What is Roleplaying?

If you ask 10 live-action roleplayers (LARPers) what a LARP is, you’re going to get 10 different answers. While I’m going to try to be pretty clear about what goes on during a LARP, there will be a lot of generalizations made, and I doubt that everything will be clear. If you still have questions, please feel free to contact us.

What is roleplaying?

A roleplaying game is part improvisational theater, part storytelling and part board game. It is played by several storytellers who run the game and a group of players who pretend to be characters. These characters are defined by a set of statistics that represent skills and attributes developed in the character creation process. These are then fleshed out with an invented background, personality, and set of goals and motivations. The storytellers present the setting and situation; through their characters, the players interact with the storyline and other characters.

Think of it this way: everyone has read a book or seen a movie in which the lead character does something that the reader or viewer finds so wrong that he or she wants to shout out a warning. But no matter what we say, the character will do what the plot demands; we’re just along for the ride. Even throwing popcorn won’t help.

In a roleplaying game, the players control their characters’ actions and respond to the events of the plot. If the player does not want his or her character to go through the door, the character will not. If the player thinks the character can talk himself out of a tight situation rather than resorting to that trusty pistol, he can talk away. The script, or plot, of a roleplaying game is flexible, always changing based on the decisions the players make as characters.

The storytellers controls the story. They keep track of what is supposed to happen when, describe events as they occur so that the players (as characters) can react to them, keep track of other characters in the game (referred to as non-player characters), and resolve attempts to take action using the game system. The game system comes into play when the characters seek to use their skills or otherwise do something that requires a test to see whether or not they succeed. Specific rules are presented for situations that involve Rock-Paper-Scissors challenges to determine the outcome.

In roleplaying, stories evolve much like a movie or book, but within the flexible storyline created by the storytellers. The story is the overall plot, a general outline for what might happen at certain times or in reaction to other events. It is no more concrete than that until the players become involved. At that point, roleplaying becomes as involving and dramatic as that great movie you saw last week, or that great book you stayed up all night to finish. In some ways, it’s even better, because you helped create it.

Other commonly asked questions

What’s the deal with Vampire?

This is a difficult question to answer. There are many, many game choices available to a group of roleplayers. Some people seem to think that people who play Vampire: The Masquerade are freaks in black who think they like the taste of blood. Not true.
Vampire: The Masquerade, as far as I’m concerned, offers the most options for roleplaying. You don’t have to play a Vampire, but they’re usually far more interesting than playing a normal human. You can be as old (or as young) as you want, you could have been anybody, seen or done anything and everything. The focus of the game is NOT on the fact that you’re a Vampire, but rather on social interactions with those around you. In fact, most of the in-game vampiric society revolves around making sure that no one finds out you’re a vampire.

Is it dangerous?

Absolutely not. No props (other than costume pieces such as jewelery) are allowed, and all situations that are even vaguely combat-oriented are handled through Rock-Paper-Scissors.

Who wins?

Everyone. The purpose of a roleplaying game is not to win, but to take part. While it’s true that sometimes your character might complete his or her goals, that isn’t really the point. The point is to have fun and participate in the telling of a good story.

– Pam Zerbinos

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