Talk:Tabletop role-playing game

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Number of players[edit]

Does anyone know of a reliable source that describes the typical number of players in a tabletop RPG? Ideally the source would also describe the limiting factor: that the game gets harder for a single GM to facilitate as the number of players grows. I think this is one of those fundamental, but often unmentioned attributes of PnP RPGs. But an uninformed reader may not know more than about 8 or 10 players is relatively uncommon. Whereas with larp or multiplayer digital RPGs, player numbers can be much larger. Ryan Paddy (talk) 04:32, 6 January 2010 (UTC)

I'd have to look it up but I remember from college that the maximum size of an effective group is about 7.Donhoraldo (talk) 21:58, 27 February 2011 (UTC)
Hi - I wasn't asking for editor's personal opinions, but for reliable sources on the subject such as academic articles. At a pinch, suggestions from primary sources such as RPG rulesbooks could be used as sources. Ryan Paddy (talk) 00:44, 28 February 2011 (UTC)
This will clearly vary depending on the genre of the game. Some types lend themselves to larger groups than others. Since most early academic efforts restricted themselves to D&D, there's going to be some bias in their reports. FWIW, the average 2nd Edition D&D module was designed for from 4-7 players (tournament modules tended toward the higher number), while products for the James Bond RPG were optimized for from 1-4 players, with the lower number common for higher-level characters. Boot Hill aimed for around 4-5, and Gangbusters had a similar "target number" when it came to published modules. Games like Recon and Twilight 2000 had higher player numbers (maxing at about 7-10), but they were also military-based where the tactical unit (squad or recon team) tended to hover at that number. So in addition to the GM, you have the basic type of game to consider.Intothatdarkness (talk) 16:33, 22 February 2012 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: Move to Tabletop role-playing game - Per Wikipedia's guidelines about precision and disambiguation. Neelix (talk) 17:30, 18 July 2011 (UTC)

Role-playing game (pen and paper)Tabletop role-playing game – The title "Tabletop role-playing game" would be preferable for this article per the WP:Name policy. It is more concise, more consistent with other role-playing titles such as Live action role-playing game, Role-playing video game, Massively multiplayer online role-playing game, Online text-based role-playing game (because it takes the form "<Descriptor> role-playing game"), equally accurate, and in more common use than "Pen-and-paper" (for example, Google returns about 3 million hits for "role playing game" tabletop compared to only 0.87 million hits for "role playing game" pnp OR "pen & paper" OR "pen and paper". The title "tabletop role-playing game" can also be used more naturally in gaming-related articles linking to this article, making the usage more consistent across articles. Ryan Paddy (talk) 22:51, 23 June 2011 (UTC)

