are the questions you should be asking about
role-playing games. Lots of websites have a FAQ (frequently
asked questions) section, where they answer questions
that may or may not be frequently asked, but are usually
the ones they want you to ask. Here at the
League, FAQ stands for Factually Answered Queries
- these are the questions you should be asking
about the subject. If you have any further questions,
feel free to send them via electronic post to ,
and if they become frequent enough, I will consider
adding them to this page.
are role-playing games?
of you are likely familiar with the term role-playing
game from the many video games that use it. When
a video game is described in this way, it usually means
that the game allows the player to interact with the
game world in almost any way they choose, and as they
play, the elements of a story are revealed.
type of role-playing games that are discussed on this
site, however, came before that kind of RPG. These are
played with books, dice, and sometimes miniature figures
everyone remembers playing make-believe as a little
kid. Some even continue to do it when they get a little
older, and others never really stop. Playing a role-playing
game is a lot like a game of make-believe - when you
play, you act out the role of a different person, and
say and do things that you feel would be the things
your character would say and do.
add some rules to that game of make-believe, then put
a person in charge of the story to help prevent arguments
and keep everything fun for everyone involved. Other
than that, it's pretty much the same game of make-believe.
kind of RPGs are available?
are hundreds of RPGs available in many different genres.
A genre (pronounced like JOHN-ruh) is sort of like the
"flavor" of the game - it is the type of world
that the stories told in an RPG are set. Star Wars
would be a science fiction genre, while Dungeons
& Dragons is a fantasy (or heroic fantasy)
genre. There are genres for different periods of history,
horror, humor, superheroes, and even cartoons. There
are RPGs based on popular books, comic books, movies,
and television shows - even a few based on computer
RPGs. There are even more RPGs that center around unique
and detailed worlds and characters that cannot be found
like flavors, genres come in many varieties. (There
isn't just one kind of chocolate, after all.) Star
Wars and Men In Black are both science-fiction
settings, but are two very different kinds of science
fiction. There are historical RPGs that are designed
to be historically accurate in every possible way -
and then there are historical games that twist history
around, such as adding vampires as key characters or
changing the outcome of crucial moments so that the
present day is very different from what we know.
games come and go. Only a few of them stay constantly
"in print," which means that a company keeps
making copies to sell in stores. Hundreds of RPGs are
"out of print," but can be bought used in
stores, at conventions, or through online services (such
as eBay or sites that specialize in out-of-print games).
do I need to play?
basic rulebook (most of the time), some paper and something
to write with (often), some dice (usually), and a group
of friends (always!). There are always exceptions to
these guidelines. Some games, like Dungeons &
Dragons, are more complete with a set of books
instead of one (the Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's
Guide, and Monster Manual). Others may
not use as many dice, or possibly even no dice at all.
is this Dungeon Master person?
Dungeon Master or Game Master (DM or GM for short) is
the director, producer, and sometimes even the author
of the story that is played out in the game. It sounds
like a daunting task, and it does require a lot of work,
but in the end the GM has about the same amount of fun
as the players do.
Master is a term used in the Dungeons &
Dragons RPG. Other games use different names to
describe the position, but most rely on something
simple and universal, like "referee" or
"Game Master." Just to keep things from
getting too confusing, Game Master will be used
in the rest of this FAQ page.)
GM prepares a story, either by buying a book of scenarios
(stories to use with the game) and reading through it
completely, or by creating a unique scenario from scratch.
Scenarios include details of the events, locations,
people, items, monsters, and other elements that will
be found in the story - how important they are to the
story, how they interact with each other, where they
can be found, and so on.
the scenario is ready, the GM and players get together
to have a whole lot of fun. As the story unfolds and
the players react to the events, the GM tells them what
the results of their actions are and acts out the roles
of the other characters that they meet.
do I do when I play one of these games?
play a character in an RPG. It's very much
like playing pretend with your friends, or playing a
character in a play, movie, or television show. There
are two important differences, though:
- You don't have a script. You get to decide how your
character acts in any situation.
- You will have a set of numbers (or other codes)
that tell you and your GM specific traits about your
character - how strong he is, how fast he can run,
how well he can swing a sword or drive a car or play
the piano, and so on. These numbers will help determine
if something that your character tries to do is successful
you play a tabletop RPG, you can create your character
the way you want to, or you can sometimes choose a character
from one of the game books and play it instead. When
you create a character, you can decide how they look,
how they act, what their likes and dislikes are, and
any other details that would help bring that character
to life in the same way that a professional actor or
actress would. Creating a character can take up a lot
of time, because it involves not only filling in these
details, but also determining the scores and values
that will be used during the game. More about those
in a minute.
you start playing a scenario, the GM will describe the
setting for you - he will tell you where you are, what
you see, hear, smell, feel, and taste. He'll describe
your surroundings, tell you what is happening around
you, act out the roles of any of his characters (often
called NPCs, for non-player characters)
or creatures or monsters that you might encounter,
and frequently ask the same question of you -
your cue. This is where you tell the GM what your character
is going to do. If your plan is to talk to a character
in the story, you tell the GM whom you wish to speak
to, and then talk to him as if he is that character
- or if you're speaking to another player's character,
simply turn to them and start talking. You can ham it
up, using your character's accent and speech patterns
all that you like. It's your part of the show, so do
the best that you can.
