A recent meta question asked if role-playing in video games is on topic here. The question was focused on one held question on main, and the answers seamed focused on the question. But it got me thinking about the scope of the site, and I didn't find an answer on a cursory search of meta.

What is a Role-Playing Game?

Is there a line we can draw between a straight up tabletop game with very little role-play elements and a 'traditional' RPG? Is there a line between friends playing pretend or telling stories around a table and a traditional RPG?

If we have those lines of demarcation of 'what is RPG enough to be on topic', what are they?

Do we need those lines if they do not already exist?

I do not ask this because I have a strong opinion one way or the other, but purely to know the scope of the site. I do not want to change the scope of the site (in this particular case), just to document where those limits are, if there are any.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This could probably be edited to be more concise... \$\endgroup\$
    – Tritium21
    Mar 10, 2016 at 10:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Possibly a duplicate of What kind of questions can I ask here? Is this answered there? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10, 2016 at 15:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie No, this is more a "ok, so what does that actually mean, now that we have listed the games we cover." \$\endgroup\$
    – Tritium21
    Mar 10, 2016 at 20:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there a practical site-running problem this is tackling that isn't already tackled there? Tackling the theoretical question of “what is an RPG” would otherwise seem to be a main-site question. What does having a definition add when we already have it sorted out what's on-topic? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10, 2016 at 21:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie It's not a main site question, because it is looking for where to cast close-as-off-topic votes on main. Is 'just because I call what we are doing RP' enough to be on topic. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tritium21
    Mar 10, 2016 at 21:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie and I fully admit an answer of "No, we cant define the terms with any rigidity" is a good answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tritium21
    Mar 10, 2016 at 21:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm pretty sure this is already answered there then, as the question there is about what is on and off topic and by extension how to decide whether to cast an off-topic-close-vote on a question. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10, 2016 at 21:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie No. It absolutely does not. That says "Role playing games are on topic." ... This is asking "where is what THEY call a role playing game, not a role playing game" \$\endgroup\$
    – Tritium21
    Mar 10, 2016 at 21:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ You've lost me. Is your question maybe different than what you've written above? Twice you've mentioned people calling something roleplaying or a roleplaying game, which makes me think that might be the crucial difference in our understanding of what you're asking, but it appears nowhere in the question. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10, 2016 at 21:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie It apparently is in the question, as BESW answered the question I asked. The question asked "where does a table-top game turn into an RPG" and "Where telling stories in a group turns into an RPG", at which point these activities become on-topic. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tritium21
    Mar 10, 2016 at 21:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Okay. “Where does a TT game / group storytelling turn into an RPG” is a main-site question. “What is an RPG (in the context of what is on and off topic here)” is a duplicate of our other question. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10, 2016 at 21:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's also a duplicate of What do you class as a "Role-playing Game"? (which is also closed as a duplicate of What kind of questions can I ask here?). \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10, 2016 at 21:34
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think there's been time enough to calm down and actually read it. In particular, regarding this question, the top answer there lists what is on topic, what is off topic, and then notes “We make exceptions for questions that are primarily about something on the do list that simply uses or refers to one of the do nots in some way.” That fully covers the recent video-game situation this question was inspired by, and it covers this question about what counts as an RPG for the purposes of RPG.se. The examples in this question here are all covered there already. Just read it and apply it. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10, 2016 at 22:09
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I have read that answer, repeatedly, in the past. You are absolutely wrong in that it covers anything in this question. If it did, I wouldn't have asked this! \$\endgroup\$
    – Tritium21
    Mar 10, 2016 at 22:11
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I also don't see what this question covers that's not covered by the previous question. "What is an RPG" is a contentious question not relevant to governance of the site. "What kind of questions are on topic here" is. The lead answer to the other question covers the couple examples in this question more than adequately; if there are other cases it doesn't please bring them up specifically. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Mar 11, 2016 at 4:07

2 Answers 2


No, we can't and shouldn't draft a hard definition of RPGs.

Right now we've got a "know it when we see it" sort of attitude, and it works very well at least 95% of the time. The RPG medium is vastly diverse, and historically attempts to define it have been... fraught. Any definition will likely accidentally exclude stuff we really think ought to be on topic, and spark arguments in response.


Role-playing games are games where we do role-playing.

And that's as @BESW rightly said about as much of a definition that we need. It is appropriate to ask a question about roleplaying in game context regardless of the medium used - be it in-person session, Roll20, MUD, LARP, freeform over e-mail or countless others.

In fact current practice shows that questions less focused on the "game" part are also OK (like ones that deal with educational effort or creating a safe psychodrama space), so I would posit that it's the playing of a role that's central to the experience. That said, defining "roleplaying" is even more challenging and we should definitely not attempt to do it.

In regard to the video-game question, it is not for us to decide arbitrarily whether the whole group is on or off topic here - we should consider these edge cases individually and carefully decide whether roleplaying is in the core of the question or not.


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