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D&D General Has the meaning of "roleplaying" changed since 1e?

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My only intent was to show, in accordance with the subject of this thread, that I don't think that the meaning has substantially changed from 40 years ago. There have been refinements, corrections, better formulation, a lot of advice, but I don't think that the core concept has changed a lot.
I agree with this. I just think that the definition of Roleplaying (as I use it and as the D&D books use it) is broader than you've been claiming in this thread.

While I enjoy playacting as part of my RP, it's optional. Whereas unless I misread you, your opinion is that playacting is absolutely essential and that anyone who doesn't isn't actually roleplaying.
 

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Hey, whoa there. We're not allowed to say that. I've been told repeatedly that this isn't true and that there is absolutely no change in roleplaying over time. :p
LOL, well, I'm sure you and I agree that ROLE PLAYING has not changed, it is just a definition of a putative activity. OTOH the actual carrying out of that activity by people in typical RPGs has probably changed, at least some.

One thing I think your definition of role play does miss though is there's a fundamental difference between acting and playing a character in an RPG. Actors have scripts. Even if they improvise, they are still playing a role which has been defined in some fashion (yes, there is pure improv, but this is a very niche thing and my guess is few, if any, posters in this thread have seen it). OTOH RP of a character in a game is entirely improvised, free-form RP. If you decide your character is 'cowardly', well OK that's your choice. If you decide later your character is brave instead, nothing exists in most RPGs to gainsay that. You MIGHT feel a desire to explain the transition or reason for the difference (IE different situation) but you are not obliged to do so. Obviously if the motive is some sort of game-system reward, then it seems fair to say that RP took a backseat to G. Otherwise, its hard to say the player wasn't playing a role. Maybe it wasn't too consistent, maybe that makes it 'poor RP', but I'm not sure what else you could call it, so I gotta say "crappy role play is still role play."
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Next up: if you are just roleplaying and not rolling any dice, are you still playing a roleplaying game, or just...roleplaying?

Dice, or even randomization, is not necessary for a roleplaying game, or even a game, in general - see Chess as an example.

One fairly simple view of this is that if your play is structured by rules, then you are playing a game.
 

If you decide your character is 'cowardly', well OK that's your choice. If you decide later your character is brave instead, nothing exists in most RPGs to gainsay that. You MIGHT feel a desire to explain the transition or reason for the difference (IE different situation) but you are not obliged to do so.

Yeah, this is along the lines of what I was trying to say earlier.

I can understand how maintaining a consistent persona and trying to express that persona might be a goal for some participants. That makes sense. But nowhere, in any form, is there a rule that this is required for the activity to count as "roleplaying".
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Hey, whoa there. We're not allowed to say that. I've been told repeatedly that this isn't true and that there is absolutely no change in roleplaying over time. :p

Would you please try to engage constructively? Your snark builds nothing useful.
 

Dice, or even randomization, is not necessary for a roleplaying game, or even a game, in general - see Chess as an example.

One fairly simple view of this is that if your play is structured by rules, then you are playing a game.

Agreed. (My comment was mostly tongue-in-cheek.)

And...as I think you yourself mentioned up-thread...the definition of "game" is quite slippery.
 


Lyxen

Great Old One
I agree with this. I just think that the definition of Roleplaying (as I use it and as the D&D books use it) is broader than you've been claiming in this thread. While I enjoy playacting as part of my RP, it's optional. Whereas unless I misread you, your opinion is that playacting is absolutely essential and that anyone who doesn't isn't actually roleplaying.

No, it's not, really. I was merely pointing out that this old definition, by using the word "actor", seemed to indicate that playacting was already considered as part of roleplaying, even at the time. My problem was more about people trying to cut that definition into small bits and even claim that the word was either not there or too imprecise or whatever to justify the way they had been playing, which I honestly don't care about.

After that, there are so many ways and levels of playacting, for one, and second hopefully no one is here to distribute points for playacting or not. It's just a definition, from the same book that gave the rules of the game, and it shows something of the thoughts about roleplaying at that time, nothing more.
 


Speaking only for myself, my pushback is because I get the impression that your definition also has some requirements for how defined that character must be for it to count as "real" roleplaying.

