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

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pemerton

Legend
I'm not looking for absolution as much as wondering how other people were playing back then, and if EGG and company meant the same thing by "roleplaying" as we do today.
I've not read the whole thread. But my answer to your question has a few parts.

(1) Gygax, by role, seems to have meant something like "function". So on p 18 of his PHB he says "The approach you wish to take to the game, how you believe you can most successfully meet the challenges which it poses, and which role you desire to play are dictated by character class (or multi-class)." There is an implicit contrast here between the single-character approach of RPGing and the control of a whole army - and thus of all the roles/functions - in a wargame.

(2) From very early on in the hobby, there were players departing from this conception of "roleplaying" - ie who focused on the role not as just class/mechanical function but personality, characterisation etc. This comes through clearly in discussions on RPGing in the late 70s and earl 80s White Dwarfs (eg @lewpuls had very interesting discussions of these differences of approach).

(3) A further difference that is important to me is between role as characterisation and role as protagonism. I tend to find a lot of RPGing material and discussion tends to emphasise the former. Whereas I am more interested in the latter. In some ways this comes back to Gygax's idea, but instead of looking at the role/function through the lens of challenge it is looked at through the lens of theme and story.

Here is a thread I started some years ago now that deals with some similar issues to yours: D&D 5E - What is the "role" in roleplaying
 

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pemerton

Legend
While this is indubitably true, although I never met EGG personally or had the chance to play with him, I have met friends who did, and I can assure you that the intention was there, and this is where the true genius was, as this was far more groundbreaking than moving from chainmail units to individual characters.

As proof, these words from two of the earliest and most iconic modules published by TSR, I'm sure you'll recognise which is which
The counter-example to this is the example of play in Gygax's DMG, which has no characterisation of note, and is entirely functional in its approach. (There is a marked contrast here with Moldvay's example in his Basic rulebook.)

By the time Gygax wrote the PHB it seems he was aware of departures from strict wargaming play, and was addressing them to some extent with the reference to "becoming" Falstaff the fighter etc. But that introductory remark doesn't change the overall tenor of the game in the way that, say, the AD&D 2nd ed discussion of building and playing a PC does.
 

Hussar

Legend
Well, like I said, that's pretty much what my first character was. And, yes, it was roleplaying.

As for today, if I played a long-term game with somebody who seemed to do the same thing, and their character never had any discernible depth or any personality, and just seemed like Blue Fighter or Red Wizard, but I still got the sense that they were emotionally invested in their character....yes, I'd still call it roleplaying.
I have to admit, I don't. At that point, they are playing a game, but, they aren't roleplaying. The game does actually expect you to develop that character with at least a minimum of depth and personality. But, there are two sort of related issues here. One is judging individual players, the other is judging games.

Frankly, I got tied up in the first and I shouldn't have. It's not about what this or that player does at the table. It's what the game expects. And, over time, role playing games have come more and more to expect a level of investment into that character that wasn't present in the early days of the hobby. That's how the meaning of roleplaying has changed, at least for me.
 

Hussar

Legend
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".
Actually, I'm going to disagree here. There are a number of games that actively promote and push the character into playing a consistent persona or at least trying to explain why you aren't. FATE being a good example with its mechanics. Dogs in the Vineyard as well does this. I'd go so far to say that most later era RPG's do this. Heck, even D&D gives some lip service to playing a consistant persona with it's Inspiration mechanics.
 

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Frankly, I got tied up in the first and I shouldn't have. It's not about what this or that player does at the table. It's what the game expects. And, over time, role playing games have come more and more to expect a level of investment into that character that wasn't present in the early days of the hobby. That's how the meaning of roleplaying has changed, at least for me.

Interesting. I would have readily agreed with a claim that large parts of the gaming community is expecting that investment. What do you mean that the game itself expects it? Wouldn’t 5e function perfectly well in a straightforward hack-and-slash with none of what you mean by “roleplaying”? I think I must be misunderstanding your point.
 
