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A role-playing game is a game in which one or more players take on an imagined persona in pursuit of a common goal.
Tabletop role-playing games
These are traditional RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons and includes storytelling games like Vampire: The Requiem where you take on the role of a character. They are played face-to-face using a pen, paper, dice, and sometimes miniature figures.
In some ways, Chess is the first role-playing game. It had basic RPG mechanics, such as a tactical turn-based combat system, a level up mechanic, and character roles with their own unique abilities. It originated as Chaturanga, created in the 6th-century Indian subcontinent as a simulation of ancient Indian warfare, particularly the Kurukshetra War (from the Indian epic Mahabharata), with pieces representing roles such as rajas, mantri (counselers), infantry, cavalry, chariots and war elephants. Chaturanga is considered the most ancient ancestor of Dungeons & Dragons.
According to RPG designer John Wick, Chess can be turned into a role-playing game if chess pieces such as the king, queen, rooks, knights or pawns are given names, and decisions are made based on their motivations. According to Wick, Dungeons & Dragons was a "sophisticated, intricate and complicated combat simulation board game that people were turning into a roleplaying game" just "like giving your rook a motive" in Chess. Tabletop RPG designer John Wick considers Chess to be no less of a role-playing game than Dungeons & Dragons, arguing that both are combat simulation board games that players could turn into role-playing games.
The first tabletop RPG was Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), developed by Gary Gygax and released in 1974. The second tabletop RPG released that same year, Empire of the Petal Throne, developed by Muhammad Abd-al-Rahman Barker (MAR Barker), and was notable for introducing the critical hit mechanic. In turn, Empire of the Petal Throne influenced Gygax and later editions of D&D.
Role-playing video games
Roots of RPGs
The following diagram shows the roots and influences of various role-playing games:
- Brief History of Wargaming, University of Virginia
- Ewalt, David M. (2014) (in en). Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and The People Who Play It. Simon & Schuster. p. 36. ISBN 9781451640519. https://books.google.com/books?id=AJJqBAAAQBAJ&pg=PA36.
- John Wick, Chess is not an RPG: The Illusion of Game Balance, John Wick Presents (October 1, 2014)
- John Wick, Chess: The Illusion of Game Balance
- Empire of the Petal Throne, Wikipedia
- Muhammad Abd-al-Rahman Barker, Wikipedia