Role-playing, and RPGs: An explanation

Fair warning to you all-- this is a novel of a post. It's huge. The reason I decided to write it out was simple. I noticed a lot of confusion revolving around the topic of RPing, so I figured I'd give as in-depth an explanation I could on the concept. Read at your own risk.

As an avid gamer, i'm always gaming in a variety of ways. Whether i'm playing resource management games, text based MMOs, side-scrolling arcade games, first-person shooters, or a hell of a lot of tabletop dice rollers, i'm always playing something. However, one particular form of gaming that i've become quite accustomed to enjoying is the role-playing game. But what exactly is role-playing, and what is a roleplaying game?

    In it's simplest terms, roleplaying games are exactly as they sound. They're games in which the players assume the role of a fictional character within a fictional setting, and create a narritive for entertainment . They come in a variety of forms. From text based forum posts like the one you're reading right now, to MUDs like Alter Eon, and even through audio games like Survive the Wild. It's popular among blind and sighted communities a like, and is totally open to people of all skill levels. Casuals, hardcore players, anyone and everyone in between. It's a concept that dates back to tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons, the Call of Cthulu, Pathfinder, etcetera, but what exactly is it all about?

     Fun is the goal

    Whether you're a group of scavengers upon a stallward space frigate mining for minerals, soldiers on the run from bloodthirsty robots, or survivors waging a war of attrition against an endless zombie horde, you all have one thing in common. You're having fun! Ultimately, the reason people roleplay is because they're looking for a little bit of fun in their life. Some individuals want to accomplish a goal for themselves -- reach the highest level, beat the final boss, and explore every inch of the games they play. Others take it a step further, and enjoy that game on a different level with their own narritive and characters thrown into the mix.

    Take swamp, for example. The game in and of itself is great-- level progression, a horde of enemies to slay, a series of huge and accessible maps to explore, and a difficulty and learning curve that's up there with the best of them. As you level up and slay the horde, you can actually feel your progress in your hands, especially in the first few missions you get under your belt. But the longer you play the game, the more routine it becomes. Death becomes less frequent, you learn the layout of the maps, and you discover which weapons are the most effective at maintaining your survival. However, one can really experience a lot of what the game has to offer relatively quickly if one really wanted to. Though the story is there, it' s very light. You get a brief glimpse of what the world has become in the wake of the zombie apocalypse, but not much more than the brief snippets you read inside of the safe zones, outposts and forts. I personally love a story in a game, light or not. The bits that were there got my imagination going, and as the game began to lose it's appeal for me, I started a new character and began playing the game in a bit of a different way.

    With this character, i've taken to attempting to experience this game in a different light. Not from the perspective of myself, at my computer, playing the game and levelling up, but as my own character within the narrative of the world. He's human; Isaac has his own past, experiences, and problems alongside the ever-present infected. In addition to playing out the personality of this character to the best of my ability, I tend to add a few more self-set rules into the equation as well. To use a brief example, Isaac is a human being, and in real life, human beings can't efficiently travel while carrying 16 weapons and several thousand rounds of ammunition. So, I limit myself to what I think Isaac is capable of carrying as the individual he is. He usually sticks to the shopkeeper's glock, an old (yet serviceable) Remmington 30-06 rifle, and a sledgehammer in the event that something gets too close. Believe it or not, actively playing in a limiting fashion like this, challenging as it may be, adds so much more depth into the gameplay. Obviously rules like that aren't for everybody, but I've always gotten a certain satisfaction out of it when I'm able to challenge myself in this manner and successfully overcome the odds. Immersing myself in this game from the perspective of this character is just fun for me. It's nice to escape my own relatively mundane life for a change and step into the shoes of what, to my perception, is an interesting character who has an interesting story to tell. I do this out of my love for the game i'm playing, and out of the desire to get as much out of it as possible. It's a little bit different than what i'm used to, considering i'm roleplaying with a smaller group of people, but things definitely get a lot more fun when more people are involved, getting just as immersed in their characters as I am. Some of the most fun i've had while gaming was while roleplaying with a group of six or seven different people. Unfortunately, I haven't really found that group of people here in the audio games community as of yet.

    Though I digress; Every roleplaying game (or Roleplay for short)  is different, and every roleplayer has different tastes in gaming-- it's simply all about what you want to get out of a game. Usually, the players agree to a list of do's and dont's for the sake of entertainment before a roleplay begins, but these rules vary from group to group. S ome individuals place more thought into their set of rules whilst others are more relaxed. Ultimately, the way gamers play their respective games is always up to them. The prodominant rules of thumb within the roleplaying communities i've been a part of is always to treat others as you'd like to be treated yourself, be cool like The Fonz, and above all else, have fun with it!

    So now that you have a brief idea of what roleplaying is all about, there's just a few short things I'd like to slap onto the bottom of this post for reference purposes. In my hopes that I've gathered a little attention, and perhaps sparked an interest in roleplaying in some of you, here's a brief explanation of some common roleplaying terminology.