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Actually, I'm going to disagree here. There are a number of games that actively promote and push the character into playing a consistent persona or at least trying to explain why you aren't. FATE being a good example with its mechanics. Dogs in the Vineyard as well does this. I'd go so far to say that most later era RPG's do this. Heck, even D&D gives some lip service to playing a consistant persona with it's Inspiration mechanics.

Yes, certainly. I was just speaking of D&D.

I would disagree slightly about Inspiration, though. It is there to encourage consistent characterization, but as a peripheral rule it serves only to incentivize not require.

And maybe it’s telling that we so often hear from the community that Inspiration doesn’t get used.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I want to go back and address something @Lanefan said earlier, to the effect that using player knowledge isn't fair to people who invest in those skills.

The corollary to my willingness to let players use whatever knowledge they have...or think they have (mwuhahahahaha)...is that I treat proficiencies as having more potency than the mere numerical bonus the skills are supposed to confer. If somebody has proficiency in Arcana/Nature/Medicine/Whatever, I will tend to just default to automatic success when that skill is applicable. Which is way better than just giving them an additional 10% or 15% on a roll. And this isn't (intentionally) to balance player knowledge, but because in both cases I would just rather that players have information and make decisions based on it, rather than gate challenges behind secrets.
I give proficiency a boost as well. Some things will require proficiency to get a roll. Sometimes anyone can get a roll, but the person with proficiency will also have a lower DC, so essentially a back door expertise
So not only is there still value in knowledge skills, but I would argue there's even greater value to those skills than in games where DMs won't let players use their own knowledge, but do make them roll dice every time.
What about those games where the DM says that they can't metagame, but doesn't require die rolls every time?
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Actually, I'm going to disagree here. There are a number of games that actively promote and push the character into playing a consistent persona or at least trying to explain why you aren't. FATE being a good example with its mechanics. Dogs in the Vineyard as well does this. I'd go so far to say that most later era RPG's do this. Heck, even D&D gives some lip service to playing a consistant persona with it's Inspiration mechanics.
I don't think this is at all true in Dogs. Here, character is consistently under threat and can drastically change during play due to the accumulation of fallout. FATE is weird, in that you can approach that game in many ways, some of which are diametrically opposite, so it's hard to say it does this thing. It might, but it also might not.
 

Hussar

Legend
Interesting. I would ups have readily agreed with a claim that large parts of the gaming community is expecting that investment. What do you mean that the game itself expects it? Wouldn’t 5e function perfectly well in a straightforward hack-and-slash with none of what you mean by “roleplaying”? I think I must be misunderstanding your point.
Well, again, D&D isn't perhaps the best example of promoting role play. :D But, as I said, you only have to look at the Inspiration mechanics to see how it is actually promoting role play in its own way. You gain inspiration by playing a role, by presenting your character in such a way that it impresses the group or the DM. IOW, role playing.

And, just to answer @Jack Daniel's criticism about gate keeping here. Umm, I'm sorry, I guess, that my definition of a role playing game includes the notion of actually playing a role? Is that seriously gate keeping? And, note, I'm really not trying to talk about individual players here. Yes, KNOW I failed at that. I know that I talked about individual players and that was a mistake.

I would rather focus on the games themselves. Do the games actually help define and promote role play? Is it rewarded in some fashion. I guess you could say that the lack of role play in AD&D was punished through the Training Rules. And the Alignment system is certainly an attempt at promoting role play. I leave the relative success of the attempt to the reader, but, the point being, it was at least making some effort in that direction.

Think about it, alignment is one of the few really distinct elements of a role playing game. I am not stating that RPG's must have alignment, please don't go there But, it's something that RPG's do have that you almost never see in any other type of game. And even RPG's that don't have alignment often give the players tools to create consistent characters that mirror what alignment attempts to do. If my Fate character has the characteristic of Valorous (I'm making this up), then it's not terribly different than writing Lawful Good on a D&D character sheet. Aspects aren't alignment, true, but, they do serve a similar function in pushing the players into creating consistent characters that are the lens through which we play. IOW, role play.
 

