The big question to someone not into Roleplay Games, is just what is a roleplay game and secondly really what is the point?
Two fair questions that have pretty straight forward answers. Roleplay is a game where nothing but the limits of your own imagination is beyond you, it’s a game where you take on the role of a character you create and guide them through their story. In the most part the goal is to work with other players as a team and triumph over the obstacles that the person running the game has placed before you. A rather crude example used by many books is to make you think of how you played as kids, cowboys and Indians, Soldiers in a war, or even Doctors and nurses, its a little more than that but yes the concept is you play as someone else, someone you have created for the game. You strive to accomplish the goals of the character you portray and in most games the character will improve in skills and abilities as they journey along the path of their story.
What is the point, well I admit I am biased, but when a game is good, there are few things better, you feel the rush your character does when they are successful, because although it is at heart a person you've made up on a piece of paper, you are making the decisions that lead them to that success or failure. Fights, adventure, even death can be found here, and as a person who has run the game for many years, you know folks love the game with the memories shared when they gather about their characters exploits years later. However the ultimate point of all Roleplaying games is to come together with friends and fellow gamers to have a good time. The only thing that really matters is that everyone is happy to have played a part in the game when it ends each session.
So how many people do we need?
One person will be required to run the game and depending on the game system this person will gain a title mainly so the book can reference what for is for this person’s eyes only or rules only they are really required to know. In Dungeons in Dragons this person is the DM or Dungeon master, in White Wolf the person running the game is the ST or Storyteller (note due to the lexicon marking that as scything talons here on Heresy everywhere else I will mark that as StT as not to confuse folks.)
This person to be fair has the most important part of the game, it is their job to plan and run the game, and they make up the villain, the encounters and roll for the baddies who face off against the players. Although not everyone can or enjoys being the DM, those who do are often found to be in demand, as although the players are needed for the game and for it to be fun; a good DM can make all the difference on whether you come next week or not. (Please note - I'm going to do a special in depth guide for budding DM's shortly.)
The others will all take the part of players who run the characters the story or game revolves around. Now what makes a good group is a question I've seen asked, and to be honest I've done a good mix of groups in my time. Lots of solo player games where it is just two of us, up to the lofty heights of running a game with twelve players at once, which doesn't sound as impressive as that actually was on paper, trust me it was madness.
Now if I'm honest either end of the scale there is a strain, with two of you there is more pressure on the DM to keep the ball rolling, there’s no fallback time you normally get in a group when the players interact by chatting to one another, in the larger group it is nigh on chaos to reign in that many players and their actions, plus to provide them with enough enemies to remain a challenge. So thinking on it I'd say in my time the best sized group is between three players and seven. Anywhere within that range and a DM can keep track of the game, get some breathing room on occasion and make sure the game is good for everyone.
As to being a player, well the main concerns to it create a character; quite often for the first few times you do this it will be more about the stats and the choices of the character. As you learn how to role-play, you'll soon be making up detailed backgrounds, histories and building characters from those backgrounds and not what makes you the best killing machine in the game. Well I should pause here, not all players are like that, and to be fair I don't have an issue with min-maxers as long as they play the characters well, but ideally for me at least. I much prefer players who want to play the characters to discover more about the character and themselves than to be figuring out the best way to score the perfect hit.
How does the game play?
Well there are a few methods used by players, the main two however is the board method and the what I call the free method, the board method is pretty much the same as the latter, until combat is initiated at which point models are placed onto a board to allow easy tracking of movement, ranges and to help resolve the combat. With free, the DM just notes where folks are in combat, usually roughly and fudges distance and such as the combat happens. Both are fair options, I personally prefer the later as I always felt the figures distract folks from role-playing their characters, it looses part of the immersion for me, but it is my personal choice and I advise DM's to go with what they feel comfortable with.
So no, I'm not going to tell you to go and learn to play using the free method, but if anyone asked which I think is best, I will always say the later. Also if I can hold my hand up and be honest I actually missed the whole figures on the board part of AD&D (Advanced Dungeons and Dragons) when I started so have really only ever done it via the free method. So for me it feels totally natural.
I should note when D&D started the idea was you played completely on a board, almost like Heroquest or Warhammer Quest, and if I'm honest I'm glad I missed it as I don't think I would have ever got into the hobby had it been like that.
Anyway enough trivia, moving on all games have a system to run it. Mostly it will be dice based and can be D6, D10, D20 even percentile on a D100 for tracking combat and making rolls for stats etc. When you create a character it will have a stat line to represent its physical and mental attributes, and most games have skills and talents for what the character knows. An example for stats from Dungeons and Dragons is its six stat system. Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wits and Charisma. These form the basics of how your character will fight, interact with Npc’s (non player characters, controlled by the DM) and usually anything else regarding what your character does in the game.
You usually roll to see how many points you get to use, or have an allocation of points to distribute so most characters are of a similar power level at the beginning. Most games allow for some kind of race type, be it actually different species or factions, and then tend to have a class system to attach yourself to such as Mage, Knight Etc depending on the genre of course.