I agree that playing Mario in a video game isn't roleplaying. But, for me, even my poorly defined, personality-less first AD&D character was still roleplaying. No, I didn't write a backstory or put any thought into his personality quirks or motivations or anything else. We barely talked to NPCs, let alone explored personae. We just killed monsters and took their stuff. But when I was playing Eärramë I was an improbably strong (18/33) elven fighter-magic user with a bitchin' bow. (I know, I know.).

It wasn't remotely like controlling Mario in a video game. It wasn't remotely like moving my little die-cast metal shoe around a Monopoly board. It was roleplaying. And while over the years I've become more interested in creating and exploring characters who aren't me, to me the only thing that has changed is the degree, not the substance. I'm not playing a totally different game today; I'm playing a slightly different game, especially when contrasted to non-RPGs.

So maybe my conclusion is that I disagree with your definition: roleplaying isn't when you filter your decisions through what you think your imaginary character would do. Roleplaying is when you feel like you are that character. Even if that character is just Blue Fighter.
I don't think either one of you can 'win' that argument. Let me explain:

I had 2 main PCs that I played a lot in 1e/2e in the mid 80's and 90's. One was a Magic User "Questioner of all Things", who was simply me playing my character for absolute utter maximum effectiveness without any holds barred whatsoever. I mean, the character is Neutral Good, and in character I didn't do stuff that was depraved or whatever. So, I guess that counts as some 'personality'. OTOH did Questioner ever exhibit some sort of emotional response or attachment to anything, beyond a hard calculated determination? Well, he had a theoretical 'goal', to learn all the secrets of the Universe, which was basically lampshaded as an explanation for 'why is this guy here?' but I would say this was a thoroughly gamist character. Any decision I made playing this PC was based on gaining something or learning something.

The other character I had, Cargorn the Ranger, was by contrast completely obsessed and pretty much functionally insane. He was going to get back at those evil nature-destroying scum Demogorgon worshippers, come hell or high water. Nothing else mattered to him. No consideration of what was practical, feasible, beneficial, or anything else mattered. Playing the character in some strategic or sensible fashion? Bah. His personal agenda and personality were all-encompassing and every party that ever let him join it was well-aware of what they were getting. Eventually he degenerated into a sort of 'anti-ranger', but he did eventually go on an expedition that slew Demogorgon! lol. I'm not real convinced we got the true big bad 100% dead to rights, but I don't even recall playing that character afterwards.

So, is one of these RP and one is not? I don't think anyone can tell me that, though the first one surely would get played in a gamist sort of way, and the second one was all about the character, damn the game part.
 

Helpful NPC Thom

Adventurer
I believe the meaning of roleplaying has never changed--it's there in the word--but the conception of what constitutes roleplaying has shifted. Earlier games of D&D weren't heavy on roleplaying (EDIT: as the modern conceit thereof, with in-character dialogue, playacting, and the like); Mike Mornard, one of the fellas who played in the earliest days, has described the game as not involving playacting and very succinct descriptors within combat. The party caller would make decisions for the whole team, when today the thought of one player dictating the actions of another PC is considered taboo.

It's only as D&D's popularity spread that theatrical elements became standard; backstory, accents, narrative took on a greater role as players desired to use the game engine to immerse themselves in a proxy for fantasy literature. What if I stood before the Nazgul on Weathertop? What if I were exploring Hyboria? What if I were (shudder) Tanis Half-Even or Drizzt Do'Urden?

Initially, D&D was a niche hobby by wargamers for wargamers, so it's natural that they had their preferred style of gaming. As more players participated, they naturally brought their own styles of gaming to the table, and the hobby has thus diversified. Compare the tournament games of D&D in the past with adventures that pit teams of players in the module in a race to score the most points to sprawling hexcrawls to modern adventure paths. If my recollection serves me--and does about as often as it does not--there is a discussion in the 2e rulebooks about what characters know, and one of the suggestions is that a character knows everything the player does. Most modern gamers would decry this as "metagaming," yet this was a standard practice Back In the Day.
 