Hussar

Legend
I don't think this is at all true in Dogs. Here, character is consistently under threat and can drastically change during play due to the accumulation of fallout. FATE is weird, in that you can approach that game in many ways, some of which are diametrically opposite, so it's hard to say it does this thing. It might, but it also might not.
Yes, you're right. Consistant is the wrong word. But, the point is, those changes are mechanically promoting role playing that character. It would be really weird to play DitV without actually trying to act through the lens of the character.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Well, again, D&D isn't perhaps the best example of promoting role play. :D But, as I said, you only have to look at the Inspiration mechanics to see how it is actually promoting role play in its own way. You gain inspiration by playing a role, by presenting your character in such a way that it impresses the group or the DM. IOW, role playing.
Actually, the when the DMG covers the giving of Inspiration, awarding it for roleplaying falls into a few of the equally presented options, but it also says that you can give it every day, or for other things, before ending with "it's up to the GM." And all the PHB says is that the GM will tell you when you earn Inspiration. In effect, Inspiration as you're placing it here is entirely optional.

I'll grant that it at least tries to put something out there. That's not nothing.
And, just to answer @Jack Daniel's criticism about gate keeping here. Umm, I'm sorry, I guess, that my definition of a role playing game includes the notion of actually playing a role? Is that seriously gate keeping? And, note, I'm really not trying to talk about individual players here. Yes, KNOW I failed at that. I know that I talked about individual players and that was a mistake.
I don't see how you can separate players out. It's like saying that you're not saying anything at all about chocolate ice cream when you say that vanilla is the only true ice cream.
I would rather focus on the games themselves. Do the games actually help define and promote role play? Is it rewarded in some fashion. I guess you could say that the lack of role play in AD&D was punished through the Training Rules. And the Alignment system is certainly an attempt at promoting role play. I leave the relative success of the attempt to the reader, but, the point being, it was at least making some effort in that direction.

Think about it, alignment is one of the few really distinct elements of a role playing game. I am not stating that RPG's must have alignment, please don't go there But, it's something that RPG's do have that you almost never see in any other type of game. And even RPG's that don't have alignment often give the players tools to create consistent characters that mirror what alignment attempts to do. If my Fate character has the characteristic of Valorous (I'm making this up), then it's not terribly different than writing Lawful Good on a D&D character sheet. Aspects aren't alignment, true, but, they do serve a similar function in pushing the players into creating consistent characters that are the lens through which we play. IOW, role play.
Alignment comes straight out of wargames, though. It's not unique to RPGs. Same with Mario Kart -- there are the "good guy" drivers and the "bad guy" drivers. Heck, professional wrestling has alignments -- Heels and Faces. JRRT has alignments. It's not exactly unique to RPGs.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Yes, you're right. Consistant is the wrong word. But, the point is, those changes are mechanically promoting role playing that character. It would be really weird to play DitV without actually trying to act through the lens of the character.
Yes, and no. Dogs invites a kind of roleplaying that wouldn't fit at all in a D&D context, and would be pretty unfamiliar to D&D players. Again, I think this goes to approaches rather than general improvement of a singular definition or concept. How I roleplay in Blades it pretty different than how I do it in D&D. In Blades, it's much less about characterization and more about honest pursuit of goals, even in conflict with other players, and risking character all the time. In D&D, it's more about an entertainment level of performance while focusing more on party and group goals with only occasional forays into group acceptable personal goals. Dogs is even more harsh than Blades in how aggressively you're putting the character's very conceptions on the line, and you can go at it in a Nordic LARP way, which kinda encourages a bit of separation of player and character -- unless you're into bleed, of course.
 

pemerton

Legend
Dogs invites a kind of roleplaying that wouldn't fit at all in a D&D context, and would be pretty unfamiliar to D&D players.
I'm coming in late to this thread, but will immodestly suggest my post not too far upthread: a RPG like DitV is in some ways closer to Gygax's role as function than to the widespread role as characterisation, except the "function" is conceived of not in terms of how will you meet the challenges the game poses but rather how will you protagonistically engage with theme/situation?
 

