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Foxfire and Afira's Handbook to Role-Playing

Now that you have an understanding of what role-playing is, it is important to distinguish the various types of role-playing. While this can be a very difficult task to attempt to define, most people tend to agree that four separate styles exist:

Tabletop Games that are usually played around a table involving dice, paper, and pencils.
LARP Games that are acted out by players using props and locations to set the stage.
Online Text or graphic based games which have a pre-determined response to input text.
Freeform Chatroom or PBEM games that have limited or no rules on character interaction.

Tabletop role-playing is often thought of as the father of all role-playing. Tabletop’s name comes from the idea of a group of individuals sitting around a table and playing out characters or scenes using a set of rules, dice, a character sheet, and a storyteller to determine an outcome.

While pinpointing a date of origin on role-playing is like nailing Jell-O to a tree, a general consensus can be reached on the idea that Dungeons and Dragons was the game that made them all. In 1974, Gary Gygax and Dave Ameson, created the amalgamation of several different games, and the rest is history.

GURPS, Hero, and the current incarnation of AD&D (d20) are all types of gaming systems used in tabletop gaming. Monte Cook’s Arcana Unearthed, White Wolf’s Exalted, and Ravenloft are all RPGs using the tabletop system.

LARP is an acronym standing for Live Action Role-Play. It is a hybrid of tabletop role-playing mixed with real time acting. The people involved in such RPGs will act out scenes to move a storyline onward, or develop their character’s motivations through communication and interaction with other players.

In this type of role-play, individuals will interact within a pre-determined environment with the help of a storyteller, narrators (or people who assist the storyteller), and other characters; they will usually base character creation on books, use dice or determinants (like a deck of playing cards) for outcomes, use props and costumes to emphasize characteristics of their persona, and their own surroundings to set the stage.

The most famous LARP settings are White Wolf's Minds Eye Theater variants, consisting of the World of Darkness genre.

Online gaming refers to the growing number of RPGs played over a computer with an internet connection, that use real time input to activate predetermined responses. In layman’s terms, an online game requires a player to type or move inside a virtual world so that they can interact with other players and the environment.

For example, if I type the word wave, the response in the game would usually be, You wave hello. MUD, an acronym for Multi User Dungeon, and all variations there-of, MUCKs, MUSHs, MUDDs, MOOs, Diku, Mordor, and MajorMUDs, are text-based games that usually utilize a Java enabled client to set the stage for the game. MMORPGs (Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) usually are graphics-based games that incorporate large numbers of players to fill the foreground of the game by making the background a quest to level and advance your character.

Simutronic's Dragonrealms, Star Wars Galaxies, Everquest, Eve, and Blizzard’s World of Warcraft are all considered online games.

Free-form role-playing is a reference to any online or real-world games that have no predetermined actions, no established storyline, and are completely driven by players. People will freely type out or say their actions, and may use dice or determinants to figure outcomes.

Chat room style games, Instant Message conversations, and PBEMs (Play By E-Mail) are considered free-form RPGs. Rhydin, Extasis, and PaLS, are a few names in the Free-form category.

With the wide range of games that are available on the market, unique problems in classification of gaming types occur. This leads us to the idea of crossover games with incorporate the aspects of two or more types of games. For example, some tabletop games will use a LARP style scene to integrate players into a particularly complex situation wherein all players would have to act for their characters and delve into a character’s reactions/actions. Some online games have elements of free form, in which players can make up verbs to describe how they feel or what they are doing. While all of these use many facets of the four main categories, they are usually able to be placed in one more often than not.


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