I used to role-play a lot, and would really like to start again1. More importantly, however, discussing the merits of individual rules in role-playing game systems with my group got me interested in game design.

One thing among several I’ve noticed with RPG systems is that they tend to focus on one of two sides of RPGs far more strongly than on the other. In my opinion, that makes these systems somewhat less appealing, as I’d be far more interested in a more balanced game.

Here’s an idea of how one could achieve that.

I should explain what these two sides of RPGs are. Role-playing games evolved from wargames, more precisely the fantasy variety. As such, early RPGs were little more than wargames focusing on the deeds of individual heroes more than military units, and those heroes’ individual characteristics, and later behaviour.

  • Combat is the older of the two sides of RPGs. There are few RPGs that ignore combat completely. Most have extended the concept of combat rules to other rules specifying how characters interact with each other and their environment, into general rules dealing characters’ skills and their application. Combat remains a special, more complex case for most RPGs, however.
  • Play-acting the characters’ behaviour is another aspect for RPGs. So-called Live RPGs require players to dress up and act as if they were the character they are representing. More traditional paper & pen RPGs still tend to encourage players to distinguish clearly between things said “in-character” and “out-of-character” – that is, players announce whether something they say is supposedly said by the character they represent, or whether they themselves are discussing something with the rest of the group. Some RPGs introduce awards for “good” role-playing, that is, for presenting a character in such a way that they become a believable persona with a certain amount of depth.
  1. I’m looking for a good group in the Colchester area, as I’m likely to move there sometime this year. []