Category: Tabletop


I’m sure everyone has met that one jerk that tries to pull a move that would put Neo from The Matrix to shame, and when confronted he makes the argument “lol, its just fantasy, newb”. Unfortunately, they are half right: it is just fantasy. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t rules.

Roleplaying is, intrinsically, an exercise in fantasy. Even if it’s not in that genre. We are creating characters in a universe that isn’t ours and pretending to be those people for however long we immerse ourselves in that world. This is true in video games, tabletop games, and freeform RPGs. As such, the rules are innately a little different. Much like writing, everything has to be brighter, faster paced and larger-than-life. Let’s face it: how many people have the experiences that their RP characters do? Ever? If we were to write a fully “realistic” backstory for ourselves it would include a lot of boring Saturday afternoons watching cartoons. Most of us don’t have parents that are incredibly abusive, totally absent, or utterly loaded (We’re not Marvel Comics characters).

Just like with writing a story by yourself, you need to make your character extraordinary somehow. But let’s take a second and realize that this doesn’t mean that you can break rules. Just because you’re playing an elven princess it doesn’t give you an excuse to have unrealistic backstory or abilities. Now, you might be asking yourself, “Why would I want realism in my fantasy!?”

The answer to that is pretty simple, honestly. While we can suspend our disbelief some there are certain things that need to remain constant. Like physics. In every universe, excluding some specific points in the Matrix universe and only then with Neo explicitly, there are physics that apply to everyone. Everyone. Including your character. There are also rules of engagement, and general setting rules (no, you can’t play a Terminator walking around Middle Earth).

As I’m writing this, I hear the chorus in the back of my head yelling “BUT I WANNA!” and to them I reply: then make your own world where those things are possible. Keep in mind that unless you are creating and running your own world (I actually have plans on writing a series of articles for people that are interested in doing so), you need to be prepared to play by the rules in other people’s worlds. Those rules often include such things as: remaining true to the setting; ensuring that your character isn’t a Mary Sue; keeping your character at a reasonable power level; and generally play nice with the kids.

Ultimately, the “But it’s just fantasyyyy!” argument doesn’t tend to work well on administrators, moderators, or game masters. Usually they respond poorly to such things. Particularly when it’s used an excuse for godmodding or metagaming.

What Is Roleplay?

It’s kind of existential when you get down to it. It’s also got a lot of stigma around it. In essence, roleplay is that thing we all did as kids when we pretended we were cops and robbers, or Batman and Robin, or Power Rangers. It’s taking on the persona and identity of another person and writing their story.

Is it escapism? Is it evil? Is it the devil here to steal your soul? Yes to the first, sort of, and no to the rest. However, it’s no more escapist than playing video games or reading. Back in the 80’s and 90’s there was a fad of blaming roleplayers for violent deaths. Particularly people that played tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons or Vampire: The Masquerade. Many roleplayers caught the backlash of that, and while it’s extremely sad that a few people chose to act as they did while playing the game (thus giving the rest of us a bad name), the reality is that the games are no more or less dangerous than any other pursuit.

Naturally, if you’re reading this, I am likely preaching to the choir.

So, other than a way to escape our boring, mundane lives, live out fantasies, or just have some fun… what is roleplay? At its heart, roleplay is writing a story with multiple other people. It’s the ultimate “choose your own adventure” where anything is possible so long as it fits in your world. It’s a story. With that in mind, roleplay can be crafted as any novel can be. It has certain elements, certain rules, and certain ways things do and do not work. Through the course of this blog we hope to address some of these things, answer questions, poke fun at things that are just silly, and maybe you will walk away having gained something.

So, if roleplay is just a story and we’re all authors… what does that imply?

Well, since this is a cooperative story one of the most important parts of it is that the authors cooperate. While creating lives and stories for ourselves and others we need to recognize that none of us is doing this alone. We can’t. Roleplaying by yourself is called writing a novel (which is, by no means, a bad thing). And it is with that spirit that we are all in this together to share these worlds, to share these stories, these characters, that this blog has come into being.

Also in that spirit is the fact that if you have a piece you would like to write for this blog simply comment on this blog or speak with me directly, should you know me. Above all, roleplayers are a community. There are many different facets to it (tabletop, LARP, freeform, and others that I likely do not know) but we are all doing the same thing, ultimately.