Role-playing refers to the changing of one's behaviour to assume a role, either unconsciously to fill a social role, or consciously to act out an adopted role. While the Oxford English Dictionary defines role-playing as "the changing of one's behaviour to fulfill a social role", the term is used more loosely in five senses:
- To refer to the playing of roles generally such as in a theatre, or educational setting;
- To refer to taking a role of an existing character or person and acting it out with a partner taking someone else's role, often involving different genres of practice;
- To refer to a wide range of games including role-playing video game, play-by-mail games and more;
- To refer specifically to role-playing games.
- To perform an imaginary action within a fictitious setting, often starting the action with symbols such as (,-,_,*,~ etc. and ending with ),-,_,*,~ etc. Specific examples include -Hugs you tightly- and *Picks up the shovel*.
- Main article: Role-playing game
A role-playing game is a game in which the participants assume the roles of characters and collaboratively create stories. Participants determine the actions of their characters based on their wikipedia:characterisation, and the actions succeed or fail according to a formal system of rules and guidelines. Within the rules, they may improvise freely; their choices shape the direction and outcome of the games.
Role-playing can also be done online in the form of group story creation, involving anywhere from two to several hundred people, utilizing public forums, private message-boards, mailing lists, chat-rooms, and instant-messaging chat clients (e.g. MSN, Yahoo!, ICQ) to build worlds and characters that may last a few hours, or several years. Message boards such as ProBoards and InvisionFree are popularly used for role-playing. Often on forum-based roleplays, rules and standards are set up, such as a minimum word count, character applications and "plotting" boards to increase complexity and depth of story. For some, romance and sex (though more often the former) are key elements to publicly-viewable role-plays, with the majority of such play taking place in chat-rooms or so-called "1×1" (one-on-ones) and very small groups, with other elements taking a back-seat in terms of importance. Typically, for medium and large groups of role-players, and large role-plays, the reverse is true, with romantic sub-plots taking a back-seat to story and setting development and action scenes, yet when it does occur, it is often (and in some cases expected to be) of a far less blatant nature.
There are different genres of which one can choose while role-playing, including, but not limited to, fantasy, modern, medieval, steam punk, historical, etc. Books, movies or games can be, and often are, used as a basis for role-plays (which in such cases may be deemed "collaborative fan-fiction"), with players either assuming the roles of established canon characters or using those the players themselves create ("Original Characters") to replace—or exist along side—characters from the book, movie or game, playing through well-trodden plots as alternative characters, or expanding upon the setting and story outside of its established canon. Role playing takes years to master, but it does not take too long to learn the basics.
Another type of role-playing game is done on Bebo. People create accounts for characters in various genres such as Harry Potter, and then go onto other role-player accounts and role-play with each other until relationships and friendships are created through the stories.
- Definition of Role Playing from the Oxford English Dictionary
- Andrew Rilstone, "Role-Playing Games: An Overview" 1994, Inter*Action #1.
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