What is an RPG?

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Imagine an unfamiliar world that is open for you to explore, but you don’t know where to start? Maybe you find the closest town and have them guide you through tasks, maybe you find a cavern and delve into its depths seeking treasures, or maybe you just want to wander the world marking new locations on your map. Choice is what defines an RPG (Role Playing Game), but choices are not limited by exploration. RPGs also include questlines that involve choosing between options that flip stories in multiple directions as you progress. You could choose to show mercy and have the favour returned later. It could even involve dialogue options that change whether or not you get the information you need. Overall, the choices are what determine your outcome in the game.

 An RPG is broken down into multiple parts, Story, Setting, Exploration, Quests, Experience, and Combat.

The story acts as the main progression point, guiding the character to an ending. The story is almost always character driven, leading to multiple endings based on the choices the player made throughout the game. In my experience, it feels as though you’ve stumbled into a story book and have become the lead character.

 The setting is usually fantasy or sci-fi. This allows for creativity and surrealism in both the world and the character. It could take shape as a cat-person, or a magic world, the possibilities are endless. With a surreal setting, it also allows for exploration, made more enjoyable by the unfamiliarity.

 Exploration is a key element that makes RPGs unlike other genres. It could involve exploring buildings for loot, or caves for monsters. The ability to explore gives the player freedom in the game, not tying them down in a point A to B progression.

 Quests act as a guideline for players to follow, though it doesn’t always lead to main story progression. I like to think of it as an anchor for the player when they’re unsure of where to go next. Quests usually involve the completion of a task assigned by one of the NPC’s (Non-player character). It could be as simple as retrieving a spoon, to as complicated as removing a king from reign.

 The combat in RPGs varies from game to game, but generally involves slaying beast, or foes.  In combat, the player is usually gifted with special abilities that let them excel. Maybe you can cast fireballs, or have inhuman reflexes. The abilities assigned to character are unique and can often be developed as you progress.

 Experience is basically a reward system for completing quests, or slaying monsters. You often get experience for each quest completed, or monster slain, that tallies into levels once you collected enough. Levels act as a development system for your character such as, hitting level 5 rewards you with a new ability, or item. It lets your character develop and become stronger, often in a way you choose.

 Overall, in an RPG you make the choices that change your game experience and development. Without a doubt, it is my favourite genre.  


Shawn Bosnjak is a student in the Professional Writing program at Algonquin College. He is an avid writer, reader, gamer, and drummer, with a passion for anything fantasy or rock.