Tabletop roleplaying games

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Tabletop roleplaying games (RPGs), also known as pen-and-paper RPGs, are social games in which players assume the roles of a character (known as player-characters or PCs) in a dramatic situation, describing their actions and environments through speech. Traditionally, games are run by a gamesmaster (GM) with a variable number of players (between three and six is typical), using an agreed set of rules to determine character abilities and whether they succeed or fail in their endeavours.

As a result, tabletop RPGs are partly interactive storytelling, partly improvisational theatre and partly game.

Games last a variable amount of time, with short games being resolved in an hour or two and typical game sessions lasting 4-5 hours. Some games are designed to be finished in a single session, others can take many sessions to resolve; these long-running campaigns often feature multiple adventures, several story arcs and a lot of character development.

Players typically play one character, known as a player character (PC), describing their actions within the rules of the game and describing or acting out the character's interaction with other characters or the environment. PCs are usually considered the protagonists of the game.

Gamesmasters have a number of roles. They adjudicate rules and the outcome of actions, and take on the roles of everyone (or everything) the players' characters encounter (characters played by the gamesmaster are often known as non-player characters, or NPCs). They may create the setting in which the game takes place (world-building) or use a commercially published setting. They may create the situation the PCs face (adventure design), or use a commercially published one. They describe the PCs' surroundings and discoveries in as much detail as they think necessary. Some even design their own rule systems, though using a commercially published rule system is far more common (and there are many available).

Dungeons & Dragons, the first tabletop roleplaying game, was first published in 1974. Many other games have been released since then.


Games usually require a few accessories. Most games use dice, often special polyhedral dice, to introduce a random element. While gamesmasters sometimes keep spare dice to lend to players, most players prefer to have their own. Gamers are sometimes superstitious about their dice, which control their characters' fate, and it is considered impolite, if not rude, to touch another player's dice without asking. If dice are unavailable, a variety of dice-rolling apps are available for most types of smartphone.

Some games, particularly those which stress the tactical details of combat, work better with miniature figures or other playing pieces and a battlemap.

Though tabletop games work perfectly well without computers (and purists may refuse to use them), a variety of dedicated computer programs are available to help run games. These range from dice apps, through character-generation software to campaign managers, map-making software and virtual tabletops, which allow tabletop games to be played over the internet.

Commercially published games

List of tabletop roleplaying games