What about tabletop games that use models rather than pencils? —Tamfang (talk) 07:34, 24 June 2011 (UTC)
In my opinion both "pen-and-paper" and "tabletop" are reasonably accurate descriptors, but neither should be taken too literally. Not every tabletop RPG session involves a table, pens or paper, but many do, and those are the terms that are used. Just in case it's not clear, I'm suggesting that we change from "pen-and-paper" to "tabletop". The reason I'm suggesting "tabletop" is that it's the term most commonly used to distinguish traditional role-playing games from other forms like computer RPGs and live action RPGs, and also that it's more concise. Tabletop game also has a long tradition as a term, that tabletop RPGs fit well with. You don't need a table to play a card game, but they are still classed as tabletop games. The same applies to RPGs. Ryan Paddy (talk) 08:30, 24 June 2011 (UTC)
  • Support; I prefer "pen & paper" myself, but it appears that the sources primarily use "tabletop". This is based on a very cursory overview of the references section of the Role-playing game article. There, the only source that uses "PnP" is this one, which is focused on LARPs. It's possible that "Pen & Paper" (or "PnP") is more popular among LARPers to refer to the tabletop version. The other sources, where I could see a preference, tend to use "tabletop" as a distinguisher. Powers T 19:16, 25 June 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for examining the sources. I'm a larper, and I haven't seen any preference for "pen and paper" among larp articles. You can find plenty of uses of "tabletop" in larp sources, such as the quote from Kilgallon et al. (2001) in the references for Role-playing game. In the references on the LARP article there are five uses of "tabletop" and none of "pen and paper". Ryan Paddy (talk) 00:42, 27 June 2011 (UTC)
Merely some idle speculation. More likely that particular author just prefers the term, then. Powers T 01:16, 27 June 2011 (UTC)
  • Support. Both are correct, but I would say (as a roleplayer of more than 30 years standing myself) that "tabletop" is far more common. -- Necrothesp (talk) 10:20, 27 June 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose, with the caveat that it's not the use of tabletop or pen & paper that I am concerned with--whichever more sources use is fine. Rather, I find that the formation Role-playing game (tabletop) or Role-playing game (pen and paper) would be preferable, as the common vernacular for tabletop/PnP RPGs is simply "role playing game"; the addition of an additional element only serves for disambiguation, and thus should be in a parenthetical notation. - Sangrolu (talk) 12:53, 27 June 2011 (UTC)
    • That's an odd convention to promote. We generally only use parenthetical disambiguation when no natural disambiguator is available. In this case, as with computer role-playing games and live-action role-playing games, there is such a natural disambiguator. WP:PRECISION says: "If there is a natural mode of disambiguation in standard English, as with Cato the Elder and Cato the Younger, use that instead." Powers T 19:10, 27 June 2011 (UTC)
      • I don't believe so, no. Some of the primary criterion in WP:NAME are commonality and naturalness. No pen-and-paper/tabletop gamer adds those monikers to their hobby unless it is being discussed in a wider or different context (like on a forum also covering console games). And as discussed in the WP:PRECISION subsection of WP:NAME that you cite, using parenthetical disambiguation has the advantage of clearly conveying the normal use of the term in English, which is exactly what I am getting at here. I don't believe the Cato the Elder/Cato the Younger applies here, as again, unlike those example, Tabletop Roleplaying Game is normally not used in the hobby. - Sangrolu (talk) 21:04, 27 June 2011 (UTC)
        • Not normally used unless, as you say, "it is being discussed in a wider or different context" -- like in an encyclopedia. Powers T 02:18, 28 June 2011 (UTC)
          • I hope you are not being serious; that would be a bit of circular logic. The standard in WP:NAME is "natural usage". -Sangrolu (talk) 12:34, 28 June 2011 (UTC)
            • Certainly I am. You said that "Tabletop Roleplaying Game is normally not used in the hobby" -- but in truth, it is, when disambiguation is necessary. As it is here. Powers T 19:28, 28 June 2011 (UTC)
Both "role-playing game" and "tabletop role-playing game" are common vernacular for tabletop role-playing games. For example, the largest online roleplaying community in the world ( calls its tabletop role-playing forum "Tabletop Roleplaying Open". It has 3.5 million posts, suggesting that tabletop role-players are comfortable with the term. "Tabletop role-playing game" is used in some role-playing publications (for example the Serenity RPG) when introducing the type of game it's about. Scholarly sources are usually considered to be the best form of WP:RS. In the academic community, "tabletop role-playing game" is far more common usage than the ambiguous "role-playing game". Here's a handful of examples: Rules of play: game design fundamentals: "tabletop role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons", The Creation of Narrative in Tabletop Role-Playing Games (see title), The fantasy role-playing game: a new performing art: "The subject of this book, the tabletop role-playing game, was the first kind of role-playing game", Communities of play: emergent cultures in multiplayer games and virtual worlds: "Tabletop role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons", Cross-format analysis of the gaming experience in multi-player role-playing games: "The tabletop format emerges as the consistently most enjoyable experience across a range of formats". Given that "tabletop role-playing game" is commonly used (both in vernacular and academic sources), I think it's preferable to use the natural form "tabletop role-playing game" in preference to the disambiguated form "role-playing game (tabletop)". The natural form of title is preferable if it's in common use, because the bracketed disambiguated title is visually awkward. Per WP:PRECISION, "If there is a natural mode of disambiguation in standard English ... use that instead". "Tabletop role-playing game" is a natural mode of disambiguation, because it is normal to use in English both for players (see the usage for example), and in scholarly sources. Ryan Paddy (talk) 04:06, 28 June 2011 (UTC)
