The role play concept was developed for the first time in the United States in 1966 by the sociologist William A.Gamson, who created SimSoc, a simulation game to teach concepts of sociology, political science and communication skills.

However, the idea as we know it today was born in 1974, when the first edition of Dungeons and Dragons was published, based on wargames, or strategy games, but including elements of fantasy. The difference of this game with the well-known wargames of its time is that it added the interpretation, the dialogue, and the imagination.

No publishing company wanted to launch D&D because they did not believe in its success, but the system ended up triumph, and the roleplay movement spread to the whole world, being an inspiration for books (like the Dragonlance saga), comics, movies, series and, of course, videogames. The interactivity of a video ame gives you the opportunity to take better advantage of the mechanical characteristics of the role, beyond mere narrative.

There are many examples of this inspiration in classic games, but we will focus on more current games, to see how the ideas of D&D are still current.

Classes and races.

Races such as elves, orcs, and dwarves are inherited by the traditional folklore of various cultures, mainly Nordic and Germanic. Although Tolkien and many other writers of fantasy of the twentieth century were the keys to the standardization of these races, it was roleplay which popularized it during the 80s, creating its personality, customs, and traditions that is now well known.

Chris Metzel, responsible for the creation of worlds and lore for Warcraft, Diablo, and Starcraft, declared in an interview that Dungeons & Dragons, as well as the Dragonlance saga, had been his main sources of inspiration throughout his life. "Looking at the elves, the visual archetype is very strong. From Tolkien to D&D to where we are today: long ears, elegant creatures from another world ... ". He added that it was not as important to create a new race as to find a way to make old archetypes cool again. That's why Chris and his team decided to turn the Warcraft elves into addicts to magic.

Video games have used D&D classes to personalize their characters.

The Drow are an example of a race created in the imaginary of D&D but also believed to be influenced by Nordic mythology, which happened to appear in several video games, such as Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, Neverwinter Nights and Age of Wonders.

Apart from the race, another thing that defines any character, both in roleplay and in most RPG games, are classes or jobs. In the original D&D manual, players had the option of embodying warriors, thieves, clerics, wizards, elves, dwarves and halflings. Over the years, classes such as barbarian, sorcerer (different from magician), paladin or bard were added to the cast.

Official image of the different classes of the role-playing game ´Pathfinder´

Different classes within the role play 'Pathfinder', born of D&D 3.5

From there, videogames have been using them, directly and indirectly, to personalize their characters. Directly in games like Skyrim or Dragon Age, in which the player is free to create his own character, as we will see in the next section, choosing the class as a convenience. In other games, on the other hand, these classes are present but more hidden in the form of pre-established characters.

The Final Fantasy saga has always played with this class system, but as their stories became more complex, it was less obvious to the player. Thus, in Final Fantasy X we can point out the protagonist, Tidus, as the bard of the team, by having a large number of support skills. To Yuna and Lulu as cleric and magician, classes known in the Final Fantasy paradigm as White Mage and Black Mage, respectively. Square Enix has adapted traditional classes to their world, applying their own norms and characteristics and creating their own, such as Blue Wizard or Dragon Knight.

Simplifying to the maximum, we can see it in examples like Kingdom Hearts, where Sora, the protagonist, has to choose between the role of 'Defender', 'Warrior' or 'Magician’, which will mark his line of evolution throughout the adventure.

Creating your character sheet

One of the trends of RPGs that have passed almost literally to the RPG of the game is the so-called character sheet. Almost all systems, old and current, have these sheets that determine the factors that characterize our character. Normally distributed in Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Wisdom, Intelligence, and Charisma. These characteristics will mark our character, in what is good and what is not, which is usually associated with a specific type of class: rogues have a lot of dexterity, strong are the warriors, charismatics the bards etc.

Out of the numbers associated with these characteristics are the so-called modifiers, which in a mathematical way, will enhance or degrade the abilities of our character: as his diplomatic ability or his stealthy movement. The highly statistical nature of these games lent itself well to computers, which produced random numbers, as well as dice and calculated tables of impact probabilities faster than any game master.

Through games like Neverwinter or Baldur's gate, which were endowed with a complex character creation that allowed their customization almost complete. We refer, obviously, to something beyond mere physical appearance, since these systems gave you a series of points, as did the dice on the table, which were distributed at convenience among the different skills. In more current games we can see it in the Fallout series, which through its S.P.E.C.I.A.L system allow you to distribute your points in practically the same characteristics already mentioned.

Representation of the Fallout feature system

Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck, the basic characteristics of the Fallout saga.

While many games today have sacrificed the personalization of these characteristics in order to give a balanced experience directly giving a set class, as is the case of Dark Souls or Dragon Age, it is clear that all these statistics have been translated into almost all the RPG.

All this without leaving aside MMOs, the most influenced by this type of character creation system, being the digital counterpart of those infinite worlds created in the head of D&D masters.

The dice add a a factor of chance that determines that a situation ends well or badly

Digitizing the die

One of the first things that come to mind when talking about role-playing games is dice. The dice give unpredictability to the adventure, it adds a factor of chance, which is what determines that a situation ends well or badly. Videogames don’t use dice or, at least, not literally, but they have found a different way to keep that chance there, one way or another.

The Fallout saga is, again, a good reference. The combats mark us, in the form of percentages, the probability that we have of hitting our shot depending on the part of the body of the creature we are aiming. Similarly, during conversations, you have a chance of failure or success depending on the path you take when talking to them. If you want to threaten, the force will be your ally, but if you want to fall right in front of you, you'd better have a good amount of charisma.

Different types of dice used during role games

The dice are the main mechanics of most RPGs.

This is, basically, a reduction of a large number of options that are in a die of 20 (those usually used for this type of situations in D & D) to the two best known: 1 or miss and natural 20 or critical. The miss and the critic are the polar opposites in any role play: the absolute disaster against the celebrated success and both are a cause of tension and emotion in any game. It is therefore natural that we have sought to reduce to these the possibilities available in many games.

Projects like Verdungeon (in development), from the Spanish studio BlusteryGames, choose to recover the dice in their roguelike project, where the dice appear literally on the screen and the results must be managed so you have to know what you are going to sacrifice with that terrible 1 in order to success in your adventure.

These are some examples of how the table roleplay has influenced the videogames we play today. However, many things have remained in the pipeline: the inventories, the learning systems of skills in the form of a tree, the worldbuilding ... Would you like to read a second part? Let us know in our social media: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and we will prepare it!

If you stay with the desire, You can read our previous articles of inspiration to create video games.


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Marta Gil

Marta Gil

PR, Product Manager & Social Media in Gametopia. FemDevs Regional coordinator.
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