OOC: Stands for, "Out of character". Out of character chat is exactly what it sounds like-- it's you, the player, speaking outside of the context of your character. OOC chatter is the basis of a r oleplay's functionality, and all of the details of the roleplay itself are established out of character. A few good examples of OOC conversation are as follows:

    "Where's the entrance to M1?"

"Anyone know where the better loot drops are on this map?"

IC: Stands for, "In character." In character chatter is words spoken from your own character's point of view. In the terms of an audio game, Survive the Wild is the best example of a game that distinguishes out of character chatter from In character. The IC chat, your radio, acts as your character's connection into the desolate, strange  world you've found yourself in. Where the OOC chatter is full of people asking for assistance, or just having general conversations from player to player, the IC on the radio is specifically meant for roleplaying your character. It's a bit harder to give a concrete example as to what IC conversations look lik e, but it's relatively easy to understand. Any sort of dialogue that maintains the immersion of the narrtive, like the dialogue between your character and other roleplayers, is in-character. IC dialogue is from the character's perspective-- You want to do your best to portray the emotions of your character in response to a situation that they're in. Isaac is going to be more panicked and hasty when he's surrounded by the infected. If someone fires off their assault rifle while they're in the center of the horde, he's going to get pissed off at them and start screaming-- his life is now at stake, after all. When you're in character, death is an ever present threat. When you die in real life, you don't respawn, do you?

    CS: Stands for, "Character skeleton" or, "Character Sheet". Though not always used, a CS is a brief summary about who your character is. Isaac's CS would look something like this.

    Name: Isaac Hawthourne

Age: 26

Gender: Male

Physical description: (This is usually done as a short paragraph, but for the purposes of this example, i'll simplify it into a list. )

    Height: Six  feet, three inches (6'3)

Weight: Two hundred pounds (200 lbs.)

Hair: Shoulder-length, shaggy and dirty looking, colored black.

Eye color: Green

Other: (Any other aspects of the character's appearance you'd like to note. Piercings, tattoos, physique, etc.)

Personality: (Usually, one should do their best to give a brief snapshot into interacting with the character)
    Isaac is a snarky, smart-mouthed and jaded individual. Before the infection, he was definitely what one would call an outgoing and friendly person, but in the wake of the apocalypse, he's become a little bit more hollow. He's aware that at any moment, any of the people he's living alongside cou ld be struck down and rise again as a shambling flesh-eater. As a result, he's taken to distancing himself from people to a certain extent. He's no stranger to casual conversation, but his words are usually accented in the tones of cynical nialism that most of the survivors of the plague have adopted. He does his best to remember who he was before the infection, and has a tendency to make references to classic films and comedies rather frequently. All in all, Isaac's a likeable, decent man if you take the time to warm up to him. It's just a little bit hard to see through the shell of sarcastic pessimism he's wrapped around himself.

History: (As it sounds, a brief snapshot of the character's past.)
    Isaac was a car salesman before the virus began to sweep throughout the swamps. It was a modest living, but provided for his needs adequately enough. He had dreams of bigger and better things-- a family. A business. A future. But all of that changed with the plague. They were everywhere, and everything that made them human was abandoned in the wake of their insatiable hunger. All he could do was run. He wasn't a fighter, he wasn't a badass, he just wanted to be safe. The military funnelled civillians from the more populus areas of the city and out toward a secure little general store near the outskirts of town, and that's how Isaac ended up where he did. He was scared, he was unprepared, and he didn't know what to do. But so was everybody else that was crammed into that store. As the days piled up and the infected kept on coming, supplies were dwindling and it became rapidly apparent to the meager group of survivors that somebody would have to venture out of the safe zone in search of something. , Whether it was weaponry, ammunition, food, water, gasoline, or anything else, The shelves had long since began to empty and more and more survivors kept wandering into the store seeking refuge. It w as then that Isaac realized that he had to do something. Whether he risked his life or not, he'd be damned if he was going to just curl up fearfully and die. So, armed with a glock that the shopkeeper had kept under the counter for protection, and a weathered old axe he'd brought along from his old home, Isaac ventured off into what the world had become.

GM/DM: Stands for, "Game Master" or, "Dungeon Master" alternatively. This is the individual who is in charge of the game. Sometimes, the DM also plays a character in the narrative, and usually they do. However, the DM's true duty is to settle disputes over characters, enforce the rules of the game, and in most cases, ensure that the narrative continues to move along at a smoothe, enjoyable pace. At times this role is divided amongst a small group of people, usually between 2-4 depending on the size and scope of the roleplay in question, but more often than not a single DM will suffice. In cer tain situations, it's not necesary whatsoever! But I avidly stand by the principle of at least one player taking the role of the DM in any given roleplaying session. That way, everybody involved has the greatest potential to have fun with it.

    Well, that's about all I can think of for now. Questions and comments are greatly encouraged, and I'll edit things into this post as I see fit to make sure that the greatest explanation possible is given. Thanks for sticking through to the end guys!

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