

  • Traveller

  • Doctor Who

  • RIFTS (Multiple universes/dimensions of reality)

  • Babylon 5

  • Robotech/Battletech

  • Aliens



  • HP Lovecraft's Call of Cthulu

  • Vampie: The Masquerade (inspired tv short tv series, Kindred: The Embraced)



  • X-Files

  • Noir (Sam Spade and Mickey Spillane type detective mysteries)



  • James Bond

  • Indiana jones



  • Bushido (feudal Japan)

  • Oriental Adventures


Old West

  • Boot Hill

  • Deadlands


Comic book heroes

Such X-men, Batman, Spiderman, etc.

  • Heroes

  • Champions



  • Ghostbusters

  • Paranoia

  • Toons







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