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This is a completely valid way to play the game and explains your position on metagaming. It's not the default way D&D is run, though. Players don't usually have that level of control over the game.
I'm not so sure about that. It may be true that many GMs refuse to go even that one inch needed to achieve this, but I think the vast majority will. It might be that they aren't ever really ASKED to do that. People play RPGs pretty casually for the most part and just go with the 'flow of the game'. Many don't play for such an extended period that they feel the need to push the boundaries all that much.

However, if you look at the foundational games of D&D, you can clearly see where the PCs in Gary's campaign, or Dave's campaign CERTAINLY did exactly that. There are entire classes and sections of rules, half the AD&D spell list, etc. based entirely on things they introduced into the game in order to do what you call 'not the default way'. Heck, for the first 5 years of D&D you couldn't NOT play that way, the rules were almost functionally non-existent (you could argue Holmes Basic sort of comes close to coherent rules, but you really need the 1e DMG to find a fairly thorough play process that is explicated with a usable rule for each major type of situation).

D&D is ALL ABOUT "Can the paladin try the spell thing?" At some point that specific question gets fairly definitive answers that take care of the default, but you have always been encouraged to go beyond what is on the page.
 

I'm not so sure about that. It may be true that many GMs refuse to go even that one inch needed to achieve this, but I think the vast majority will. It might be that they aren't ever really ASKED to do that. People play RPGs pretty casually for the most part and just go with the 'flow of the game'. Many don't play for such an extended period that they feel the need to push the boundaries all that much.

However, if you look at the foundational games of D&D, you can clearly see where the PCs in Gary's campaign, or Dave's campaign CERTAINLY did exactly that. There are entire classes and sections of rules, half the AD&D spell list, etc. based entirely on things they introduced into the game in order to do what you call 'not the default way'. Heck, for the first 5 years of D&D you couldn't NOT play that way, the rules were almost functionally non-existent (you could argue Holmes Basic sort of comes close to coherent rules, but you really need the 1e DMG to find a fairly thorough play process that is explicated with a usable rule for each major type of situation).

D&D is ALL ABOUT "Can the paladin try the spell thing?" At some point that specific question gets fairly definitive answers that take care of the default, but you have always been encouraged to go beyond what is on the page.
Very much. I've tried to recapture some of this in my Five Torches Deep game over the last year, and the spell descriptions in that game are all one or two sentences, deliberately designed to be open for interpretation and improvisation like this.

Friday night one of the PCs got possessed by a ghostly spirit, and I had a couple of spells in mind which could potentially help against this, but the PCs came up with a third. On brief reflection, this one seemed reasonable to use for the purpose, and I allowed it. "Give me a roll!" The PCs rolled well for the spell (after many bad casting rolls earlier in the evening, as is sadly common and they always lament), and felt triumphant.
 

I believe the meaning of roleplaying has never changed--it's there in the word--but the conception of what constitutes roleplaying has shifted. Earlier games of D&D weren't heavy on roleplaying; Mike Mornard, one of the fellas who played in the earliest days, has described the game as not involving playacting and very succinct descriptors within combat. The party caller would make decisions for the whole team, when today the thought of one player dictating the actions of another PC is considered taboo.

It's only as D&D's popularity spread that theatrical elements became standard; backstory, accents, narrative took on a greater role as players desired to use the game engine to immerse themselves in a proxy for fantasy literature. What if I stood before the Nazgul on Weathertop? What if I were exploring Hyboria? What if I were (shudder) Tanis Half-Even or Drizzt Do'Urden?

Initially, D&D was a niche hobby by wargamers for wargamers, so it's natural that they had their preferred style of gaming. As more players participated, they naturally brought their own styles of gaming to the table, and the hobby has thus diversified. Compare the tournament games of D&D in the past with adventures that pit teams of players in the module in a race to score the most points to sprawling hexcrawls to modern adventure paths. If my recollection serves me--and does about as often as it does not--there is a discussion in the 2e rulebooks about what characters know, and one of the suggestions is that a character knows everything the player does. Most modern gamers would decry this as "metagaming," yet this was a standard practice Back In the Day.
Yes, this is an interesting point. As we now mostly all know, there was no such term "roleplaying game" at first. While there are some interesting antecedents to D&D, the original little brown books don't contain the term. It hadn't been formulated. Players and reviewers rapidly started to observe that it was something other than a "fantastic medieval wargame", however.

