chapter  4
24 Pages

Tabletop Role-Playing Games

WithWilliam J. White, Jonne Arjoranta, Michael Hitchens, Jon Peterson, Evan Torner, Jonathan Walton

This chapter discusses tabletop role-playing games (TRPGs), sometimes also called "pen-and-paper" role-playing games to distinguish them from their compatriot media, primarily the computer RPG and the live action RPG. Gary Alan Fine's seminal ethnography of TRPG players adopted a broad understanding of fantasy role-playing that had appeared in an early gaming magazine. As new technologies made it steadily easier and less risky to publish TRPGs, many new games and supplements challenged popular perceptions about what TRPGs were how they should be played, and what subject matter they could explore. Any game-mechanical procedure that produces outcomes by assigning a player the responsibility of deciding what is most appropriate given the needs of the narrative and the conventions of the literary or other genre the game seeks to emulate. Two games illustrate the 1980s design trend towards "universal" systems ostensibly capable of emulating multiple genres.