I have to disagree with your assessment of RPGnet's use of the term. The only reason, for example, that they have a Tabletop Roleplaying Open is because at the same navigation level of the forums, they also have forums for other RPG formats, e.g., LARPs. You go into the Tabletop Roleplaying Open forum itself, you will find the "Tabletop" moniker in scarce usage. Similarly with other sources, the term is usually only invoked when explicit contrast with other forms is desired or needed. The standing policy of WP:NAME is to strive for natural usage. As I already discussed above, in WP:PRECISION, after the section you cited, it goes on to stress the advantage of using parenthetical disambiguation is that it retains the clarity of the natural usage. As for academic sources, they may well be reliable sources, but that's not what is at question here; academic resources aren't definitive when it comes to natural usage. In fact, I would hold that quite often, they use terms that are not natural usage precisely because they need to hold themselves to a standard of disambiguation that is beyond natural usage. - Sangrolu (talk) 12:34, 28 June 2011 (UTC)
I think you're conflating "natural usage" with "the most common usage". WP:PRECISION says that if there is a "natural mode of disambiguation in standard English" it should be used. In scholarly writing, the forum, the many examples returned by Google search (which are mostly fan sites discussing tabletop role-playing games), and in my experience in spoken English "tabletop role-playing game" is used as a natural mode of disambiguation. It is certainly not unnatural to hear "tabletop RPG", even if tabletop players only use the disambiguated form occasionally it still sounds like standard English to them, not some awkward artificial disambiguator. That's what "natural" means. "Natural" does not mean it's the most commonly-used term. The part of WP:PRECISION you're referring to says, in full (with added numbers): "1) Often there is no alternative to parenthetical disambiguation, and 2) it does have the advantage that the non-parenthesized part of the title may most clearly convey what the subject is called in English. 3) On the other hand, such disambiguations may be longer or less natural than an alternate but unambiguous form, when there is one." Firstly, there is a natural English alternative to parenthetical disambiguation. Secondly, both terms are what this activity is called in English ("tabletop RPG" is not an artificial term invented by scholars or for the purpose of this encyclopedia, it came from players and has a long history of use in English), and the policy does not demand the most common usage. Thirdly, and most importantly, the disambiguated form "Role-playing game (tabletop)" is less natural than "Tabletop role-playing game", a term that appears not infrequently as a "natural mode of disambiguation" on RPG fan sites, forums, in RPG books, in scholarly sources, and in speech among role-players. Ryan Paddy (talk) 19:41, 28 June 2011 (UTC)
I find it contradictory that you at the same time belittle "invented scholarly terms" and uphold the scholarly sources; which is it? With respect to "the disambiguated form "Role-playing game (tabletop)" is less natural", the term that is being emphasized here as discussed in WP:PRECISION is Role-playing game; that is the natural term that occurs in regular conversation. The parenthetical addition is the WP disambiguator, not the term being emphasized, as is made abundantly clear by the parenthesis. -Sangrolu (talk) 02:30, 29 June 2011 (UTC)
I was acknowledging your point that some scholarly terms are "not natural usage", but pointing out this is not the case here. The scholarly sources have adopted "tabletop role-playing game" which is a common-English term invented and used by gamers, it is not some sort of academic jargon they have invented in this case. WP:PRECISION says "On the other hand, such disambiguations may be longer or less natural than an alternate but unambiguous form, when there is one." Note, that phrase of that policy calls for us to compare the disambiguated form "Role-playing game (tabletop)" to the alternate form "Tabletop role-playing game" and see which sounds most natural - clearly the latter does. Ryan Paddy (talk) 08:23, 29 June 2011 (UTC)
Sangrolu, perhaps consider another case. United States women's national soccer team is a bit cumbersome, but each bit is needed for disambiguation. Even though the team is referred to in U.S. soccer circles as the "Women's national team", and it's referred to in World Cup play as the "United States team", we don't use "United States team (women's soccer)" or "Women's national team (United States soccer)". It's because even though the full version is not as often used as the shorter versions, it is still more "natural" than using parenthetical disambiguation. Powers T 12:08, 29 June 2011 (UTC)
Exactly. To give a counter-example, "Queen (band)" sounds more natural than "The band Queen", even though the former is a parenthetical disambiguated form and the latter is occasionally used in English as a disambiguation. So it's not always the case that the alternate form sounds more natural than the parenthetical form... but it is in the case of "Tabletop role-playing game". Ryan Paddy (talk) 18:38, 29 June 2011 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

