Role play (game)

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As a role-playing game (English role-playing game , in short RPG ) is called in the game science a form of play, when the game ends, the roles of real people, fictional characters take over, animals or objects. These can be your own parents, teachers or friends, but also dream characters from the adventure area , animals such as dogs or cats or machines such as motorcycles or airplanes. The game scientists SA Warwitz and A. Rudolf describe the game concept of this very popular type of game as “being someone else while playing”.

RPG types

There are many different role-playing games. Basically, one can differentiate between regulated and spontaneous role-play, although exceptions can often be found for the typical features mentioned here.

Freely associated and spontaneous role play

Children in free role play; Oil painting The Hülsenbeck Children by Philipp Otto Runge , around 1810

Freely associated and spontaneous role-playing games are designed by the participants in the game with their imaginations . The game is subject to open agreements or scenarios. Toys can also be used. Examples are mother-father-child , robbers and gendarmes or cowboys and Indians , which children play spontaneously and in constantly changing scenarios . Shops with inventory and dolls serve as toys . Toy worlds offer z. B. Playmobil or Lego .

Regulated role-playing games

Regulated role-playing games are games in which the players follow fixed rules of the game , game plans or scripts and use certain game equipment. In the broadest sense, this includes all types of games that are repeatedly played according to fixed rules. This category includes simple role-playing games such as the children's game Murder in the Dark as well as more complex role-playing games such as The Werewolves of Mirkwood or Secret Hitler .

In many role-playing games there is a comprehensive talent or skill system: the characters of the players then have values ​​such as strength, dexterity, charisma or intelligence and talents based on the values ​​such as riding, persuading or swimming. By passing adventures ( quests ), the players then receive experience points that are used to improve these character values.

Every possible genre can be used as a background for a role-playing game (→ game world ). Fantasy role-playing games that take place in fantasy worlds are widespread . In addition to these games, which use the fantasy genre, most other regulated role-playing games also contain elements of fantasy : fictional worlds in which the laws of nature are violated, or which at least contain the appearance of the supernatural, are also part of science fiction ( e.g. Cyberpunk or Space Opera ), Western , Horror and Steampunk . As in literature, genres are often mixed; That is, parts of a genre are used in a game that predominantly belongs to a different genre. If two or more genres are mixed with each other almost equally, one also speaks of crossover (e.g. Space Gothic ). There are also multiverses in which genres are presented next to each other, but only mix a little and retain their independence (e.g. TORG ). This category also includes solo games in which the player takes on a role and has to endure an adventure. The background story and the rules for games of this kind are often laid down in the form of game books , for example in the game book series Lonely Wolf or more modern implementations such as Metal Heroes - and the Fate of Rock .

In addition to genres, regulated role-playing games are differentiated according to the style of play, the aids used and the forms of representation:

Pen & Paper RPG

Pen & Paper role players, Berlin 2009

Pen & paper role-playing games mostly use an extensive set of rules that work with simple math and dice . Mostly one player takes on the role of the game master; he describes the environment, the reaction of the environment to the actions of the players and slips into the role of opponents or friends of the group. He thinks about adventures in advance - or takes them from commercially produced “notebook adventures” that the group of players must pass. He also ensures that the rules of the game are observed. Decisions, e.g. B. the outcome of a fight, are calculated by offsetting various properties of the opponents , such. B. strength or armor value and the die result brought about as a random element . The most widespread role-playing game system in Germany is Das Schwarze Auge , the most internationally known is Dungeons & Dragons and the oldest game system in Germany is Midgard . These have fantasy worlds as a background that were specially developed for the game. There are also universal systems that are not limited to a particular genre, but offer an abstract, general rule base, for example for your own game world developments or special requirements such as traveling through different dimensions (e.g. GURPS or D20 ).

Game books can be described as a kind of one-person role-playing game. The text is divided into many sections. At the end of a section, the player or reader makes decisions that refer him to other subsequent sections and thus enable different storylines.

Live role play

LARP Group: Fantasy Live RPG 2014

Live Action Role Playing (LARP) is a game in which the players physically represent their characters . It's a mix of pen & paper role-playing and improvisational theater . As far as possible, live role-playing events take place at venues whose ambience corresponds to the game plot, and the characters are costumed with appropriate costumes .

