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LostInParadise's avatar

Could you give an example of a role playing game session?

Asked by LostInParadise (31902points) April 18th, 2020
9 responses
“Great Question” (2points)

I belong to a philosophy meetup. Before the virus, we were told that we would gradually cover the material in this book. I encourage you to read the brief description on Amazon. We will not be meeting again for a while, so I figured I would complete reading the book, which I got from the library.

The book claims that one of the necessary characteristics of a game is that there be a clearly defined goal and a set of rules for attaining the goal. It discusses childhood activities like playing cops and robbers or playing house, and says that they are not really games, and that children eventually grow out of them. This made me think of role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons. As I understand it, these games tend to be more structured than children’s activities, but do not necessarily have clearcut winners and losers.

If any of you have played in such a game, could you give an idea of what might go on during a particular session? I checked the Wikipedia article on role playing games, and it was not clear to me just how they operate.

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LostInParadise's avatar

Thanks, but I am still unclear exactly how the game is played. When do you have to throw dice? What allows you to reach safety? Are people ever trapped permanently?

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@LostInParadise The game loses its novelty if you know too much about how it is run.
After getting bored playing then you eventually find novelty running a game and becoming the DM
(Dungeon Master) or referee/storyteller.
Dice are usually a fair way to decide if a difficult action is successful or not.
After being bored with DM’ing typically one dropps the game for school and dating or writing novels or guides for role-playing games.

Any hobby has the risk of addiction if one goes too deep. I definitely went too deep in university. I switched to studying Emotional Intelligence and personality. My role playing experience helped me to find inner peace.

Zaku's avatar

I’ve been playing and designing games almost all my life, and playing published roleplaying games since I was 11 years old (and unofficial ones before that).

I’ve heard some people try to make the case (or just assertion) of that definition (or similar definitions, such as “some things have higher value than other things”) of what a game is, and I would say they are annoyingly trying to impose too narrow a definition of what a game is. Roleplaying games in partictular are quite often played without clearly-defined goals, and with the real goals being to enjoy oneself, to have the experience of shared imaginary worlds, or to experience or explore situations of interest.

I think people who assert that they know the “necessary characteristics of a game” and specify narrow things like that are wrong and annoying.

As for eventually growing out of them, they’re also wrong and annoying about that too. Many people have played RPGs since they were first published as such, and many people have died in their 70s-90s while still being active roleplayers and/or developers of such games.

Again, people who write those things are wrong and being asses.

Also, RPGs can and often do have objectives and scores. But those things are optional, and it’s often said that the real goal is to have fun. Players of such games discover things about what they find fun, and that different players have different ideas about what they want from games. (Unlike the ass-hats who write that RPGs aren’t games.)

Because RPGs have so many different games, styles of games, styles of play, different people running and playing the games exploring what they want to do, and different individual sessions, there is a vast variety in what people do. There are some popular conventions, but those are by no means the best or only ways to play RPGs. To use such an example would be like saying whatever the most popular corporate pop music style currently is, is the way all music is done.

One example:

An experienced player wants to introduce other players to one set of RPG rules. He invites a group of players to come play. They’re told the game will be an arena combat (q.v. Spartacus or Gladiator) and asks each of them to pick from a list of pre-made characters who have their ability ratings and equipment listed. Then he has them choose who is on which team, lays out a map of the combat arena with pieces representing their figures, and guides them through the process of play, asking them what they want to do each turn, explaining their options and how the game determines what happens, and the battle is played out.

Another example:

The host (or “Game Master” (GM)) has developed an entire game world with maps of locations and hundreds of characters and cultures and situation details (or purchased a published one, or some combination of purchasing and inventing). He represents the narrator. The players have designed or chosen various types of characters who they each represent, and personalized them, and developed them through many sessions of play. Play consists of the GM describing the current situation, and the players saying what their characters would like to do, and acting out various conversations between characters in the game world. When some situations develop, there may or may not be various rules systems which determine (or suggest, or help determine, along with GM discretion) what actually happens, often including detailed combat as the group in the first example were playing. The situations can involve all sorts of things. For example, the author of Game Of Thrones plays the Generic Universal RolePlaying System (GURPS, one of the two RPGs I prefer), and the action in those books bears some resemblance to some RPG play, which could include any of the situations seen there.

There are very many other types of example, including LARPS (Live Action RPGs) and styles that are more like improv or collaborative storytelling and/or worldbuilding. it’s an endless topic.

Zaku's avatar

Here is a short example transcript of what a bit of gameplay might be like in a traditional RPG style.

(The site is full of similar such examples. Note that bumbling players and frog autopsies with spears are just one of an infinite variety of player types, situation types, setting types, etc.)

Caravanfan's avatar

Critical Role

Disclaimer—I have never watched any of these as I can’t be bothered to sit there for 3 hours watching someone else role play, but it’s a very popular Youtube channel for some reason.

Zaku's avatar

Critical Role, is a dramatization of roleplaying by attractive actors hamming it up and behaving like TV entertainers, trying hard not to look geeky or boring to viewers, and/or giving exaggerated performances of what they think some gamer geeks are like, pretending they like each other’s stupid jokes, smiling way too much and forcing themselves to look like they’re having as much fun constantly as people in beer commercials, and creating an entertainment product (complete with sets, props, sound tracks, advertisers) rather than actual people playing an RPG. It emphasizes one style of RPG playing, and exaggerates it, and is not really much of a realistic reflection of what actual non-actor/fake RPG game sessions are like

@RedDeerGuy1 asked today what shows make us die a little when we watch them. Critical Role makes me die a lot when I try to watch it. Argh.

Caravanfan's avatar

Whatever man. The OP asked for “an example” of a role playing session. It is an example.

Zaku's avatar

Not an attack on you, but it felt wrong to me not to mention what Critical Role is like, compared to what actual RPG play by non-actors not staging an entertainment fantasy about RPGs, is like.

Sort of like, “what’s it like being in High School chorus?” “Well, there’s this TV show called Glee…”.

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