A role-playing game (also called RPG) is a game in which one plays the role of one or several characters (people), either verbally (traditional RPGs), in a computer or video game, or alone. Often the characters gain experience (EXP) during the game, which makes them stronger.
Traditional RPGs [change]
Role-Playing Game used to be the name for pre-computer games (the most well-known of which is Dungeons & Dragons). In this type of RPG, players assume the role of a fantasy character, and play in a made-up world that, most of the time, is controlled by a Dungeon Master (DM). The DM is a person that tells the game's story to the players, tells them where they are in the game world and plays the part of all the Non-Player Characters (NPCs) and monsters that the players meet.
The DM will also give quests or tasks for the characters to complete. Characters usually have special skills that limit their actions, such as strength or speed, and as the character completes the quests, he or she is awarded experience with which he or she can go up to higher levels.
A short example:
DM: "You enter a small room. It is wet and mouldy. You hear water dripping from somewhere. You see a small, shaking pile of gray jelly in the middle of the room."
Player: "I touch the pile with the tip of my sword."
DM: "Roll a 20-sided die."
(Player rolls a 1.)
DM: "Critical miss. The jelly moves up your sword and chokes you. You are dead."
Good DMs balance challenges and rewards, giving the players the chance to recover from mistakes, but at the same time providing consequences for the player's actions.
Computer and video game RPGs [change]
There are also computer and videogame RPGs, where the player controls one or more characters. A good example is the Final Fantasy series of games. Just like the pre-computer RPGs, the characters in the games level up when they get EXP. They also usually contain a main quest which cannot be completed without completing smaller side quests. These computer RPGs are easier to play because they only need one person, but they also lack the freedom of the older games, where new quests can be made up whenever you want. MMORPGs (Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game), are computer games where many players meet online in one large game world, and go on quests together. Some examples of these games are World of Warcraft, Everquest, or Runescape.
Text Based RPGs are not too different from Traditional RPGs, generally based on the Dungeons and Dragons game. However some Text Based RPGs are not for combat, but are for socializing and meeting others. With many Text Based RPGs you need a client, a program to send what you say to the server, which can be located in another country. Many clients are basic and display text in one colour, but there are others that use colours, enhancing the readability of the content. See MU* for more details.
Live action role-playing game (LARP) [change]
In LARP, the people play their characters themselves, much like a play. They act out the things their character does, dress like their character, and often talk in the way their character would.