Most events of this type belong to the fantasy genre and are mainly organized for non-commercial purposes by private individuals or associations . The usual event size is between 50 and 200 participants. Before an event, a system of rules is established by the game management, according to which the players act. Armed conflicts are simulated using upholstery weapons that look as realistic as possible but are harmless (e.g. swords, daggers, axes or bows and arrows). The framework plot is presented by props and prepared helpers ( non-player characters ). The player characters should interact with the helpers and z. B. bring the game action to a conclusion through puzzles, espionage, fights or tests of courage. Often there is no defined goal of the game, the fun of representing the characters is then the real goal.

Crime games that use similar elements are considered a sub-form of live role-playing .

Computer role playing game

Computer role playing games are also known as Computer Role Playing Game (CRPG). The rules of the pen & paper role-playing games can serve as a basis, but these are adapted accordingly to the possibilities and limitations of the computer as a medium. Other games, especially Japanese role-playing games , use their own rule systems .

The use of the Internet brings new approaches to transfer pen & paper principles to the computer: Popular variants are role play via voice chat, chat role play , forum role play and role play via e-mail ( PbeM ). Other types of computer role-playing game are Multi User Dungeons (MUD) and Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG). Here tens to thousands of users play on a server in a virtual world with (partly self-regulating) markets and raw materials. Virtual nations on the Internet are partly based on role-playing games. Another subspecies of these online role-playing games are browser-based online role-playing games .

In the early days of computer role-playing games, a CRPG was defined as a game in which one controlled a character (or several) and increased skills by increasing game values, and also had as unlimited freedom of action as possible. A game that focuses on fixed storylines is considered an adventure according to this classic definition . Many of the current role-playing titles, however, distance themselves from these basics with their extensive, fixed storylines and, according to the classic definition, would rather be referred to as adventures with role-playing elements or role-playing-adventure hybrids. The development at CRPGs in recent years has increasingly moved away from the classic "distribute values ​​and explore the world" towards ever simpler character development systems, with which you can hardly go wrong, with extensive role-play possibilities (especially with regard to the visual appearance of the characters), identification with factions and groups, extensive craft and economic systems as well as predetermined, dramaturgically elaborated arcs. Only the so-called Open World RPGs still offer the opportunity to explore ever larger worlds. You often inevitably forego a detailed plot in favor of large numbers of quests , which can usually be completed in any order.

Writing roleplay

The writing role play is another type of role play. Here the player takes on the role of a protagonist, who he has either created himself or who has been specified by the game management. In contrast to the computer forum role-playing games, the adventures that the character experiences are written as formulated text. There are various rules and procedures here. The simplest variant is a chat role-playing game in which you - from the point of view of your character - play a story with other characters by writing their actions, thoughts and words. The next level would be the forum role-playing game , or email writing role-playing game . Here, significantly longer texts are often written than in the chat writing role play. Usually you only control your own character and interact with the characters of other players. The so-called external control, i.e. describing or mentioning actions or conversations of the other characters in your own contribution, is undesirable by many players, so that you often get to know the same scene from several perspectives. One of the most famous German platforms for writing role-playing games is Legend of the Green Dragon .

to form

Ritual play

The ritual game is mainly practiced in countries that are still anchored in a strong religious tradition. It is mostly a mask game like in Bhutan , Indonesia or Sri Lanka . In the process, the players turn into demons , gods and good spirits and thus roles defined in tradition. Such role-playing games are also common in puppet games like in Japan or China . Often the actors are under drugs in order to be able to intensely get into the supernatural of the role. Christiane Binder has worked out the magical aspects of festivals in Papua New Guinea with her own perspective in a scientific paper .

But even in Europe, children like to play ghosts and put themselves in disguise in the roles of goblins , witches , fairies , wizards and demons .

War games

War games are often misunderstood by non-experts due to the word war, which is associated with horror, suffering and misery and, in misunderstanding the symbolic level of the game, equated with real, bloody war. This does not do justice to the phenomenon of play and the character of these very diverse forms of play:

The child playing war puts himself in the role of an Indian, galactic knight or gunslinger and uses props such as a bow and arrow, a branch as a lance or a water pistol or the abstract movement of a finger trigger with the corresponding vocalization (see also soldier games ). Even when playing computer games , there is no real injury, death or death. The children playing are already fully aware of this. When young people, mostly young people, cross their boundaries in handling dangerous weapons, the symbol level and thus the game are left. The game becomes serious, the player sometimes turns into a real murderer. He falls out of his role as a player. However, the risk of a playing child becoming a militarist is statistically irrelevant and the risk of crossing borders is more determined by the respective family circumstances, the (failing) upbringing and the living environment of the individual.

