A traditional or mainstream role-playing game is a game that resembles or shares characteristics with early published RPGs, particularly Dungeons & Dragons. There is no agreed definition of what makes a role-playing game traditional, and the term is therefore used primarily for comparison rather than classification.
The term is sometimes used broadly to describe any tabletop role-playing game (in contrast to computer role-playing games or live-action role-playing games, for instance), or more narrowly to describe only fantasy old school role-playing games. However, the boundaries of what makes a traditional game are usually considered to be in the middle of these extremes.
Features of traditional role-playing games
- There is a gaming group that plays the game together at a table (either in person at a physical table, or remotely at a virtual one).
- There is one GM (i.e. GMless and GM-full games are not traditional).
- Players (other than the GM) control one character each (i.e. troupe games are generally not traditional).
- The player characters form a party (they know each other and interact in the game world) and usually work together against external threats.
- Player characters have statistics and other traits that let them interact with the game mechanics. These may be written on a character sheet. Player characters may improve their statistics or traits over the course of the game (advancement).
- Resolution of uncertainty includes an element of randomness (random resolution) by means of game aids such as dice or playing cards (i.e. diceless games are not traditional).
- The GM retains authorial privilege, although in practice narration may be delegated or shared among the players.