Over the last couple of years it’s become pretty clear to me that people roleplay for a variety of reasons. Maybe everyone else knew this already, if so I guess I’m just a bit slow on the uptake. Anyway, I’ve been slowly mulling it over and I started to wonder what aspects of roleplay provide fulfillment for players. I mean they must be getting something out of it.
On a very basic level there seem to me to be three basic components of roleplay; for want of better descriptions I shall call them the players, the game, and the story.
So players play the game and a story unfolds.
In this context:
The Game is purely the mechanics. If players played the game without story it would be like other non-roleplaying games e.g. a game of Monopoly or Risk. It’s an intellectual challenge about mastering the rules, customizing and optimizing character abilities, employing successful tactics and winning (either by defeating powerful adversaries or demonstrating greater proficiency than fellow players).
The Players are the group and the social interactions that go on around the game. In this context the game itself is not actually a requirement but it acts as a reason to get together. Like other social activities it’s a forum and stimulus for chatting, making friends and collaborating.
The Story is the imaginary world, the characters and the narrative that unfolds through play. What emerges is often something unexpected, greater than the sum of its parts. It’s immersion, escapism, exploration, creation and catharsis.
So these three constituent components must somehow combine to fulfill a roleplayer’s needs.