Didactic play

In didactic games , the role play is instrumentalized with a specific educational objective. The role play connects to the category of educational games .

Didactic play as a methodical measure takes place almost exclusively in the context of teaching and education. This means that it is staged by teachers, educators, game leaders , people outside the actual game who have an educational interest in using the game. You should be able to demonstrate appropriate professional training in order to avoid didactic and methodological errors and to be able to be successful.

RPG scene

In general terms, role players can be seen as an independent scene . This means that people who play this type of role-playing game often share interests, beliefs, preferences or tastes. In particular, players of a certain role-playing game are often also interested in other role-playing games of the same genre, in role-playing games of other genres and in other ways of playing role-playing games.

Critics accuse role-players of escaping reality by fleeing into another, better world through the games. In the media (e.g. in the TV series The Big Bang Theory , Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the X-Files ), role-players are often portrayed as eccentric. Some of these clichés come from the early days of role-playing, when these games were only known to a small group of people and there was a lot of ignorance about this form of leisure time. In the meantime, this form of entertainment, especially in its form as a computer role-playing game, has achieved broad social acceptance. Individual authors such as Sabine Haase, on the contrary, now even speak of a “fantasy pedagogy”.


  • Christiane Binder: Games and festivals in Papua New Guinea . Scientific state examination work GHS, Karlsruhe 1997.
  • Roger Caillois: The games and the people: mask and intoxication . Ullstein, Frankfurt am Main / Berlin / Vienna 1958/1982.
  • Ramona Kahl: “Nothing but a game?” Fantasy role-playing games as a stage for repressed life plans . In: Ulrike Prokop, Mechthild M Jansen (eds.): Documentary soap, reality TV, affect talk show, fantasy role-playing games. New socialization agencies in adolescence . Tectum, Marburg 2006, ISBN 978-3-8288-9126-5 , pp. 275-314 (series Kulturanalysen ).
  • Sabine Haase: Social competence through fantasy role-playing games. Promote soft skills among young people in a playful way. VDM Verlag Dr. Müller, Saarbrücken 2008, ISBN 978-3-8364-5436-0 .
  • Tom Hillenbrand, Konrad Lischka: Dragon Fathers. The history of role play and the birth of the virtual world. 2nd edition, Münster ( Ed.Octopus ) 2014, ISBN 3-95645-115-5 , ISBN 978-3-95645-115-7 .
  • Siegbert A. Warwitz, Anita Rudolf: From the sense of playing. Reflections and game ideas . Schneider Verlag, 4th edition, Baltmannsweiler 2016, ISBN 978-3-8340-1664-5 .
  • Manfred Günther : Educational role play . Springer Wiesbaden 2018, 2019 ISBN 978-3-658-22792-0 ; e-Book 978-3-658-22793-7

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: role play  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Siegbert A. Warwitz, Anita Rudolf: Being someone else when playing - role-playing games. In: Dies .: The sense of playing. Reflections and game ideas . 4th edition, Schneider, Baltmannsweiler 2016, pp. V and 78–82
  2. ^ Roger Caillois: The games and the people: Mask and intoxication . Ullstein, Frankfurt am Main / Berlin / Vienna 1958/1982
  3. ^ Christiane Binder: Games and festivals in Papua New Guinea . Scientific state examination work GHS, Karlsruhe 1997
  4. Barbara Sichtermann: ... because it doesn't hurt anyone. The symbolism of the war game , In: Die Zeit . October 25, 1991, p. 106
  5. ^ Siegbert A. Warwitz, Anita Rudolf: The judgment of the war game , In: From the sense of playing. Reflections and game ideas, 4th edition, Schneider Verlag, Baltmannsweiler 2016, pp. 131–145
  6. ^ Siegbert A. Warwitz, Anita Rudolf: Learning by playing - learning games. In: The sense of playing. Reflections and game ideas. Schneider Verlag, 4th edition, Baltmannsweiler 2016, pp. 82–87
  7. Ramona Kahl: “Nothing more than a game?” Fantasy role-playing games as a stage for repressed life plans . In: Ulrike Prokop / Mechthild M Jansen (eds.): Documentary soap, reality TV, affect talk show, fantasy role-playing games. New socialization agencies in adolescence . Tectum, Marburg 2006, pp. 275-314
  9. Sabine Haase: Social competence through fantasy role-playing games, promoting soft skills in young people through play. VDM Verlag Dr. Müller, Saarbrücken 2008.