History of Roleplaying Section - TSR and open gaming[edit]

I've added a couple of inline cite notes to this section. There is an assertion there that the decline of TSR was due to competition with online roleplaying games and CCG's; my understanding was that TSRs decline came in large part due to mismanagement (e.g., overstocking products at toy stores and then receiving massive returns of unsold product.) If someone has an industry source citing CCGs or CRPGs as a cause of TSR's decline, I'd be interested in seeing it. Otherwise, that sentence should probably be removed.

Similarly, there is a later statement I asked for a cite for, namely the assertion that open gaming was designed to combat bootlegging. I've never heard such an assertion from an industry figure and think that it would have a hard time performing that function. - Sangrolu (talk) 16:52, 16 December 2011 (UTC)

For the first, it was a combination. While TSR's specific financial issues were due to stock returns on overproduced items, the overproduction itself rises out of the management assuming a D&D market that was the same size as ten years before, when the reality was is had shrank during the 1990s. This shrinking was from players moving on to other things, including other tabletop games (Vampire: The Masquerade was huge at the time), CCGs (Magic: The Gathering, ironically enough) or RPG video games, which were undergoing something of a golden age. So I rephrased the sentence to cover that.
As for the second, that's just bunk. A bad case of WP:SYNTH, and incorrect synth at that. Removed outright. The linked article on bootleg role-playing games I even tagged for PROD, as it contains no sources whatsoever. It repeats the same erroneous original conclusion, and actively misrepresented US copyright law; while the mechanics of a rule cannot be copyrighted, as they are purely functional, the wording is automatically protected by copyright, and any unauthorized photocopying or scanning is a copyright violation. The article blatantly did not make that clear, and even seemed to state the opposite. It has been removed. But frankly the article has got to go. oknazevad (talk) 13:30, 14 March 2016 (UTC)

Bad Link in References[edit]

Reference #7, supposedly an archived interview with Gary Gygax, has been taken over by a porn site. It should probably be removed.— Preceding unsigned comment added by CJPoll (talkcontribs) 23:22, 14 September 2013‎

I found an archived version via WBM and updated the link. Cheers! Woodroar (talk) 01:17, 15 September 2013 (UTC)


Here are some recent works about tabletop RPGs. They might be worth looking through for material to flesh out the article:

  • Drew Davidson, ‎Greg Costikyan (2011) Tabletop: Analog Game Design
  • Sarah Lynne Bowman (2010) The Functions of Role-Playing Games: How Participants Create Community, Solve Problems and Explore Identity

Ryan Paddy (talk) 19:53, 24 November 2013 (UTC)

Table Talk[edit]

I've removed "table talk role-playing game" from the head until such time as anyone can produce a reference that they are or ever were commonly called that. Sounds like a mondegreen. Clayhalliwell (talk) 23:15, 1 September 2016 (UTC)

Proper nouns?[edit]

Re this edit: Are dungeon master, referee, storyteller and the like proper nouns, that therefore should be capitalized, or not?

