Role-playing game

From IFWiki

For the genre including games like Final Fantasy and Summon Night: Swordcraft Story, see CRPG.

A type of game in which one person, usually called the DungeonMaster or GameMaster (also written DM and GM), directs one or more players through a made-up world. Typically, the GM will describe a situation and it is up to the players to decide how their characters will react.

An extension to this is a Computer role-playing game (CRPG), in which a team of designers, programmers, graphic artists, and sound engineers work out a way to teach the computer to play the role of GM. One advantage for RPGs that are not diceless is that all the tedium of die-rolling and calculating outcomes is handled for the players by the software.

-- MarkMusante - 11 Sep 2002

Influence on IF

Adventure and early cave crawls

Fantasy and heroic fantasy are strongly represented genres in IF. While some of this can be attributed to the direct influence of fantasy authors who preceded and influenced RPGs (notably J.R.R. Tolkien), the direct influence of RPGs is undeniable.

The first RPG to influence IF was the popular Dungeons and Dragons system; the first IF game, Adventure (William Crowther and Donald Woods), was strongly influenced by D&D. The immense formative effect of Adventure on early IF, combined with the familiarity of many IF players and authors with D&D conventions, resulted in a high number of games based around D&D's standard device of a monster-populated cave crawl for treasure. However, IF cave-crawls tended to downplay the RPG emphasis on combat somewhat, and entirely lost the standard RPG element of interaction and cooperation between multiple PCs, focusing instead on puzzles.


Magic is a strong theme both in fantasy RPGs and in IF. With its nonsense words and star-tipped wands, Adventure's magic system resembled parlour magic rather than D&D magic. Infocom games such as Enchanter (Marc Blank and Dave Lebling; 1983; ZIL), which profoundly shaped the handling of magic in IF, imported standard devices from D&D magic (such as the distinction between single-use scrolls and repeated-use spellbooks) but also generated their own distinctive style, better-suited to IF approaches. While some Enchanter spells were clearly cribbed from D&D equivalents, many others were simply useful IF puzzle tools.

Later influence

IF continues to produce a steady stream of strongly RPG-influenced works. Quite apart from the continuing popularity of old school elements originally derived from RPGs, the generic lazy medieval heroic fantasy setting and its conventions are familiar to most authors and players of IF. For instance, Heroes (Sean Barrett; 2001; Z-code) relies on the player's immediate recognition of a world containing dragons, enchanters and thieves.

Apart from the generic-fantasy setting, some RPGs have created or popularised other settings, which are occasionally used in games which contain no other RPG-like elements. The King of Shreds and Patches (Jimmy Maher; 2007; Z-code) states its primary influence as the Call of Cthulhu RPG, rather than the H.P. Lovecraft stories on which Call of Cthulhu is based; the AIF game Planescape: Encounters 1 (Massassi Cheralol; 2003; ADRIFT) uses the copyrighted D&D Planescape setting.

Several IF games deal with RPGs directly; the protagonist of Necrotic Drift (Robb Sherwin; 2004; Hugo) features a PC who is a D&D enthusiast with extensive meta-game knowledge of the D&D-based situations he encounters, while the Level 50 section of When Help Collides (J.D. Berry; 2002; Z-code) is set during an RPG session, with the parser personified as the GM.


IF works that involve simulation of combat tend to model their mechanics after RPG or CRPG combat rules. Some, such as Magocracy (Anton Joseph Rheaume; 2004; TADS), make this obvious by the use of explicit game mechanics, allowing the player to view (for instance) hit points.


Discussion about IF has imported several terms from RPGs, notably player character and non-player character. Some people dislike these terms because of the association with RPGs, preferring terms such as protagonist which support the portrayal of IF as literature rather than computer game.