Role-Playing Game Types

Over the years I’ve been asked what my favourite type of role-playing game (RPG) is. I love them all, since they all have different pros and cons, and I like that they have differences. By type I don’t mean the system, setting or genre, but the method of playing the game:

  • Classic RPG or Tabletop (RPG, or TRPG), also sometimes called pen-and-paper. Of course a table is not required, plus these days can be played virtually via things like Skype, or dedicated software.
  • Live Action (LARP)
  • Computer (CRPG), whilst the label RPG is often misused with computer games, there are some excellent CRPG.
  • Play-by-mail (PBM or PBEM), a very broad term that includes everything from chess to moderated role-playing. The subcategories of PBM are: post, e-mail, chat, forum, blogs, wiki, journals, google documents, and software assisted.

On average I found that during such chats about favourites, the player asking tended to prefer the type of game that they were currently playing; nothing surprising there. On rare occasions a player would declare all other RPG types as inferior, or even outright stupid. Predictably some of them had not played many other game types.

d6

A bit of a tangent, I’ve met a few people whom have only ever played a single RPG, despite gaming for years. I’m curious how they could play for so long whilst not trying out one of the numerous other games. Although it is great that they’ve played something they have enjoyed for so long.

Whilst it’s great that there is so much information on the Internet about RPGs, sadly it is hard to find useful statistics. Thankfully Wizards of the Coast did carry out a big survey in 2000, although I wish they’d asked even more questions. In particular I’ve often pondered how many RPG books have been sold, in 2004 a BBC article posted:

An estimated 20 million people worldwide have played D&D since it was created, with more than $1bn spent on game equipment and books.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/3655627.stm

Whilst I would have guessed that more people had played D&D in 2004, that is still a seriously big number, especially considering how niche RPGs often seems to be. I think RPG is still growing in popularity, if only because of how popular computer games are these days. Although RPG mechanics are now common place in computer games, sadly those alone do not make a game into an RPG.

At a later date I will write an article about what I think the pros and cons are for the different RPG types. To me the commonalities of role-playing are compelling. From my experience all the different types of RPG equally allow for role-playing, as all of them can be just as emotionally intense and rewarding as each other. I’ve played all types of RPGs, covering all genres. Some games use detailed rules systems, ranging all the way to almost no rules. The biggest factor of all RPG is always the players, what each of us individually brings to the game.

The next RPG article will focus on PBM, RPG Power of PBM: Time.

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With great role-play comes great responsibility

Yesterday I read about events that had taken place at the recent Lorien Trust (LT) event of live action role-play (LARP). Even though I have not played LT for a few years, it briefly made me cry.

The story of Lady Fama finally came to a dramatic conclusion; a character played by the lovely and talented Liss, whose group I had been in for a few years. I shall keep the overview brief, as I guess only the people involved would care about, and know, the depth that I am skimming over. Plus a lot has happened since I last played.

For years I had played my character, Stalik O’Mite, as an independent, spending most of my time at Guilds. Things changed a lot for me when I joined the Cerebelli group, and it was immediately obvious this was a special group. I enjoyed my time with them, even though I was still mostly at the Guilds. I barely spoke with Liss out of character, and I regret not getting to know her more, we were all so busy. Stalik had many roles as a house servant including scribe; two examples of my work can be found here. When a prominent character retired there was a big IC event, and the following was declared:

“This time next year there had better be tales about Prince Firenzi!” Those were the words of the Unseelie King of Arcadia, Oberon, as he escorted the Prince back to Arcadia at the Summer Moot in 1110.

In my mind I have two images side by side:

  • The player, Liss smiling and saying hello when I arrived at events. A quick chat before we both rushed off to sort out our kit and say hi to other players.
  • The character, Lady Fama with her white frockcoat and trousers, long boots, a distinctive blue waist coat. Her hands clasped firmly behind her back, walking somewhere to do her duty, bound by oaths and a solemn quality.

