Role-Playing Game

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This article refers chiefly to video games. See Tabletop RPG for old-fashioned pen and paper games.

A type of Games in which the player controls a character or party of characters in a statistically abstracted way. Most are based around one or more quests, items, stats, Character Customization, and experience points, as characters grow in power over time.

Roleplaying games (commonly known as "RPG") have their origin not as video games but pen-and-paper systems with dice-based combat and character generation, descended from a combination of tabletop wargaming and collaborative theater. Dungeons and Dragons was the first such system to be sold, followed by other early systems such as Traveller and Tunnels & Trolls. These type of roleplaying games are all now known as Tabletop RPGs.

The early video game RPGs focused mostly on simulating the combat aspects of Tabletop games, with other aspects following after. Video game RPGs can be divided in a number of ways, which are elaborated below.

  • Western RPGs (WRPGs) often focus on greater character customization and free-roaming exploration. The main character in this genre tend to have little predefined personality, allowing the player to decide the personality and characterization of the main character via interactive dialogue. Western RPGs tend to bear a great resemblance to Tabletop RPGs. Examples of this genre include the Baldur's Gate series, Mass Effect, and The Elder Scrolls series.
    • Early Western RPGs bore much similarity to Turn-Based Strategy and Tactical RPGs as their roots came from tabletop gaming, but the genre has since largely distanced itself from those days. Many modern Western RPGs seem to go against their roots by emphasizing real-time combat with the player having full control of only one PC at a time. If the RPG gives you other characters they are often fully or partially controlled by an AI, potentially allowing you to select special abilities for allies to use. The decreased lack of control of party members in this style of modern Western RPGs tends to remove some of the tactical qualities of the original western RPG's and can lead to the AI controlled allies proving far less useful then the player controlled main character due to Artificial Stupidity. However as of late Western RPGs are quickly blurring together with Wide Open Sandbox games, and may cease to be a truly separate genre.
  • Eastern RPGs (ERPGs) often focus on cinematic narratives and memorable characters, usually (but not always) with more linear gameplay and less direct customization than Western RPGs; Eastern RPGs typically feel like visual novels, movies or Anime. Until recently, most such games came from Japan, and are thus nicknamed JRPGs. A good point of distinction is that WRPGs typically have some Character Customization, whereas an ERPG will more likely have a preformed Player Character, who might have some customization applied to their abilities but always looks the same. Eastern RPGs tend to use a turn based or pseudo turn based system where the player individually inputs actions for every character in the team each turn. Good examples of this genre are the Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Pokémon franchises.
  • Action RPGs (ARPGs) use the combat interface of an Action Game (usually Fighting Game or Third-Person Shooter combat), incorporating the experience and item systems of a traditional RPG. Action RPGs often overlap or are related to games with RPG Elements, as Action RPGs are essentially an in-between, or RPGs with Shooter Elements. As such, distinguishing between Action RPGs and games that simply have RPG Elements is hard, but typically Action RPGs have all skills be viable options for winning the game, whereas games with RPG Elements focus more extensively on action. The best example of this genre is the original Deus Ex.
  • Tactical RPGs are related to Eastern RPGs but with a high focus on moving around a gridlike system, often with abilities that take advantage of this to attack multiple people at once, or to fight from a distance [1]
    • However, what seperates the Tactical RPG subgenre from other RPGs is that they tend to greatly resemble Strategy Games, but with RPG Elements. On TV Tropes, this type of game is thus lumped in with Turn-Based Strategy, as the two genres are very close. More recent examples of Eastern Tactical RPGs, however, have also incorporated Real Time Strategy elements.[2]
    • A further subdivision is a Strategy RPG (SRPGs) which more closely resemble Real Time Strategy or TabletopRPGs. The distinction separates games that are on a grid system with standard Eastern RPG characters (with abilities, more attack options, and so on) and games that are on a grid system but characters are more properly units (they typically have only base attacks, may not have equipment, and so on). A good comparison would be Final Fantasy Tactics to the Fire Emblem series. The former is a "Tactical RPG" and the latter is a "Strategy RPG".[3]
    • The Growlanser series is an example of a real-time "Tactical RPG" that does not use a grid-based system. A character's movement range is represented by a circular area in which the character can move anywhere within its confines, avoiding obstacles along the way. The movement speed is based on the amount of MOV points each character has in the game.
  • Roguelikes take their name from the early 1980s ASCII graphics game Rogue. They are defined by the combination of randomly generated worlds and permanent death, meaning that every time time your character dies you have to start completely over in a different set of levels. The focus also tends to be much more on very complex Nintendo Hard gameplay than story.
    • The best known example is Nethack, an open source game widely held in high regard. Interestingly, these can be both Eastern or Western in origin, though the Trope Namer and Trope Codifier are both Western, and the genre is laced with Western influences.
  • Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) can be any of the above genres, though they gravitate around a fusion of Action and Western RPGs (as the Trope Maker Ultima Online arose out of a Western RPG series). They also have their own distinct elements, mainly focusing around large boss battles known as "raids" and Player Versus Player interactions, as well as more tedious grinding such as fetching Twenty Bear Asses.

Whether any actual "Role Playing" is involved in many RPGs is often debatable. See also How to Play a Console RPG and PC vs. Console.

For the trope about assuming roles in order to practice something, see Comic Role Play.

This genre is home to many specific tropes.

Types of Role Playing Games[edit | hide | hide all]

For Dungeons and Dragons etc. see:

Official Subgenres:

Related Genres:

Tropes that are commonly found in Role Playing Games[edit | hide]

See Category:CRPG Tropes


  1. In Western RPGs this type of tactical combat is typical, due to their descent from Wargaming.
  2. Tactical RPGs however can usually be distinguished easily from Strategy games, as Real Time Strategy and Turn-Based Strategy games tend to be much more open ended, and about conquering territory, whereas Tactical RPGs usually have an overarching plot typical to an Eastern RPG.
  3. On this wiki they're grouped together under Strategy RPG out of convenience. Also of note is that though listed as a subdivision, Strategy RPGs were a viable genre before TRPGs