A proper noun "refers to a unique entity". A very good hint of something that is a proper noun is a word where you "cannot normally be modified by an article [especially a] or other determiner (such as any or another)". Here, "a dungeon master", "a referee", and "a storyteller" are all common usage, making it hard to claim they are proper nouns.

There are a few exceptions these rules, but I don't know of any that apply here. Comments? --A D Monroe III (talk) 16:33, 20 August 2017 (UTC)

My instinct is to follow the sources on this, which have capitalized these (in a manner akin to the capitalization of official titles) rather consistently since the 1970s. They may not be proper nouns, but they are traditionally capitalized. Newimpartial (talk) 16:49, 20 August 2017 (UTC)
That said, I had not noticed that the article itself was already inconsistent in the capitalization of "Game Master", so I have self-reverted the capitalization of the terms "referee" and "storyteller" and placed "dungeon master" and "game master" in lower case pending this talk page discussion. :) Newimpartial (talk) 16:53, 20 August 2017 (UTC)
We should definitely follow WP:MOS, MOS:TMRULES (where applicable), and reliable sources. "Dungeon Master" is pretty much always capitalized in sources, plus it's a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, so we should capitalize it. I would imagine that "Storyteller" is a trademark of Paradox Interactive but I'm not able to find that trademark registration. It is capitalized in Storytelling System materials and (fairly) consistently in sources that reference them, however, so we should probably follow suit there as well. (Unless we're writing about a "person telling a story", where "storyteller" in lowercase should be fine.) It's my understanding that "game master" and "referee" were initially used as generic, system neutral terms to avoid legal issues with TSR and White Wolf, but they're still in use today. Those are probably fine to leave lowercase unless sources say otherwise. I looked but didn't notice any specific MOS guidelines at WP:RPG. Woodroar (talk) 17:51, 20 August 2017 (UTC)
As far as I know, GDW capitalized "Referee" throughout the company's existence, and Pelgrane and Arc Dream for example still capitalize "Game Moderator", so I don't see any convincing precedent to use lower case. Newimpartial (talk) 18:54, 20 August 2017 (UTC)
If these are trademarked, then we must not capitalize them. In this article, we aren't using "Game Master" as the single company-specific meaning of Game Master, but a generic meaning of game master that applies any RPG. (We capitalize Ford's MustangTM when we speak of Ford's model of car, but we must not capitalize it when referring to the generic horse.) If we capitalized Game Master, but describe it generically, we'd be stepping on the company's trademark and libel for trouble, needlessly. --A D Monroe III (talk) 18:51, 22 August 2017 (UTC)
Somehow, Monroe, you are not discussing the same case that I am. GDW never trademarked Referee, as far as I know, and certainly neither Arc Dream nor Pelgrane ever trademarked Game Moderator, but the terms are capitalized in these sources nonetheless. I don't think capitalization should depend on trademark status (which is a rather more technical issue), but on the usage of the term in the sources. Newimpartial (talk) 19:03, 22 August 2017 (UTC)
I'm following what's been presented here. First, it was stated they should be capitalized because they are proper nouns. It seems we've moved from that. Next, MOS:TMRULES and "it's trademarked" were invoked above, adding therefore we must capitalize them or face legal problems. Are we now agreed they are not trademarked? I just want to keep this thread coherent. --A D Monroe III (talk) 20:16, 22 August 2017 (UTC)
I believe that Dungeon Master and Storyteller are trademarked, and Referee and Game Master / Game Moderator are not. One approach would therefore be to capitalize Dungeon Master and Storyteller but not the other terms, though I don't think any edit to the article ever established that orthography. I still prefer that all terms be capitalized that are capitalized in the sources, which would be all of the above. Newimpartial (talk) 20:23, 22 August 2017 (UTC)
Unless someone can show an RS that states that a particular word or term is trademarked; I think we can safely work with the assumption that they are not. Mediatech492 (talk) 20:26, 22 August 2017 (UTC)

[1] for Dungeon Master, but you're right: White Wolf used Storytelling System for the rules brand and while they called the role Storyteller, it doesn't seem that they every owned the term.