And players in different groups and regions around the country started engaging in detailed characterization pretty swiftly, while at the same time D&D tournaments focused on accomplishing goals, defeating monsters, and finding treasure. These two major styles of play coexisted for years. It wasn't until after the Hickman Revolution that you really saw the RPGA put a lot of focus on playacting and embodying a personality in tournament scoring and formalizing that as a material goal. But yeah, even in 2E (1989) they put forth characters having all the same game world knowledge as the player as a valid and common style of play.
 
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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
"This is a role-playing game. That means that you will be like an actor, imagining that you are someone else, and pretending to be that character. You won’t need a stage, though, and you won’t need costumes or scripts. You only need to imagine."

What does an actor when there is no script and he is told to imagine ? Imagination comes twice in that paragraph. I'm not trying to get you to do anything, It's not a trick question. Like everything in the game, you do what you want, it's only limited by your imagination.



So fo you roleplaying is taking on the role of the wizard in a party of adventurers on an imaginary world, right ? I'm not betraying your words here ?
Let's dig in here. My character is the Blue Wizard. I've named him Bob. Bob is an extremely shallow veneer over me. Bob does what I want to do in the game, for the reasons I want to do them. Let's look at two examples and you tell me which is roleplaying:

1) I refer to Bob in the 3rd person, and tell the GM what Bob is doing. I do not bother with dialog, but rather rely on description.

2) I refer to Bob in the 1st person, and use a silly voice. I engage in dialog.

I do not have any other characterizations for Bob, and I do not have any character goals for Bob in either case. Case 2 is just me with a silly voice.

Are either, both or neither of these roleplaying?


Following this up, I think you have to assign case 2 as roleplaying because it fits, ridiculously, your arguments about "like an actor." The fact that no character goals exist, and that Bob is always a straight extension of the player doesn't matter to your roleplaying argument, just the pantomime parts. I find this to be, as noted, ridiculous. Playacting in a silly voice cannot be the value of roleplaying, and, if it is, then this has been changed in 5e (again, refer to your rulebook).

I find that case 1 still adheres to your favorite quote. Like an actor, I have taken on a role, that of Bob the Blue Wizard. It's pretty clear that even without any additional effort to separate Bob from myself, or to even engage in amateur thespianism, that I, like an actor, have taken a role. This is because I cannot be me, Ovinomancer, in the game, I have to select some kind of role within the game. So, I have taken on a role, even if it is a shallow one that's very much just like me. To loop this to my earlier posts, this is exactly like Owen Wilson. He has one characterization -- himself. He plays himself on-screen -- the same voice, the same mannerisms and characterization. But, he takes on a role -- he has a different role in the stories he plays. So, if I'm being "like an actor" like Owen Wilson, then I can be myself and be fine so long as I take on the role of Bob the Blue Wizard.

What you're doing is smuggling in a whole set of assumptions and grafting them onto the words when the words don't require that. Which is why I've asked the specific questions I have and you still have yet to sufficiently answer them. I get it, they seem like silly questions because it's so obvious to you what it means. But the point of the question is to get you to step back, re-evaluate, and hopefully see that you've brought in a lot of things that aren't required by the definition and pretended they are.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I'm not so sure about that. It may be true that many GMs refuse to go even that one inch needed to achieve this, but I think the vast majority will. It might be that they aren't ever really ASKED to do that. People play RPGs pretty casually for the most part and just go with the 'flow of the game'. Many don't play for such an extended period that they feel the need to push the boundaries all that much.

However, if you look at the foundational games of D&D, you can clearly see where the PCs in Gary's campaign, or Dave's campaign CERTAINLY did exactly that. There are entire classes and sections of rules, half the AD&D spell list, etc. based entirely on things they introduced into the game in order to do what you call 'not the default way'. Heck, for the first 5 years of D&D you couldn't NOT play that way, the rules were almost functionally non-existent (you could argue Holmes Basic sort of comes close to coherent rules, but you really need the 1e DMG to find a fairly thorough play process that is explicated with a usable rule for each major type of situation).
Introducing a class is different than the kind of fictional control during gameplay that @Bill Zebub was talking about. If you look at even the 5e rules, the least restrictive edition, you have to opt into things like plot points and other ways for players to affect the fiction themselves during gameplay.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Are either, both or neither of these roleplaying?

