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In roleplaying, participants adopt and act out the role of characters, or parts, that may have personalities, motivations, and backgrounds different from their own. Roleplaying, also known as RP to some, is like being in an improvisational drama or free-form theater, in which the participants are the actors who are playing parts, and the audience.

People use the phrase "role-playing" in at least three distinct ways:

  • to refer to the playing of roles generally such as in a theater, or educational setting;
  • to refer to a wide range of games including computer role-playing games, play-by-mail games and more;
  • or to refer specifically to role-playing games.[1]

Role-playing games[]

Main article: Role-playing game

A role-playing game is a game in which the participants assume the roles of characters and collaboratively create stories. Participants determine the actions of their characters based on their characterization, and the actions succeed or fail according to a formal system of rules and guidelines. Within the rules, they may improvise freely; their choices shape the direction and outcome of the games.

There are many different types of role-playing games (RPGs). Many, and particularly those that came first, are centered around characters being created in fantasy universes. Of particular note is the advent of such games as Dungeons and Dragons in the 1970's, invented and propagated originally by Gary Gygax and David Arneson. Many different versions of this game were developed, and other types of games were spun-off from this original template, causing what was first developed as a hobby to become a multi-million dollar business venture.

Role playing in educational settings[]

The clinical uses of role playing[]

Sexual roleplaying[]

Main article: Sexual roleplay

A form of roleplaying in which partners take parts in a drama that provides sexual gratification; these might include a teacher and pupil, or employer and maid. Sexual roleplaying is common in BDSM, and is integral to most pseudonymous or anonymous forms of cybersex.

Sexual roleplaying in online games[]

Sexual roleplaying also occurs, albeit rarely, on various forms of online games. This is a generally less accepted type of roleplaying in an online community, though opinions about it vary. Social acceptance and attitudes to sexual roleplaying differ within various communities, often dependent on the community's genre or purpose (e.g., adult BDSM and fetish communities not only accept this behaviour but promulgate it as the main activity around which the online community functions). It is also not uncommon for players to form personal attachments or friendships with the player that they roleplay with.

The above mentioned example is generally better accepted in an online environment than roleplaying a character that involves sexual-related content in public or in abovementioned adult-themed roleplaying games.

See also[]


  1. Andrew Rilstone, "Role-Playing Games: An Overview" 1994, Inter*Action #1 at

External links[]

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