note: If I've made you look up a word or two in
the dictionary, or have to ask someone else what
they mean, then I humbly apologize. I'll try not
to let it happen again, but I can make no guarantees.)
your plan is for your character to perform an action,
then you tell the GM what you character is going to
do. You don't have to actually perform the action -
in fact, in most cases, it's best if you don't (especially
when the action is swinging a sword around or diving
across a table to seize a jade idol before your arch-nemesis
gets his grubby hands on it). When you describe your
action, you can be as creative as you like with it.
In fact, the more descriptive you are, the better, because
that gives everyone a clear picture of what is going
on in the story. Don't just dive over the table to get
that jade idol - make sure you explain how the goblets
of wine on the table are toppled over, silverware goes
flying, and lit candles fall, possibly igniting the
tablecloth and making the situation even more interesting
as you and your rival desperately compete for possession
of your quarry.
you announce an action to the GM, he will usually tell
you if you are capable of doing such a thing - and if
so, how hard it will be, and what dice you will need
to roll (for games that use dice) to make it happen.
We will cover that in the next question.
up with those funny dice?
role-playing games use dice to help determine the results
of things. Some use regular, everyday six-sided dice
like those you would find in many boardgames. Others
may use only ten-sided dice, or a variety of different
dice. Below are descriptions of the types of dice you
will usually see at a role-playing session:
four-sided die, nicknamed the d4,
will have its numbers on either the bottom edge
or around the top point. All of the numbers will
be the same along the edge or point, so that no
matter which way it faces you when it lands, you
will always see the same number. The d4 can roll
a number between 1 and 4.
six-sided die, also called the d6,
is the one that most everyone recognizes. These
can be found with numbers on the faces, or dots
(called "pips") in place of the numbers.
The d6 can roll a number between 1 and 6.
eight-sided die is also known as the d8.
You're probably starting to notice a pattern here
by now, aren't you? The d8 can roll a number between
1 and 8.
ten-sided die - you guessed it - is often called
the d10. It is usually numbered
from 0 to 9, rather than 1 to 10. When only one
d10 is rolled and a 0 comes up, it is usually counted
as a 10 instead. Ten-sided dice are numbered this
way because of another way you can use them to generate
numbers from 1-100. This sort of roll is called
a percentile roll, d%, or d100. To
do it, you would roll a d10 twice - the first roll
will be the 'tens digit,' and the second will be
the 'ones digit.' So if you rolled a 4 followed
by a 2, your roll would be 42. A roll of 0 on the
first die would give you a single digit number -
0 and 6 would be a 6 - and any roll of double zeroes
counts as 100. You could also do this with two d10s
of different colors, and decide which color will
be the 'tens die' and which will be the 'ones die'
before you roll.
twelve-sided die, or d12, can roll
a number between (say it with me!) 1 and
d20 - the twenty-sided die - is
the die that is most commonly recognized among gamers,
possibly because it gets a lot of use when playing
Dungeons & Dragons and other RPGs.
It can roll a number between 1 and 20.
(if you're really interested...)
with the nicknames for each die (d4, d6, d8, and
so on), there is another form of shorthand that
lets a player know how many of the dice to roll,
and if they should add or subtract anything from
the result. A number in front of the die name
tells how many dice should be rolled and added
- so 3d6 means to roll 3 six-sided dice and add
the results together. A plus or minus with a number
at the end tells you if you should add or subtract
anything from the final result. If a rule told
you to roll 4d8+5, and you rolled a 15 on those
four dice, the +5 would turn that result into
are many other types of dice available, such as
d16s, d30s, and even d100s that could be mistaken
for golf balls - but none of these are very common,
and few games actually use them, so they have
been left out of the discussion.)
what are all of these dice for? Why are gamers so interested
in rolling all of these random numbers? Glad you asked...
role-playing games, the players face many situations
and obstacles that they will need to overcome, and one
purpose of the dice is to help determine if they succeed
or not. For example - a character wants to jump across
a fault in the ground that has just opened up from an
earthquake. In the rules of the game the players are
using, feats such as these require a d20 roll, and the
player must roll over a certain number to succeed in
their attempt. The gamemaster tells the player that
he'll have to roll 15 or more on the die, or his character
will fall into the hole that has opened up in front
of him. The player reminds the GM that his character
has a Jump skill of +4, which adds 4 to his die roll.
