A role-playing game (Online RPG
) is a type of game where players assume the
roles of fictional characters via role-playing.
In fact, many non-athletic games involve some aspect of role-playing; however, role-playing games tend
to focus on this aspect of behaviour.
At their core, these games are a form of interactive and collaborative storytelling. Whereas cinema,
novels and television shows are passive, role-playing games engage the
participants actively, allowing them to simultaneously be audience, actor, and author.
An example of this difference could be the classic scene in a horror film when a doomed character
ventures alone into the basement to fix a broken fuse. The audience experiences dramatic irony and says, "Don't go down there!" because they know the monster is lying in wait. In a role-playing game, the player may choose what to do about the broken fuse and use different tatics to overcome puzzling situations much like what one would find in a
In role-playing games, participants play the parts of characters in an imaginary world that is organized, adjudicated, and sometimes created by a gamemaster (aka narrator, referee, dungeonmaster, storyteller).
The gamemaster's role is twofold: on the one hand to provide a world and cast of characters for the players to interact with, and to adjudicate how these interactions proceed,
but may also be responsible for advancing some kind of storyline or plot,
albeit one which is subject to the somewhat unpredictable behavior of the multiplayer game
In a sense, the players are the "actors" who play the heroes, improvising more freely while the gamemaster plays all the supporting roles (ranging from villain to victim) and keeps them at least partly limited to the script s/he had in mind as the "writer." At the same time the gamemaster "directs" or referees the outcome of each decision, and his/her descriptions "produce" and "stage" the game setting.
Some newer role-playing games expand the players' powers beyond dictating the actions of their player characters. Some groups or games have rapidly rotating gamemaster duties, or in the more radical cases no gamemaster at all.
The cooperative aspect of role-playing games comes in two forms. The first is that the players are generally not competing against each other, nor against the gamemaster.
Most sports, board games, online wargame
and card games place players in opposition, with the goal of coming out the winner.
A role-playing game is not a zero-sum game; in the majority of these games,
the only way to actually lose is not to enjoy the game.
The second form of cooperation is that all of the players are writing
the story together, as a team. At the end of a role-playing game session the
events that transpired could be written into a book that would tell a story written by all of its participants.