WHAT IS A ROLEPLAYING GAME?
The easiest way to explain a roleplaying game is to compare it with a movie. In a movie it is the director who decides where the action will take place and controls the movies story. In a roleplaying game the players portray some of the main characters in "the movie" and they decide what these player characters do in different situations. One player, the gamemaster (in short GM), is "the director" and decides which setting the adventure is set in, and what people the players player characters meet in the adventure.

In other words a roleplaying game is a game where the players identifies themselves with a player character and through him experiences imaginary adventures. During the game the players cooperate with other players to survive the dangers and find solutions to the problems that the world his player character is in offers. This becomes an "interactive" story where the action is influenced by the actions of the player characters.

The gamemaster controls what happens, and decides, with help of chance (dice) what the players characters can and can‘t do. A gamemaster who creates a setting uses the rules to control what is possible and what is not possible (e.g. the rules of this game allows a "cowboy" to jump over a six feet drop if he has the right prerequisites, but not to learn to speak spanish fluently in just an hour).

A roleplaying game takes place in a world limited by the rules. The creation of the action is a process where both the GM and the players can influence the outcome, but not control it. The events are decided through the interaction between the players and the setting.

A roleplaying game is supposed to be exciting, interesting and challenging, and it is important that the players tries to imagine the situations as much as they can. The players should react to situations in the game, just as the player character is supposed to react to the situations. This is the major difference between roleplaying games and board games. In roleplaying games the players characters is more than a piece of plastic or a flat square.

In a good roleplaying game the player character continually develop new skills and characteristics, and the players put themselves in their player characters place in the setting that the roleplaying game is played in.

The gamemaster is supposed to use detailed descriptions, pictures and maps to help the PCs to understand what places and people look like. The players themselves are supposed to act and react to this just as their player characters would have done. This creates an atmosphere of excitement and realism.

In short, a roleplaying game is adventures, dangers, battles, romances, treasures, life and death. In a roleplaying game the players leave the "real" world behind and enters a fantasyworld, only limited by the players and the gamemasters imagination.



EXAMPLE OF PLAY
This section contains an example of a dialog between a Gamemaster and two players during a WESTERN-adventure.

The player characters, Harris Jefferson and Pike Jones, are two bounty hunters. They are hunting a gunfighter named John Winter, wanted in the New Mexico Territory for armed robbery and murder. If Harris and Pike manage to capture John Winter and turn him in to the law they will get the reward, $3000, which is a lot of money. Pike and Harris have been hunting John Winter for over two weeks and the last thing they heard about him was that he has been seen in the area around San Topico, a small town in southeast Arizona.

Around two o‘clock in the afternoon, June 7, 1870, Harris and Pike arrive in San Topico. They believe that John Winter might be in town, and he is. In town is also John Winter‘s pal William Ford, who just came riding from El Taco.

THE GAMEMASTER (GM): "The time is around two in the afternoon when you arrive in San Topico. The town lies in a valley and the terrain around the town consists mostly of low hills. On the hills grow some trees and shrubberies. It is a rather small town with around twenty buildings, and several of the buildings are only hastily constructed wooden barracks. Not many people are out, you only see two men unloading wooden crates from an open wagon.


GM draws some sketches of the town on a piece of paper. Meanwhile the players discuss what they want to do. A good idea seems to be to go to the salooon for some refreshments and to ask the bartender some questions about John Winter

GM: "Ok, what are you going to do now?"

Harris: "The first thing we do is to ride up to those guys that are unloading the crates, and ask them the way to the saloon."

GM: "You ride up to the men. When you get closer you see that one of the two is armed with a revolver. The man with the revolver has a black hat, a red and white chequered shirt and a pair of black jeans. The other man has a cotton shirt and a pair of brown jeans. Both men seems to be in their forties. When you are about ten meters from them, they turn towards you, and when you come closer the man with the black hat says ‘Evening, strangers.‘"

Harris: "We say ´Evening´ to them and ask for the way to the saloon."

Pike: "Is there any chance seeing what is in the box?"

GM: "When you ask where the saloon is, they laugh and the man with the black hat says ‘It is easy to find it, just follow this street about fifty meters, and there it is.‘

It seems as if the boxes contains gunpowder. They are marked with the words ACME GUNPOWDER."

Harris: "Why did they laugh when we asked where the saloon was?"

GM: "If you think about it, the town is very small, and it wouldn‘t take long to find it."

Harris: "Ok, we thank them for the information and ride towards the saloon."