Once the Players have their characters and the DM is happy with the rules and has set up a first game in a campaign, you can start. The DM will set the tone. To give a plain demonstration I've knocked this up using neutral stats and ideas with out using any one games material just so Heresy is safe from any unwanted attention, due to the sites nature I've set it in a universe we all understand, but these rules mentioned do not reference Dark Heresy in anyway. I've chosen to do this by the way as a number of Roleplaying games have done the same, and I agree with the reasoning that is the simplest way to explain a game to someone who has never done one before.
First Game Example
Sitting around the table with dice and snacks scattered in all directions, the players have gathered to play the first game. Rebecca is the DM; she takes her place at the head of the table sitting behind the DM’s screen, a A4 fold out screen with a selection of DM rules on her side. Dave sits in the seat to her left; he is running Fluke, a runaway Hive ganger who owes debts to the wrong kind of people in his home hive. Next is to Dave is Chad; who is sketching a long coated dark haired smooth looking Rogue Trader by the name of Marius down the side of his character sheet. Across the table Amy makes some last minute notes to her character sheet, adding a little more detail to Kaila, the Pilot and right hand girl of Marius. Next to Amy, Mike is eager to start the game. He's running Belladonna Le'Castre a disgraced noble turned Mercenary.
Rebecca makes sure everyone is ready and answers any last minute questions that are asked, before she begins the game.
It is nearly four months since the thirteenth black crusade unleashed itself upon the Cadian Gate, even here in the Phyrexian system news travels of a vast war that tears at the heart of several systems. Although far enough away that there is no direct threat the people of Phyrexia have been uneasy for several weeks. Inside Hive Tertalis, the largest upon the world the mood of the population has been darker than usual. The four of you find yourselves in Drifter’s bar, a drinking hole just inside the territory considered the Underhive. The place is pretty busy for the afternoon cycle, though it’s not packed to capacity. You can see several gangers mingling with Underhivers, traders and other shady characters, drinking and talking quietly near the bar, in shadowy booths and at a scattering of freestanding tables. Among those you see are the other players characters. Why don’t you each take a moment to describe yourselves?
You see a muscular young man with scraggly brown hair sitting along in one of the booths. He is drinking one of the many alcoholic beverages with one eye on the crowd at the bar. He seems to show a special interest to those sporting ganger colours or markings. He has a shotgun on the table before him, and a pistol of some kind holstered at his waist. In his free hand he is playing with a short bladed knife, it doesn’t look like he is shy in advertising that he is armed to the teeth.
My character is standing near the bar, one of the few people in the bar daring to crack a smile. He’s tall around six foot and seven inches, wearing a long unbuttoned black coat that reaches down to his ankles. At his waist hangs an elegant scabbard holding a sword, and an ornate looking bolt pistol. He seems to be looking for someone, but in the meantime he enjoys a drink with the locals.
Next to Marius sits a thin woman in a strange looking dark blue bodysuit that hugs her frame, she has dirty blonde hair pulled into a ponytail with a streak of pink along the centre. She wears goggles over her forehead, and piercing blue eyes stare intently at the stretched out mirror behind the bar. You can’t see any weapons upon her, but she has several very ornate looking rings upon her fingers that seem almost out of place.
You also spot a woman sitting at a table alone, she has green and lime braided hair half way down her back. Wearing a black bodice that is almost too revealing for her voluptuous figure, her legs crossed with thigh length boots she sips a pale blue liquid from a tall glass. On either hip is a beautifully carved las pistol, both identical to other.
Okay. You’ve noticed one another, but you don’t know one another yet. Before anything else happens I’d like you all to take an awareness check.
The players each roll a D10 and add their awareness modifier to the roll, if they haven’t taken the awareness trait they get to use a basic bonus from their Perception stat. After all the players have rolled and made the check they let the DM know the results.
Fluke got a 14, living up to his name already.
12 for Marius!
Using the mirror doesn’t seem to be working, 5 for Kaila.
Although she’s peacefully drinking, Belle is very aware of her surroundings with a stunning 16.
Rebecca checks her notes to see the difficulty she had decided upon the roll. She nods and makes a couple of notes just to keep the players guessing.
Kaila is having a hard time making out anything in the cracked mirror, however the rest of you see a man sitting in the furthest alcove from the door. He looks like someone high up in the Hive’s administration and he’s in deep conversation with a hooded female figure.
Just then you see the door open and a group of spiky haired gangers enter all cradling their weapons, two have autoguns, two have las rifles. The bartender seeing the group enter yells out “Hey, this is neutral turf!” He just ducks behind the bar as one of the gangers with a autogun levels the weapon toward him and let’s loose a round. “There’s Talok!” shouts one of the gangers looking at the man in the far alcove as he raises the lasgun and takes aim, his fellow gangers aim in all directions it looks as if they plan on leaving no witnesses.
Take an initiative check!
