What is roleplaying? Open any core rulebook for a roleplaying game and you will probably find a variation upon this question within the first few pages. It is a good question. For many of us, roleplaying is a hobby, for some it is a competition and for all it is (hopefully) good fun.
But what is it? What are the details? Why should I choose to roleplay over other forms of indoor entertainment?
Obviously, I cannot answer for all members of the roleplaying world, all of my reasons and experiences are purely subjective, but I hope that they will help you, dear reader, to understand what it is.
I realise that this page is on a roleplaying website, so you probably already have a slight interest in the hobby, but as it is the first post not related to the podcast, I felt it a logical starting point.
Roleplaying, then, is a form of collaborative storytelling. Typically, one member of the group assumes the role of Game Master (GM), Dungeon Master (DM) or Storyteller (ST), as well as various other titles including; Evil Overlord and that sadistic maniac. The GM’s role is to create the basic elements of the plot, to portray almost all the characters involved in the story, to serve as adjudicator in times of rule disputes and, most importantly, to make sure everyone has fun.
Everyone else takes on one or more characters (usually only one), typically those that the GM is not portraying, and acts out or describes the character’s actions and speech within the confines of the game. The players’ roles are usually to turn up, bring snacks, act appropriately and again, make sure everyone has fun.
The synthesis of these two things, the plot and the characters, produces a shared narrative experience in which anything is possible. My own personal experiences have ranged from the downright terrifying occurring in a mundane setting to the absurd in a fight for survival and I have been fortunate enough to join a gaming group that regularly produces moments of such pure awesomeness and camaraderie that I was inspired to create THWR in the first place.
I am not going to say that roleplaying is by any means easy. I frequently encounter barriers that my introversion and lack of self-confidence create and I have seen very high levels of roleplaying in a competitive atmosphere, and there are moments when, as a GM, the players completely derail the plot you’re trying to create and it can be difficult to work around the derailment but it is rewarding.
And of course, roleplaying is literally playing the role of someone else. It is a form of creative expression and enjoyed by amateur actors (and some professional ones) the world over.
So what is roleplaying? Roleplaying is collaborative storytelling and a combined narrative experience as well as incredibly rewarding and, for me at least, the only regular form of social contact I have with anyone other than my partner.
If you have any thoughts, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.