Hussar

Legend
Alignment comes straight out of wargames, though. It's not unique to RPGs. Same with Mario Kart -- there are the "good guy" drivers and the "bad guy" drivers. Heck, professional wrestling has alignments -- Heels and Faces. JRRT has alignments. It's not exactly unique to RPGs.
But, your play isn't meant to be defined in any way by playing a "good guy" or "bad guy" driver in Mario Kart. You don't play Mario driving any differently than Wario. And the game certainly doesn't expect you to.

Pro-Wresting is all about role play. I mean, seriously? I would very much consider Pro-Wresting to be a role playing game. And, any table top version thereof should be buried deep in mechanical promotion of whatever role you are playing.

JRRT is a novel and not a game. It has morality, obviously, but, I wouldn't call it an alignment system. You're right that morality certainly isn't limited to RPG's. But, mechanics that push players towards acting (or not acting as the case may be) in particular ways, not because of what the player might think is the right action, but, because of the character being conceived as having a particular mindset outside and separated from the player is at the heart of role play and is something that rarely appears in other kinds of games outside of Role Playing Games.

Then again, I'm pretty comfortable with a definition of role playing game that includes Pro-Wresting but doesn't include Mario Kart.

Additionally, while Inspiration is very bare bones (I'll agree there), there's also the whole Backgrounds, Traits, Ideals, Bonds and Flaws section which isn't an optional rule in 5e. It is certainly nudging the players in the direction of creating a character that is distinct from the player and a lens through which to view the game world. Like I said earlier though, D&D is hardly an exemplar of things here. But, there is a change from AD&D through to 5e in that this notion of directly promoting role play through the game is becoming more and more pronounced.

I know I'm getting criticised for making broad brush statements here, but, come on, I can make a 1e character with zero background. Heck, Secondary Skills is an optional rule buried in the DMG. As a player, I don't even have access to that unless the DM allows it. Can someone show me how 1e or Basic D&D actually promotes playing a role? It's easy enough to just brush off what I'm saying as "one true wayism" or whatever, but, the point is, no one has actually managed to bring up counter facts. That you played this way, or, heck, I played that way doesn't really matter. I mean, we didn't play pawn stance either back then. Like @Oofta said, we largely ignored the DMG.

But, I'm not talking about my game, or your game. I'm talking about the game as it was presented.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
But, your play isn't meant to be defined in any way by playing a "good guy" or "bad guy" driver in Mario Kart. You don't play Mario driving any differently than Wario. And the game certainly doesn't expect you to.
Fair, but in the story background it matters.
Pro-Wresting is all about role play. I mean, seriously? I would very much consider Pro-Wresting to be a role playing game. And, any table top version thereof should be buried deep in mechanical promotion of whatever role you are playing.
It's storytelling. It's as much roleplaying as stage acting is. Surely we aren't equating these two?
JRRT is a novel and not a game. It has morality, obviously, but, I wouldn't call it an alignment system. You're right that morality certainly isn't limited to RPG's. But, mechanics that push players towards acting (or not acting as the case may be) in particular ways, not because of what the player might think is the right action, but, because of the character being conceived as having a particular mindset outside and separated from the player is at the heart of role play and is something that rarely appears in other kinds of games outside of Role Playing Games.
Sorry, but alignment isn't about category morality? This doesn't hold much water, and the point that it's a novel is intentional -- it's not an RPG.
Then again, I'm pretty comfortable with a definition of role playing game that includes Pro-Wresting but doesn't include Mario Kart.
Then, interestingly, it seems it's more about achieving a story told than the play that creates it? Because, and let's be honest about it, the amount of choice a pro-wrestler actually has is extremely limited. They engage in a sport that if you aren't working with the other guy, someone gets very, very hurt very, very easily. Not to mention that at the pro level, it's the leagues that make all the calls because it's a business. So, if we're saying pro-wrestling is an RPG but Mario Kart is not, we're adding as many problems to the definition as we might be relieving with the exclusion of Mario and gang.
Additionally, while Inspiration is very bare bones (I'll agree there), there's also the whole Backgrounds, Traits, Ideals, Bonds and Flaws section which isn't an optional rule in 5e. It is certainly nudging the players in the direction of creating a character that is distinct from the player and a lens through which to view the game world. Like I said earlier though, D&D is hardly an exemplar of things here. But, there is a change from AD&D through to 5e in that this notion of directly promoting role play through the game is becoming more and more pronounced.
It's optional in that only the mechanical aspects of Backgrounds are remotely required. Absent the GM's choice to use specific options of Inspiration, all the BIFTs do is occupy space on the character sheet -- there are zero engagements with these outside of Inspiration. So the requirement for zero impact is kinda like saying you have to write down an alignment -- it doesn't do anything, so why bother?

