Back in 1975 personality Glenn Blacow noted in his contribution to the APA The Wild Hunt what he saw us doing in D&D was playing roles. He didn’t say that we were playing role playing games, but playing roles in a game. Later in a few of her contributions to Alarums and Excusions APA publisher Lee Gold told her audience that what she saw us doing in other games was playing roles. But that was really not the same as playing a role playing game.
More recently I was reminded of epistolary games, games in which your move consists of telling the story of what you did in your move. Now that you can think of as a role playing game, and as a story telling game, but in all honesty are games such as D&D and others really role playing games?
Not really. You get right down to it you really can’t even call them games, for with but few exceptions they’re just too much to qualify as games.
What is a game?
A simple organized activity in which two or more parties engage in a contest to achieve a goal while at the same time striving to keep another party from achieving theirs. With all that goes on in the typical role playing game –as they are called– there’s just too much going on. So “game” is just the wrong term to use. “Guide” is a far better word, because that’s really what the guide in a role playing guide is doing, guiding his players through the setting or world of the RPG –role playing guide.
So that’s why as a part of reinventing RPGs I have decided to rename them role playing guides, the better to help you understand what it is you are actually doing. There’s more to come, but we can start with that.