Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Roleplaying Styles in RPG

A role-playing game (RPG) is a broad family of games in which players assume the roles of characters, or take control of one or more avatars, in a fictional setting. Actions taken within the game succeed or fail according to a formal system of rules and guidelines.

The original form, sometimes called the pen-and-paper RPG, is conducted through speech. In live action role-playing games (LARP), players perform their characters' physical actions.In both of these forms, an arranger called a game master (GM) usually decides on the rules and setting to be used and acts as referee, while each other player plays the role of a single character.At the heart of these formats is in-character participation in a collaborative narrative. Several varieties of RPG exist in electronic media, including text-based MUDs and their graphics-based successors, massively multiplayer online role-playing games.

Role-playing games also include offline role-playing video games in which players control a character or party of characters who undertake quests, and whose capabilities advance using statistical mechanics. These games often share settings and rules with pen-and-paper RPGs, but do not enable the same collaborative storytelling.

The act of roleplaying is a communal creative process, which turns social interactions into the basis for a fictional story. Each person assumes the role of a character in that story, and the plot develops based on the nature of the interactions between the various people involved. It is a living process which can change at the drop of a hat, and so the style of the people involved can be very important to the outcome of the story told.

Some people prefer a loose and laid back style of storytelling. This method allows jokes to be told, and out of character comments to be made at appropriate times. It is an easy, comfortable experience. The positive benefit is that everyone can feel free to be as creative as they want. The drawback is that the story can often be derailed by silliness, or inconsequential matters.

A stricter, more rigid style will often have characters following what is almost a script. While nobody will actually feed lines to the players, the situation will be strictly structured, so that certain outcomes are almost a certainty. In these cases the authority, whoever that may be, is usually given a large amount of power to regulate the entire process. The draw is that you always get a quality story that makes logical sense. The problem is, it can restrict the creativity of those involved, robbing you of a truly magical experience.

In most cases, the best way to handle a roleplaying session is with a certain amount of balance. You want to understand things from both perspectives. In some cases it's a good idea to be silly. In others it's important to maintain a serious atmosphere, in order to support the illusion of the game.

The idea is to create the most enjoyable experience for the players, and as such you should strive to make sure that everyone is comfortable and feels engaged. This can best be done by maintaining both a healthy dose of rigidity, and a subtle hint of humor and flexibility.

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