He rolls... and gets a 12, which raises to 16 after
the Jump skill modifier is added. His character makes
it by one - the GM describes the ground crumbling away
under his feet as he just makes it across.
games use different rule systems. Some only use d6s,
d10s, or d20s. Dungeons & Dragons, the
granddaddy of all RPGs, uses a full set, but the d20
gets used the most. Any RPG that you choose will let
you know in the first few pages how many and what type
of dice you'll need.
can I get started?
best way is to get together with friends or family who
already know how to play, and see if they would be willing
to teach you. Don't be too shy to ask around - you will
probably be surprised how many people that you know
are gamers, and some of them may even be looking for
new people to play with.
that doesn't work out, the second best way is to find
an outside gaming group that is willing to teach an
inexperienced player. The problem with this method is
that meeting up with strangers is often a dangerous
thing to do. That's why the safest way to approach it
is to visit your local gaming shop and ask if they host
regular role-playing games in the store, and if they
have any sort of program for beginners. They may be
able to help you find a group that will show you the
ropes. You may also consider checking with your local
libraries. Some may host a regular gaming meeting, or
even be involved in the Afternoon Adventures With Dungeons
& Dragons program (and if not, perhaps you can suggest
it to them!).
can also check for any gaming conventions that are held
in your area. Gaming conventions are great places to
meet up with other gamers and try out new games. There
are several large cons that are held around the world,
and thousands of smaller cons that are hosted by colleges
and game stores and clubs. To search for game conventions
in your area, try visiting Jenga's
Game Convention Site.
always, ALWAYS meet with new people in a public place
with lots of other people around, and never, EVER agree
to go to someone's home or even get into their vehicle.
You should always check with your parents before getting
involved in any gaming group, and make sure that you
have safe transportation to and from any meetings.
you don't have a local gaming store or convention, or
you're not comfortable with meeting up with new people,
your best way is to read through the rules of a simple
game, gather a group of good friends together, and try
it out all on your own. You probably won't get all of
the rules right on your first try, but you'll probably
end up having a lot of fun - and that's the most important
can I find out more?
aren't a lot of gaming websites that are completely
family-friendly, but the list below should be a good
Group - A discussion group hosted on Yahoo! about
playing RPGs with young people. You'll need a Yahoo!
account to join up, but those are free and easy to get.
Most of the discussion here is between parents and teachers
who play RPGs with young people, but kids are certainly
welcome to participate. This is a great place to find
out what games are best for young people.
Podcast - A digital internet wireless radio show
(what will they think of next?) about kids
and RPGs, including interviews with kids who play them.
of the Coast - Makers of Dungeons & Dragons,
as well as many other RPGs and board and card games.
Go here for lots of D&D goodies and updates
about new books and products.
The Escapist - The parent site of The Y.P.A.L.,
this site is devoted to educating people about role-playing
games and showing the truth behind some of the nasty
rumors that have been spread about them. A good site
to share with people who have concerns about role-playing
games. Due to some of the articles available for research,
you should view this site with your parents.
to always check with your parents before going to any
new websites (including this one!) and let me know if
you discover more family-friendly gaming sites in your
cyberspace travels -
would I want to play one of these games instead of playing
one on a computer?
and console RPGs have advanced to such a level of complexity
and sophistication that playing a paper and dice RPG
might seem silly to some - Why play make-believe and
imagine a fantasy world in your head, when you can see
all the vibrant details of the environment all
around you, hear the sounds of it in digital audio,
and even have all of the rules and number-crunching
of combat done for you by the computer?It's a good question.
The truth is, playing a traditional RPG is not for everyone,
and there are some who will never like it, no matter
how hard they may try. (There are others who will decide
they don't like it without ever trying it,
but they are another story.) Because of that, any reasons
you could list for preferring tabletop RPGs over digital
ones will be meaningless to them.
those of you who are willing to give tabletop RPGs a
fair chance, however, here are some things to consider:
You can play them most anywhere. You don't need a
few open outlets and a wifi hookup to play them. You
can play them when the network's down, or even when
the power is out. You can play them in a cabin in
the woods, on a beach, or even while on a hike (see
You don't need to upgrade a computer or buy a new
console every few years to try out a new tabletop
RPG. The new books do cost money, but they're not
quite as expensive as new hardware.
You can customize them any way you like. If you feel
your game doesn't have nearly enough ninjas and pirates
who ride dinosaurs, then you can toss in as many as
you like. If you've always wanted to play a time-traveling
Benjamin Franklin who leads a band of other great
historical figures in battle against ancient Aztec
spirits who are bent on world domination, go for it.
You might have to do a bit of writing, reading, and
research to accomplish your ideas, but you'll be fine.
None of those ever hurt anyone.
digital RPGs have lots of benefits over tabletop ones.
This isn't about making digital gaming look bad - it's
about encouraging more people to give traditional gaming
these games just for boys, or can girls play, too?
can play, they do play, and they're just as
good at it as boys are. Sometimes better. Anyone who
tells you otherwise is a big fibber. Simple as that.
also make good GMs, and can create excellent stories
to adventure in. In the examples above, the pronoun
"he" is used to describe the things that a
GM might do and say, but this doesn't mean that only
boys or men can be GMs. Again, anyone who tries to tell
you otherwise is fibbing. Tell them to quit it, it's
not a very honorable behavior.
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