A Novice’s Guide to the World of Role Playing Games

In the 1970’s, the world witnessed a rage known as Dungeons and Dragons. Dungeons and Dragons, which drifted off the radar for several years, fits into a category of game play known as the role playing game, or RPG. Within the realm of RPG’s are three general varieties , live action, cards, and computer or video games, and there are sub-varieties beneath those.


Magic, the Gathering may be the most well-recognized role playing card game. While there are no distinct “roles” in most card games, they are still often considered part of the role playing genre. Card games, such as Magic, are based solely in the battle aspect of the RPG. In the majority of them players use cards to battle against each other in tournament style play.

Each card in a deck possesses certain traits, such as special skills, attack points, and life points and players “battle” with a hand of cards, the size of which is designated by the rules of each specific game. If a player plays a card with 100 life points and his opponent plays a card with an attack of 100 points, the first player is defeated, in that round of play and the losing card is generally discarded and cannot be used again until a new battle with a new opponent. Some games have healer cards that allow players to bring back one of their discarded cards. When a player is out of cards, in some games, or in others, when one player has achieved a specified number of points, the battle is over and the winner plays another opponent.

Live Action

Dungeons and Dragons is part of the live action variety of RPG. In live action gaming, players take on the personalities of characters and act as those characters. Live action gaming is similar to acting in a play only the script has been replaced by a set of stringent rules, which are used to create the society of the game. Within the boundaries of these rules, players immerse themselves in new worlds, often fantastical worlds filled with mythical creatures, even the players in some games play as mythical creatures, such as vampires or werewolves.

Battles and quests are the staple part of most RPG’s. In live action games, battles are fought in many different ways. Some games, or gamers, use playing cards (high card wins the battle), others use dice, others still utilize the age-old game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Battles can be fought between members of opposing families or tribes (covens, societies, whatever they might be called, based on the nature of the game) or they can be attempts to usurp power from someone higher in a member’s own family.

Quests vary depending on the game but often, in live action game play, they generally resemble scavenger hunts, although in some cases, the “items” to be found on the hunt are clues to solve a riddle or puzzle or players may be required to obtain information about other players.

Computer or video-style games

Computer RPG’s are the easiest to get into. The reason being there are two kinds of these, the solo player game, in which players battle the computer, and multiplayer online games, in which players connect to the internet and can play with and against other people from around the world. Solo player games (the Final Fantasy series is an easily recognized example of a solo player game; Disney’s Kingdom Hearts is another) can be purchased (or in rare cases, downloaded for free), installed onto a computer or dropped into a game console and nothing else is needed to play the game, making them extremely easy to get into

In multiplayer games, players can chose to designate their character, or “toon,” as a Player Killer (PKer) or not. PKers are toons who battle against other PKers and, as the name implies, can kill other players. Non-PKers do not battle against other live players, only against the computer.

Also in multiplayer games, players can form teams with other players and use one another’s strengths, weaknesses and levels to their advantage. In computer RPG’s, low level players gain more experience points (XP) or participation points (PP) from each battle and higher level players have more hit, or life, points and therefore can battle against higher level, harder-hitting monsters (also called demons or beasts, depending on the preference of the game programmers) and gain even more XP. Another benefit to team play in the multiplayer atmosphere is that some toons are designated as magic users while others are designated as physical combatants (some games have additional player classes but these two are common in nearly every game available). A team of a physical combatant and a magic user has the advantage of a frontal attack that is enhanced by a magic spell from behind. Of course, team play is not an option in a solo player game, nor is PKing.

There are many options for a person wanting to get into role playing, as you can see. But, buyer beware, as they say. These games can be very addicting and you may find yourself answering questions about your near future (When are you going to start dinner? When are you going to feed the cats?) with “just one more level.”

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