Last week, in this post, we discussed whether or not RPGs are truly games, and I posed a question; if not, what do we call it?

Mark Knights at the Iron Tavern had the following to say regarding games. My answers regarding RPG are in parentheses.

  • Games are entered willingly: (Yes)
  • Games have goals: (Not really)
  • Games have conflict: (Not really)
  • Games have rules: (Not always)
  • Games can be won and lost: (Not really)
  • Games are interactive: (Yes)
  • Games have challenge: (Not always)
  • Games can create their own internal value: (Yes)
  • Games engage players:(Yes)
  • Games are closed, formal systems: (Provisionally)

You’ll note that I disagreed with Mark, which means I believe that RPGs need to be called something else.

My suggestion is, a roleplaying activity (RPA). Alternatively we could call it a roleplaying entertainment (RPE). An RPA being an activity in which the participants play a role in an imaginary world, where they have adventures, explore strange lands, and meet strange people.

An RPA is not a game in any but the loosest sense, for there are no formal goals to be achieved, no formal competition to be overcome. Any goal is chosen by the players, who could achieve that goal by any means they decide, and any pace they choose. An RPA is entered into willingly, but has no goals, and need not have conflict. (Though conflict can be used to keep participants interested). RPAs are interactive, otherwise they fail. But an RPA need not have a challenge (at least not a formal, “we need to overcome this threat” sort of challenge. Finding a decent Jewish deli at midnight on a Friday in a strange town is another matter.

Well of course RPAs create their own internal value, and they can engage players. Having closed, formal systems is another matter. As the late E. Gary Gygax once noted regarding RPGs, “They don’t need rules.” Really, the only thing an RPA really needs is a general agreement between GM and players on how things work, and that can be as informal as you want to get.

So what does an RPA need to work? Since that is going to take a while, we’ll start getting into that topic next time.

Alan Kellogg. I am a blogger and a gamer, and I opine on various subjects and topics. I live in San Diego CA, have been gaming since 1964 (board games) and 1975 (RPGs). Have credits in Dangerous Journeys: Mythus and have helped out with a few other projects (Charlemagne’s Paladins for TSR for instance). Currently working on a revision of Mythus for possible publication.

2 thoughts on “RPG? Or RPA?

  1. Actually, in this case I decided to go back to “RPG” (roleplaying guide). A roleplaying guide being a guide to, for GM, moderating an RPG session and, ,for the players, playing in a session. Includes establishing a setting and stuff like that.

    And what happened to my credits?

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