Fama walking

As a Fae with strict Oaths, Fama’s actions were bound tightly, with conflicting demands; she always seemed so well controlled, but there was something dangerous being controlled. Lady Fama had a close relationship with her brother Lord Aeneas, it was generally considered that she kept him in check; I knew this was not so simple, that Fama’s spirit was powerful and thus complicated. When I found out that Lord Aeneas had died the previous year in a ritual it was upsetting enough, but at the time my thoughts were about how Fama would handle this.

I choose to stop playing LT for a list of reasons. I made a difficult decision, but it wasn’t until hearing about Fama that I really regretted stopping. I wish I’d spent more time with a group that I knew was awesome; I didn’t have a problem with my group, all the members were great.

I was happy that I got to read Liss’s overview of what occurred, the scale of events leading to such a great ritual. The fact that the Cerebellis managed to avoid their stories turning in to nightmares was noteworthy. I felt the need to write something, but since I have not played LT for the last few years, I clearly could not write an IC piece like I had written for Firenzi.

I contemplated explaining why reading Liss’s overview was so moving, but I decided it was not my story to tell, and I would be repeating an overview that I was not present for. Instead I recalled a list of great moments of personal interaction between Stalik and Fama.

A noteworthy interaction between Stalik and Fama relates to the Firenzi article:

this article was undertaken at the request of Lady Fama, of the Teutonian House of the Serpent. King Oberon’s threat notwithstanding, Lady Fama wanted the events noted anyway.

As a house servant Stalik was a loyal Sluagh, and willing to go that extra mile. Whether running a tea party with an assortment of Seelie & Unseelie cheese, gathering information, or carrying out the rescue of a fallen house member, there was so much to do. Before his ritual, Stalik’s whispering voice was not heard, nor his opinion sought. The power relationship between the ruling Sidhe and their servants was as one would expect. However, when Garret started spending time with Fama, Stalik deduced the nature of his intent and asked Fama about this. A restrained, tolerating brief line of questioning was followed by an order to not mention it again. It was not unexpected, but hurtful given the duty to assist. It was a good example of the brief but regular intense interactions; such is the power of Sidhe and the lesser Fae.

Fama Haven

For those that did not come across Lady Fama at LT it will be hard to appreciate why I hold the character, and the player, in such high regard. I am sure most role-players have a list of fellow players they admire, and I am not trying to claim that Liss is peerless. LT is a large system, with a lot of players who are great role-players and lovely people.

It is human nature to focus on the negative, and it seems all too common for role-players to try and outdo each other, often involving grand tales of surviving/tolerating terrible players. Thankfully having gamed so much, as well as professionally, I learned to appreciate that cool stories are what matter. I truly rate the story of Fama as one of my favourites, such an appropriate thing for a Fae in LT, and I appreciate there is so much I don’t know. Another part of my reasoning is the amount of role-play that Fama created for so many people; as Stalik I got to witness so many great encounters, and ramifications a few years later.

I am sure numerous groups are making lovely offers for Liss to join their group. Whatever she role-plays next will be great, and quite possibly become something exceptional. To found out more about Liss, and another reason why I respect her, check out the wonderful everwalker blogs. Since Liss is a writer I hope to be able to read a book about the full Fama story in the future, but given how many Fama machinations are likely still ongoing, it may be a while.

A special mention to the whole group, several of whom are pictured below. A great group of role-players. Without great members playing less socially powerful roles it would have been much harder for the Sidhe players to appear as important. I was complimented a few times OOC by important Fae in other groups for making them feel special, and as someone of genuine high rank. With great role-play comes great responsibility, and this is something that I found Liss did well; IC as Stalik I was her servant, OOC I was a valued member. The same with the rest of the Sidhe, it was normal to be asked what we wanted to achieve in game, to be assisted in getting there. Even better the Sidhe characters were often able to deliver, making both the IC and OOC relationships stronger.

PS – My Fate Sucks!

Court group