Of course, if you choose to engage them, great, more power to you! But, then, you probably don't need them much to engage in roleplaying.

And yes, there's more engagement of the issue in 5e, but then there was quite a lot in 4e, and then in 3e, and also in 2e. It was different, and scattered in odd places, but even 5e caveats a lot of it away when the get to the brass tacks. It's there, and that's not nothing, but it also very much adheres to a D&D specific approach to roleplay -- high characterization, low impact. Its firmly on the entertainment side of things rather than actually impacts gameplay. For instance, even if your alignment is Lawful Good, and even if your BIFTs are about honor, mercy, and pacifism, if you murder an orphan for their 1 cp, at the end of it you have 1 more cp. Anything else is up to the GM. So, flagrantly violating everything you've presented as reinforcing roleplaying doesn't mechanically matter at all, and only matters if the GM cares to engage it. Meaning roleplay is more up to the GM (and the table) preference than the game system -- as it has always been.


I know I'm getting criticised for making broad brush statements here, but, come on, I can make a 1e character with zero background. Heck, Secondary Skills is an optional rule buried in the DMG. As a player, I don't even have access to that unless the DM allows it. Can someone show me how 1e or Basic D&D actually promotes playing a role? It's easy enough to just brush off what I'm saying as "one true wayism" or whatever, but, the point is, no one has actually managed to bring up counter facts. That you played this way, or, heck, I played that way doesn't really matter. I mean, we didn't play pawn stance either back then. Like @Oofta said, we largely ignored the DMG.
Are you playing yourself, or did you pick a role in the fictional world? Bob the Blue Wizard has none of that, but he's the Blue Wizard. That's exactly one adjective more than just Wizard, but I hope you indulge me here. Wizard is the important part.
But, I'm not talking about my game, or your game. I'm talking about the game as it was presented.
I disagree that you are. There's room in all the editions for basic, pick your class and don't pretend anything else play (including in 5e) without violating the game, and there's room for full immersion RP, where you dress up at the table and always speak in character (never did dress up but have played at "hot" tables). There's still a range, even if the D&D zeitgeist has moved to the modern understanding of D&D roleplaying (again, high characterization, low impact).
 

While 5e does have Bonds/Ideals/Traits/Flaws and Inspiration, it's completely peripheral to the system. You can (and I think many do) just ignore it altogether. It feels like an afterthought. "Hey, let's bolt on some mechanics to support roleplaying, but in an entirely optional way."
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
While 5e does have Bonds/Ideals/Traits/Flaws and Inspiration, it's completely peripheral to the system. You can (and I think many do) just ignore it altogether. It feels like an afterthought. "Hey, let's bolt on some mechanics to support roleplaying, but in an entirely optional way."
It's slightly worse, because all of the BIFTs are only operationalized on the player side through Inspiration, and the DMG gives a lot of advice on that -- you can give it for BIFTs, or for cool moments not tied to BIFTs like lucky crits at a great time, or every day, or every adventuring day, or whenever, or never. This is all given equal weight in the DMG. So, as a system, it's literally "at the discretion of the GM, this system is somewhat, a little, or not important." Somewhat gets the high marks there because Inspiration as presented is pretty weak. Now, you can do a lot to punch this up via houserules, so there's at least a bit of a foundation.

