There are a lot of differences between traditional (table-top) role-playing games and CRPGs (computer role-playing games). A lot of people tend to try out traditional pen and paper games and try to play them the same way that they would play a video game. When they do they usually wind up disappointed with the experience and don’t want to play them again. In this article I will tell you about some of the differences and attempt to help you enjoy your role-playing experience more.
Character development is more important in a traditional RPG than in most video games. In video games you don’t need to give any thought to what a characters likes and dislikes might be, or what they might want to achieve in their life. In a video game, these things are defined ahead of time or don’t matter at all. The only real choices you make in a video game tend to be things like “what weapon is better?”. If you happen to play a video game with more choices, they only tend to be of the good/evil variety and nothing more.
Traditional RPGs aren’t just a numbers game, you need to think more like your character is a person, and not just a collection of numbered attributes. You will enjoy an RPG more if you don’t “power-game”. Power-gaming is when a player creates a character only based on how much power they have and how much damage they can cause with their chosen weapon. Some of the most fun characters I have ever created were actually rather weak and did little or no damage in combat.
Give your character more skills that will make them a more well-rounded person. I’ve never actually ever met anyone who only knows about weaponry and can’t swim, read, or use a computer (this says a lot since I have had friends who actually were trained killers). You’ll be rewarded for giving your character more than just combat skills when they happen to run into a situation where finesse is more important.
Don’t min-max your character’s attributes. Min-maxing is when you drop any particular stat or attribute down to the absolute minimum in order to have another one maximized. This can be your undoing when you realize that the social stat you dropped to nothing is suddenly important. For example, you create a warrior type character and figure that a social stat is unimportant so you min-max it to make your strength higher. Later in the course of the campaign, you find yourself alone with only the option of trying to talk yourself out of trouble. The immensely strong warrior now finds himself unable to speak intelligibly and winds up dead. Min-maxing is for power-gamers and video games, it’s not for real role-playing games.
Don’t assume that you will have to fight everything, or that there will be a lot of combat. Even video games based on traditional RPGs have vastly more combat encounters than their traditional counterparts. The Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights franchises are a good example of this. They are based and created with the Dungeons and Dragons rules, but the amount of combat is greatly inflated for them. A lot of traditional RPGs tend to use more actual role-playing and problem solving. Combat is integral to many of them, but is less important than the storyline of the quest. It’s supposed to be “role-playing” and not “roll-playing” isn’t it?
Your character, and you by extension, are not the center of the universe. Chances are if you are playing a traditional RPG, you are in a party of many. Unlike many CRPGs, teamwork is often essential to success or in some cases, survival. Every character is important, and every player has an effect on how a game will turn out. Robbing, cheating, and killing everything and everyone who crosses your path might be how you play a video game, but it won’t work in a traditional RPG. Watch what happens when you try to pickpocket a member of your party and they discover it. Can you say “vigilante justice”? At best, they will only punish your character, and at worst they will ban you from playing with them.
Don’t assume that all the steps you need to take to finish a quest will be told to you. Video games have to do this to limit the choices they have to prepare for, but a game-master can improvise. You will often need to think outside the box to come up with a solution and not just wait for the next NPC you meet to have the answers you need.
You might not want to talk to everyone you meet. In most video games, the general rule is to talk to everyone and investigate everything you can. In a traditional RPG this sort of behavior can get you in deep trouble. It might not be such a good idea to go investigate a secure military location or talk to a dragon just because you know it can talk.
These are just some guidelines and don’t cover all the differences between traditional RPGs and CRPGs, but they will help you enjoy your RPG experience a little more. Just remember that your character and the story are more important than how much damage you do with your +2 hatchet of doom. Keep your teammates in mind, and thank your game-master for putting so much effort into a campaign. You might be spending a few hours coming up with your character, but the game-master has to make dozens of characters and keep track of everyone and everything. They aren’t a computer and this isn’t a video game.