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RPG – A Theatre of Mind

So, this little article I’ve written as a refer-to place for people just getting to know RPGs. If you’re already into that hobby, you may as well try any other links around here. Or, if you feel like it, write your feedback. I plan to polish the text to better reflect what I think and there’s no better way of refining any definition than discussing about it.

What’s a Role-Playing Game (RPG)?

RPGs are games of imagination. There are numerous definitions to be found in the books as well as on the Internet. Players take on roles of various characters during a “gaming/playing session” (often just “session”). One of them prepare a “scenario” or simply describes the world of the characters the other players are playing. This player is a “game master” (GM) or a narrator in the non-jargon dictionary.

The session

Playing an RPG is something of a cross-over of the popular tabletop board games and improvisational theatre. The narrator describes some events or the world as-is and the players decide how their characters respond to them. The game is then a conversation with everyone exchanging their actions and responses to those of others. So that’s the improv drama element. From it comes the term “theatre of the mind”. It’s a way of playing in which the drawings, maps, plans and other visual and/or tangible props are less important than descriptions of the players. (From the title of this blog, you may find out that’s my preferred way of playing. 😉 )

But there are also some constraints to the actions available to the characters. These can be derived from common sense as well as from the rules of the given game (called “mechanics”). Depending on what type of game the players choose, these rules can be different, but most of the time they involve rolling dice or some other way of adding random outcome. Thus, the players may tell if their actions (at least those more difficult, as deemed by the game master) are successful or not.