What is Role-Playing?

Think back to the days of your childhood when you and your friends would play games action and adventure, like “Cops and Robbers” or the like. Although we were just kids at play, in our imaginations, we were telling gripping stories of good versus evil, and we were the main characters. Story-telling is at the core of a good role-playing game (RPG). The basic idea of an RPG is a group story-telling session with some structure and routines added in to help determine the outcome of dangerous and exciting events. We use dice to represent the random elements of chance and possibility, and use rule-mechanics to build the characters, props, and setting of our story.

In an RPG, there are two common roles for the people participating. One player takes on the role of the game’s overseer, often called a gamemaster. In APEX, the gamemaster is referred to as the “Narrator”. The Narrator’s job is to present the story, act out of the roles of the supporting cast, referee the rules, and generally keep track of everything that’s going on within the game. The others take on the role of “Players”. Players portray the prototagonists of the story, the main characters, often the “good-guys”. The Players control these characters, acting out or describing the actions and dialog of that character in the story. The characters in the story controlled by the Players are often called Player Characters (PCs). In APEX, we refer to Player Characters as the “Heroes”. Just because your character is called a “Hero” doesn’t mean they’re a saint. There are heroes for all points of view, and the concept of the “anti-hero” is a common way to play your character.

When a group of players sit down to participate in a role-playing game for the evening, that is referred to as a “Session”. A single story may be completed in one session, or may span the length of multiple sessions. A single story is often known as an Adventure. In the APEX System, Adventures are referred to as “Chapters”. As the group of players continue to tell their stories over the coming weeks or months, stringing the Chapters together into one continuous sequence of episodes, they are creating what is often called a Campaign. Campaigns begin whenever the group plays more than one Chapter with characters, themes, and locations that carry over from one night to another. Campaigns end whenever the the group chooses, either because the plot comes to a good ending point or the group gets tired and decides to wrap it up.

The rules of a role-playing game often revolve around numbers and dice. The strengths and weaknesses of the characters and creatures in the story are represented by numbers that interact with the dice we roll. Whenever a Player wants his Hero to do something dangerous, exciting, or important, the Narrator will usually request that the Player roll some dice, add or subtract some numbers, and then compare the results to a set target number. If the Player’s roll is equal to or above that set number, the action that the Hero attempted would be a success. If the Player’s roll is below that set number, the action would be a failure. Nearly all of the rolls you’ll make will follow that formula.

If you need more information or would like to hear a different explanation of RPGs, check out the Wikipedia entry.

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