According to that definition (and I insist on that, there is not judgement, just checking whether what you are doing fits the definition), none of these, because none of these satisfy "imagining that you are someone else, and pretending to be that character", because you say specifically "I do not have any other characterizations for Bob, and I do not have any character goals for Bob in either case". Bob is not someone else that you are pretending to be, it's you with probably with no or extremely little veneer.

That's the problem with focussing on one word compared to taking into account the whole section.

What you're doing is smuggling in a whole set of assumptions and grafting them onto the words when the words don't require that. Which is why I've asked the specific questions I have and you still have yet to sufficiently answer them. I get it, they seem like silly questions because it's so obvious to you what it means. But the point of the question is to get you to step back, re-evaluate, and hopefully see that you've brought in a lot of things that aren't required by the definition and pretended they are.

I would like you to do exactly the same thing, look at the paragraph as whole and at its intent rather than at just one word taken out of context.

And by the way, this is exactly the problem with trying to play 5e, written in natural language, when trying to impose a specific jargon, use extremely specific counter-examples (e.g. when thinking about an actor, think about the very worst that you can find instead of what the word usually means), and dissect part of the text to find some advantage, rather just trying, in good faith, to understand what the author meant.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
According to that definition (and I insist on that, there is not judgement, just checking whether what you are doing fits the definition), none of these, because none of these satisfy "imagining that you are someone else, and pretending to be that character", because you say specifically "I do not have any other characterizations for Bob, and I do not have any character goals for Bob in either case". Bob is not someone else that you are pretending to be, it's you with probably with no or extremely little veneer.
Imagining you are someone else and pretending to be that character? I imagine I'm Bob the Blue Wizard. I cannot cast spells, Bob can. I don't have hitpoints, Bob does. So, if I say Bob casts a spell, then I'm pretending my character, Bob, can actually cast spells. This requires nothing more than this -- I don't have to give Bob a backstory, or a motivation, or anything else, because I've met the requirements of this clause simply by agreeing that my character is a wizard.
That's the problem with focussing on one word compared to taking into account the whole section.
And yet you've focused quite a lot on that word. Your further expansions don't work very well, either.
I would like you to do exactly the same thing, look at the paragraph as whole and at its intent rather than at just one word taken out of context.
I have. For a long time. Roleplaying according to that passage is fully satisfied by both cases of Bob the Blue Wizard I put forth above. If you don't smuggling in assumptions, that is.
And by the way, this is exactly the problem with trying to play 5e, written in natural language, when trying to impose a specific jargon, use extremely specific counter-examples (e.g. when thinking about an actor, think about the very worst that you can find instead of what the word usually means), and dissect part of the text to find some advantage, rather just trying, in good faith, to understand what the author meant.
Let's assume that, in good faith, the author actually meant what you claim. Then loads and loads of people played the game wrongly, entirely tournaments - put on by the people that made the game - were played incorrected, and the most recent edition (5e) had decided to break with this concept completely and allow for roleplaying that doesn't require what you claim. This last is a point that you continue to ignore and not address -- that 5e explicitly allows for Case 1 of Bob the Blue Wizard. So, even if your prior edition claim is accepted for arguments sake, it's no longer valid, leaving you arguing for a past tense definition like trying to assert that THAC0 is still a valid concept. Note, I don't accept your argument.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
According to that definition (and I insist on that, there is not judgement, just checking whether what you are doing fits the definition), none of these, because none of these satisfy "imagining that you are someone else, and pretending to be that character", because you say specifically "I do not have any other characterizations for Bob, and I do not have any character goals for Bob in either case". Bob is not someone else that you are pretending to be, it's you with probably with no or extremely little veneer.
I've already proven to you that the 5e definition is literally just playing a role. That's it. So all of those DO satisfy the 5e definition of roleplay.
 

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