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You climb out of the drop pod. You didn't think you'd survive the Inquisition raid on the ship, or the terrible drop through the atmosphere to the planet's surface. It's a miracle you got to the pod at all, but somehow you slipped through the Inquisition's clutches. Presumably, everyone else who was on the ship with you is dead.

Maybe you're a heretic who agrees with the principle of the Church, but not the practice. Maybe you're a dissident, who doesn't agree with the Church at all. Maybe you just wanted to make a new life for yourself. Maybe you're a criminal of another sort, or maybe just a member of the ship's crew who panicked and ran when the shooting started. It doesn't matter. That's all behind you now. What's in front of you is hill after rolling hill of knee-high dull blue grass blowing in the soft wind. Wispy white clouds drift across a pink-purple sky. It's chilly, there's a smell of woodsmoke in the air, and far in the distance you see a great castle of dark red stone, like something out of the fantasy vids.

No one told you that your new home already had... someone... living on it.

All you have on you is the clothes on your back, some personal effects, a small wilderness survival kit, a Surveyor (a book-sized computer that can be used to assay your surroundings), a Personal Defense Device (a .45 pistol with one in the chamber and fourteen in the box), and two spare clips.

What do you do?

What is a Role Playing Game?

Everyone at one point in their life or another has played Let's Pretend. When I was a kid, we used to run around in my backyard and play Star Wars. My brother was Luke, David was Han Solo, David's sister was Princess Leia, and I was Indiana Jones. Yeah, I know Indiana Jones wasn't in Star Wars, but I wanted to be Indiana Jones, so I was. That was the great part about playing Let's Pretend: there were no rules.

That was also the crappy part of playing Let's Pretend: there were no rules. Games eventually disintegrated into arguments over who hit who, whether or not Luke jumped the chasm or Han got us all through the asteroid field, and exactly when Indiana Jones was in Star Wars (and his strange resemblance to Han Solo).

Then my brother discovered Dungeons & Dragons, and everything changed for my friends and I. We became brave knights, powerful wizards, pious crusaders and sneaky thieves. Suddenly, there were rules for our adventures. The element of chance was introduced. The guards at the temple could hit and hurt us. We didn't know where all the good treasure was. We didn't always make it across the chasm. And we didn't always win, but we always had a good time.

"Role-Playing is like when you used to play "House" or "Doctor", but without all the fun parts."

--Mike Pondsmith, Teenagers From Outer Space

A roleplaying game lets you take on the role of a character in a fictional setting, like an actor in a movie or a play does. All the other players but one take on the roles of other characters. One of the other players, known variously as the Dungeon Master, Game Moderator, referee, Storyteller, or something similar, doesn't play any one character, but instead controls the world that the other players' characters find themselves in. The players tell the referee what their characters do. The referee tells the players what happens. It's that simple. Outside of that, there are no limits. There are no winners or losers in a roleplaying game, only players, and the only object of the game is to have fun.
written by Mark Argent

Other Resources:

For another take on the subject, check out Guy McLimore's essay, What is a Role Playing Game?

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