The players each roll a D10 and add their initiative modifier to get a result. Rebecca also makes an initiative check for the group of gangers and Governor Talok (the man in the alcove) and his female companion. She has decided for the first round the other patrons in the bar will be diving for cover or too stunned to react.
Fluke got 9
13 for Marius
I'm making a note never to use mirrors in this way again as Kaila has a 6
Belle isn’t going to get caught unawares by he likes of these, 15
Rebecca notes down the initiative order, from highest to lowest. She jots down:
Gangers 11 (her roll)
Governor Talok 8 (her roll)
The ganger is aiming at Talok. Belle you know Talok is not just part of the Hive administration, he is the full Governor of the planet. You have no idea why he is down here so what are you going to do?
This can’t be good and although she has no love for the Governor, she knows she will be well rewarded for helping. She will use one action point to activate her fast draw ability, and I'll use my second action to fire both pistols at the ganger aiming at the Governor.
You stand; drawing both las pistols and open fire, roll to hit, oh and he hasn’t noticed you so no penalty to the roll.
Mike rolls to hit with a D20, his first roll is a 17, the second roll modified by a -2 for being Belle’s off hand rolls a 7.
Snapping off both shots she rolls a 17 and a 7 to hit.
Rebecca checks to see the gangers dodge score, and notes that only the first shot hit.
okay, roll damage for one shot.
Mike picks up 3D6 and rolls the damage dice scoring a 12. Rebecca notes this from across the table and checks the health total of the ganger. He had 11 health points, so the shot reduces him below zero in one shot, a killing blow.
The Las round strikes the ganger in the side of the head and his skull is vaporized as his body is thrown to the floor, the las rifle scattering from his lifeless fingers. Marius is next; you can see that one of the gangers have targeted most of those at the bar with his autogun, he is also holding a live frag grenade. What are you doing?
Well I’m not standing around to get shot, although Marius notices that Kaila is a little distracted by her own reflection. So he’s going to spend one action point to grab Kaila, and his second to leap over the bar dragging her with him
Wah, Kaila lets out a surprised yelp as she’s pulled over the bar.
Glasses and bottles are swept out of the way as the two of you crash over the bar,
Kaila ends up lying on top of Marius face to face.
Marius flashes her a smile
Looking up you both see the cowering Bartender staring at you in surprise. Okay moving on the remaining gangers open fire, patrons cry out as las and auto rounds strike into them. The ganger with the grenade throws it at the bar.
[i]Rebecca has allowed the gangers to auto hit the npc’s but rolls a dice to hit for the grenade, scoring a 19 on a D20 a critical hit. She also notes down that three of the patrons are incapacitated by their wounds.
The grenade flicks off the bar top crashes into a line of bottles and then drops down onto the floor alongside Marius’ head. To which Chad and Amy both groan.
Fluke your up, what is your action?
Flukes going to spend an action to grab his shotgun and his second action to blast the nearest ganger, there’s no way there getting me without a fight.
You grab the shotgun and take a shot at the last ganger armed with a lasgun, roll to hit.
Dave rolls a D20 to hit, he rolls a 4, he guesses with such a poor roll he would have missed.
Damn things jammed.
With a loud click the gun miss-fires and Fluke curses his luck, the ganger armed with the lasgun now alerted to his assailant looks towards Fluke menacingly. The Governor not sure what is going on drops down behind the table, his female companion pulls a bolt pistol from under her robes.
Rebecca rolls a D20 for the disguised Inquisitor, rolling a 17 with her master crafted Bolt pistol. Checking the Gangers dodge, she sees that the Inquisitor hits and rolls 2D10 x2 for damage. Checking the total she scores 28 damage.
The hooded female fires one round, and the ganger with an autogun who didn’t throw the grenade explodes from the waist up, his smoking legs dropping to the floor. Talking of grenades, it’s your turn Kaila what are you doing?
Hoping not to die. Seeing the grenade Kaila’s eyes bug in horror and she desperately grabs for it in an attempt to throw it back in the direction it came from cringing at the thought of it going off in her fingers.
Take a Dex check and if its successful, roll to hit.
[i]Amy picks up the dice almost closing her eyes and rolls a D100, getting 45, which is well under her Dex score, breathing a sigh of relief she picks up the D20 and rolls to hit scoring a 20 with a collective cheer from her and Chad. Rebecca smiling behind he screen, notes down a couple of things and then looks up.
The grenade flies out over the bar and bounces across the floor coming to a stop next to the boot of the ganger who threw it. He lets out a groan at his own bad luck as it explodes.
[i]The next round would continue after this, continuing in this order until one side is defeated or flees. Then the Characters would have a chance to meet each other and find out why the Governor of the planet is down in the Underhive. And so begins the game.
I hope folks reading this found it helpful, and please feel free to ask any questions or make any suggestions if you are vets if you think I have missed anything. I kinda see these helps threads I am putting together here in Roleplay Games as living aids, and they can be adjusted if need be.
Thanks for reading.