I would still capitalize in all cases, per the sources. :) Newimpartial (talk) 20:34, 22 August 2017 (UTC)

I should clarify that I brought up trademarks above not because of legal concerns against Wikipedia, but because our Manual of Style tells us exactly how to format trademarks across the project. We're supposed to render "KISS" as "Kiss" and "Se7en" as "Seven" (for example) even if reliable sources don't. (WP:MOSTM "applies to all trademarks, all service marks, all business names, and all other names of business entities" so we should follow that even if we can't find records of a trademark. MOSTM doesn't even specify that the trademark has to be registered.) For general terms, I personally have no preference, but I agree with Newimpartial that we should look at usage in reliable sources. Or at how those terms are used across the project, for consistency.
As far as legal issues go, we're talking about terms like "Dungeon Master" rather than claiming them as our own, so we really don't have anything to worry about. Early gaming companies could be pretty lax about crediting TSR for the material they "borrowed". Woodroar (talk) 00:02, 23 August 2017 (UTC)
WP talking about them is precisely the issue. If company X uses a term, with a particular shade of meaning specific to their product, capitalized to indicate it's their term and not the generic term, and then we come along using their capitalized term generically, we're degrading their intent for no good reason -- no benefit to us or the reader.
Remember what "consistency" means. If all sources use each term consistently with the same meaning, then we can follow what they all do for capitalization.
But if companies use any of these terms with different capitalization, where shades of meaning may be different, then we can't pretend to "fix" their inconsistency. Instead, we have to avoid any implied more specific meaning that either readers or companies may have, and go with generic meanings based on standard English, which does not capitalize them.
So, are the great majority of these sources actually that consistent? --A D Monroe III (talk) 17:02, 23 August 2017 (UTC)
"Dungeon Master" and "DM" are nearly always capitalized in reliable sources. "Storyteller" is capitalized most of the time but it's been a while since I've read anything about that system. I feel like "Game Master" and "Referee" are capitalized more often than not, but I'll defer to others' findings there as I don't pay much attention to games that use those terms. Woodroar (talk) 23:16, 23 August 2017 (UTC)
If we're talking about primary sources (which I was, initially), TSR has capitalized "Dungeon Master" rather consistently, just as White Wolf capitalized "Storyteller" (and I said something incorrect, above; their 1990s system was trademark-Storyteller, with the move to trademark-Storytelling occurring around 2000. But I digress...).

As I mentioned before, AFAIK GDW capitalized "Referee" during its entire existence, and I know that Pelgrane, Arc Dream and Atlas are still capitalizing "Game Moderator" (although it isn't a trademark, and all three companies are all peacefully using the same term).

What I conclude from this, is that virtually all game companies have capitalized the terms they use to name and talk about the GM role, whether those terms were proprietary or not. The only exception I can think of is "game master/gamemaster", which is pretty much the default generic term.
So I would prefer that all of the terms mentioned in the article, except game master/gamemaster, be capitalized in accord with usage in the sources. I also think there is something about the role itself that merits a title. :). But I recognize that there are other perspectives, and would like to see consensus ...— Preceding unsigned comment added by Newimpartial (talkcontribs) 04:25, 26 August 2017 (UTC)
If our MOS and sources both point toward capitalized terms, then someone should go ahead and make the change. Local consensus here is great, but WP:MOS and WP:V have consensus across the project. Face-smile.svg Woodroar (talk) 03:50, 27 August 2017 (UTC)
Never mind, it's  Done. Woodroar (talk) 18:05, 27 August 2017 (UTC)