GM: "The saloon is the only building in San Topico with two floors. Two horses are tied to a rack outside the saloon…"


One of the horses outside the saloon belongs to William Ford, John Winter‘s friend. He‘s just arrived from El Taco, which lies about 7 miles from San Topico. He‘s ridden hard from El Taco, so his horse is both tired and sweaty. To see if the player characters notice this the GM rolls secretly for each player character. The results are to low for the player characters to notice anything strange with the horse.

"... What do you do now?"

Pike: "We tie our horses outside the saloon and then we go inside."

Harris: "Wait! Before we go inside, I look inside, over the swinging doors."

GM: "There are four men in the saloon. One is the bartender, who is a rather large guy, and you notice that he is totally bald. At a table in the farthest corner of the saloon are two men, sitting at a table, drinking beer. You don‘t notice anything special about these two men. The fourth man sits by a table, next to the door. He is dressed in a deerskin jacket and has a brown stetson hat. On the table in front of him is a half-empty bottle of whiskey. He looks like he might be around 25 years old."


The GM draws a map of the saloon on a piece of paper.

Pike: "Then we go inside."

GM: "You are inside, what do you do?"

Harris: "We walk up to the bar and order a beer each, a cold beer."

GM: "The bartender tells you that it‘ll cost 50 cents each."

Harris: "Pike, you have money, you pay."

Pike: "What! Why should I pay? I have bought you beer in every little town we‘ve been to the last couple of weeks. I pay for my beer. If you want a beer you have to pay it yourself. "

Harris: "Ok, I‘ll pay for my beer. I start talking to the bartender."

GM: "Alright, about what?"

Harris: "First I talk a little bit about the weather, and then after a little while I ask him if there are any strangers in town, or if any strangers have passed through here recently."

GM: "The bartender tells you that you are the first strangers to come to San Topico for two months…"


The bartender knows that John Winter and William Ford is in town. And with Ford sitting in his saloon at the moment, drinking whiskey, he feels a bit nervous. He shoots a glance at Ford to see if he has heard anything. From the look of his face he has heard everything. To decide if the player characters notice that he bartender is nervous, the GM secretly roll a die for each player character. Harris doesn‘t notice anything, but Pike does.

"... Pike, you think that the bartender looks a little nervous. He looked at the exit or the man in the deerskin jacket really quickly."

Pike: "I look at the man in the deerskin jacket by looking at the mirror behind the bar. I don‘t turn around, I just…"

GM: "I understand. He is watching the two of you…"


The GM decides with a die roll if Ford discovers that Pike is watching him. The die roll is successful, and Ford notices that Pike is watching him.

"...but he looks down at his bottle again."

Pike: "I ask the bartender who the man is. I whisper when I ask him. I don‘t wan‘t the man in the deerskin jacket to hear me."

GM: "The bartender says that he is no one special, simply one of the people who live in town. Now you can see that the bartender is very nervous, his face is all red and tiny beads of sweat glisten on his forehead and his bald head."

Harris: "I take out John Winter‘s wanted poster and show it to the bartender. I ask him if he really hasn‘t seen John Winter in San Topico."

GM: "The bartender still says that he hasn‘t seen any strangers in town, for at least two months, and he says that he‘s never seen the man on the poster before. After this he tells you that he‘s got a lot of things to do in the kitchen, and goes out through that door."


The GM points at a door on his map.

Ford has heard enough. He manages to leave the saloon without Pike or Harris noticing it (no luck with the die rolls today). He runs to the little hotel to warn Winter. WInter decides to go to Harris and Pike to hear what they want him.


Harris: "It‘s no idea. The bartendern won‘t say anything. We‘ll go to this table…"


The player that plays Harris points at the map.

"…and sit down for a while. I sit down with my back against the wall."

Pike: "I‘ll do the same."

GM: "When you turn around you notice that the man in the deerskin jacket is gone. What do you do? Do you still sit down at the table?"

Harris: "Yes."

Pike: "I think we should try and find out where the man in the deerskin jacket went to."

Harris: "Calm down. We‘ve been riding since dawn, I want to rest for a while."

GM: "You have just sat down when John Winter comes into the saloon. He is armed with a revolver. He‘s got a bowler hat on his head, and is dressed in a grey suit. He walks straight up to you and says: ‘I have heard that you are looking for me.‘ What do you do?"

Pike: "I draw my revolver and points it at him under the table…"


We leave Harris and Pike here. Who knows what is going to happen to them. Maybe Pike shoots Winter, if he manages to draw his revolver without Winter noticing. If Winter notices he might shoot Pike. And what is the bartender doing. Did he go to get the sheriff? And where is Ford? And what if…