I also say only on the player side is it optional because BIFTs (but not Inspiration) is the core of the social interaction rules in the game -- for NPCs. That's right, the only BIFTs that have a discreet, non-optional rule or effect tied to them are the ones assigned to NPCs. It's actually pretty decent little subsystem, but also one of the most ignored -- more so than Inspiration, if responses on ENW are taken as representative (which they probably shouldn't be).
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I want to go back and address something @Lanefan said earlier, to the effect that using player knowledge isn't fair to people who invest in those skills.

The corollary to my willingness to let players use whatever knowledge they have...or think they have (mwuhahahahaha)...is that I treat proficiencies as having more potency than the mere numerical bonus the skills are supposed to confer. If somebody has proficiency in Arcana/Nature/Medicine/Whatever, I will tend to just default to automatic success when that skill is applicable.
In basic-knowledge situations I concur, but once it gets at all complex I'd steer clear of auto-success in favour of an easy - but still failable - roll; largely because I don't much like auto-success or auto-failure if there's any doubt at all.
 

pemerton

Legend
Can someone show me how 1e or Basic D&D actually promotes playing a role?
Well, if by playing a role one means having a particular suite of capabilities to bring to bear on the ingame situation, then classic D&D promotes playing a role through its relatively tight class system. This is what Gygax points to on p 18 of his PHB.

This conception of playing a role is reinforced by other passages in the PHB and DMG, though these are a bit half-baked. The PHB entry on Experience (p 106) identifies "aims" for each class, and says, "If characters gain treasure by pursuit of their major aims, then they are generally entitled to a full share of earned experience points awarded by the DM." The DMG does not develop this notion, but instead (p 86) has a rule for training time (and hence amount of expenditure required) to gain a level: that time is based on a the DM's rating of the player's play, having regard (to among other matters) whether the player "perform[ed] basically in the character of his or her class".

This is very different from characterising a PC. Page 86 of Gygax's DMG does mention another factor - "Were his or her actions in keeping with his or her professed alignment?" - but I think that is much more about limits on behaviour that flow from being lawful and/or good rather than presenting a fully-realised character.

But while different from characterising a PC, it is the playing of a role.

The loosening of class boundaries in 3E and 5e D&D reduces the scope to play a role in this sense, I think.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Dude, you're still saying that the words for roleplaying mean only what you deem them to mean

Words happen to mean what they mean, you know. You are free to ignore them, free to disagree with them, but nitpicking every single word to try to change the meaning is still nitpicking. These are not even my words, and I'm not even forcing an interpretation of them. But they just seem to offend you by simply being there, and for some reason it triggers your defensive mechanism. Why is the presence word "actor" in a text more than 40 years old such a problem to you that you have to go and pick up examples of the worst (non-)actors to justify something ?

Once more, I have just provided the text from the books that existed at the time. That's all, how does it offend you ?

After that, these words were guidelines to us, and we used them, and we have the feeling that the meaning has not changed much, and indeed the roleplaying in our groups has not changed that much either.

How exactly is this gatekeeping, how is it offending you ?

while allowing other words to retain ambiguity. This was the point made -- you're insistent that there's no other interpretation of the one while arguing for the openness of the other.

Again, where is my interpretation, where is the judgement ? You are the one working extremely hard to prove that it can mean that you were right to play Bob the Wizard. I don't care. I don't judge you for it. But you seem to be judging me only because we took the words to heart in their simplest interpretation. That is actually extremely judgemental of you.

That trying to exclude the way other people played and play from the "correct" version of the hobby is exactly what garners the statements that this is gatekeeping -- you're insisting that your interpretation is the only correct one and others aren't even doing it right.
I'm excluding no-one, never had. But you seem for some reason to want to justify yourself for the way you played. I don't care what you played, I don't judge you for it, so please don't do the same thing to me.
 

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