Questions – How do you play RPGs?

In the last post I talked about how to play tabletop games in general and I made reference at the end of the post that RPGs are a little bit different.

RPGs have the same “Action & Outcome” element in the main particularly in relation to conflict resolution but they also introduce players to a more narrative style of game play.

This isn’t limited to only RPGs as there are other games that have a narrative element but in the main this is a RPG component.

So, how do you play RPGs?  The normal way I walk a new player around this is to take an everyday situation and then introduce an usual component but this is likely better explained by example.

Me: Choose an everyday situation and let’s roleplay how that might change.
Player: Ok, my commute to work involves driving to the train station and then getting a train to Edinburgh.
Me: Right, so you’re on the train and it’s quieter than normal for a Monday morning.  The train stops just before crossing the bridge, a rare occurrence but rare enough for you to take notice.
Player: I check my watch and take a look out the window to see if there’s anything unusual.
Me: Your watch has stopped at 7:13am which was 5 minutes after you boarded the train.  Outside of the train the weather is heavy rain and strong winds.
Player: Maybe that’s why we’ve stopped before the bridge?  The wind I mean?  Not sure why my watch has stopped either.  I get out my mobile phone and check the time on that.
Me: Your phone has lost power which is odd as it was more than 80% charged when you got out the car. It doesn’t respond to any attempts to turn it on.  Other passengers are starting to move around.
Player: Ok.  Odd.  I get up and ask if anyone has the time or a phone I borrow.
Me: There’s a man in a light grey suit at the back of the carriage.  You’ve never spotted him before, in fact you don’t remember him getting on the train.  The passenger in the seat across from you says that her phone is also not working.
Player: I call out to the man in the grey suit.  “Hey, do you have the time?”
Me: He doesn’t say anything but starts walking towards you.  You think he’s got something like a knife in his left hand.
Player: A knife?! Crap. Ok, erm I took an umbrella with me this morning as I thought it might rain.  I take it out from my bag and hold it.
Me: One of the other passengers notices he has a knife too and screams.  Another man tries to grab the grey suited man but is stabbed in the process.  He falls to the ground.
Player: Ok… I grab one of the hard suitcases that’s on the luggage rack next to me and throw it at him.
Me: Ok.  Here are 5 coins, flip all of them.  Tell me how many come up tails.
Player: <flips coins> 4 tails, 1 heads.  What happens?
Me: You hit him with the case and knock the knife from his hand.

etc etc…

The situation was entirely narrative until there was an action that required a random element to the outcome. What’s key though is that out of every option available the Player had chosen to confront the man in the grey suit.  They could have easily tried to head for another train carriage or indeed ignored the grey suited man. The coin flip was to measure the random element with tails classed as a success in this case.

This is roleplaying at it’s core.  Situational narrative with conflict resolution.  With each decision and result leading to another situation.  Simple really.