chapter  10
22 Pages

RPG Theorizing by Designers and Players

WithEvan Torner

This chapter explores the main concepts and debates emerging from para-academic role-playing games (RPGs) discourse, spanning live-action role-playing, tabletop, computer, and multi-player online RPGs (MORPG). Although much is said at convention panels and around the gaming table, it focuses on publicly accessible written work. RPG theorizing serves numerous explicit and implicit purposes. It can help us play better: theorycrafting, the "modeling and testing theories about the underlying mechanics of a game", helps MORPG players advance through their games. Before diving into the history of RPG theorizing, it is helpful to see this dynamic play out in one prominent debate: realism versus playability – whether rules should simulate reality or follow their own internal logic. Early RPG theory evolved from small press wargaming and science fiction and fantasy newsletters. Their conversations focused on how to adapt historical material into game form, the proper procedure of play-by-mail games, or the mentioned realism versus playability debate.