Role Playing Games – How Games Are Played

How Games Are Played

Games are played by groups of two or more people; 3 to 8 are typical. One player is commonly called the Game Master (GM), Dungeon Master (DM) or Referee. The GM explains the imaginary environment in which the game is played; usually by verbal description.

The game is mainly played by verbal description, but sometimes this is supplemented by sketches or pictures. The GM also describes the characters, creatures and events that the players interact with.

Players can just use their imagination, although many like to be guided by commercially published rule sets. The latter provide guidelines for characters, including skills that they can pick up as they are trained or gain experience in their adventures.

Different Ways to Play

Some players prefer to play act the role of their characters in first person, including accents:- ‘I crash through the glass window . . . “AAAARGH!” ‘.

Other players prefer just to explain what their character is doing :- ‘My character will crash through the glass window, yelling as she does so’.

Some players use painted miniatures to represent their characters and the creatures they encounter. This can sometimes simplify the issue of who can do what; particularly if involved in a battle.


The players each create an imaginary character, defining their key characteristics such as Race, Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity and Constitution. These latter values are often randomly determined within limits that are determined by the imaginary world and the character’s race. The trade or profession a character follows may be influenced by their characteristics. For example, a character with a high strength and low intelligence would be best suited to be a Fighter; whereas a character with high intelligence and low strength should do better as a Wizard.

The players equip their character with clothing, weapons, devices and supplies. Sometimes this is set by the GM, but often the characters are given an imaginary amount of money (gold pieces, imperial credits etc.) and must decide which armour, weapons and supplies their characters can afford.

The GM decides what traps, obstacles and encounters the imaginary characters have. The GM usually explains a situation and the players explain what actions their characters will perform and how they will interact with other creatures.


Adventures can include a variety of :-

  • rescuing a person or creature
  • questing for money, treasure, power or knowledge
  • slaying a person or creature (e.g. dragon or vampire)
  • escorting a person or creature safely somewhere
  • saving a kingdom
  • The adventure may be made up by the DM or based on the plot of a book, play, TV show or movie. Each player makes ethical, philosophical, physical, and moral decisions on behalf of their imaginary character as the game develops.

    Game worlds continue to develop. Some groups continue for years in the same world, with their characters gaining experience and embarking on countless imaginary adventures.

    Experienced characters may be retired and players may start with new characters.

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