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Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. Players explore a game world, while solving puzzles and engaging in combat. A key feature of the genre is that characters grow in power and abilities, and characters are typically designed by the player. Players control one or several characters by issuing commands, which are performed by the character at an effectiveness determined by that character's numeric attributes.
Often these attributes increase each time a character gains a level , and a character's level goes up each time the player accumulates a certain amount of experience. This usually involves additional focus on the artificial intelligence and scripted behavior of computer-controlled non-player characters. To a lesser extent, settings closer to the present day or near future are possible. Because these games have strong storylines, they can often make effective use of recorded dialog and voiceover narration.
Players of these games tend to appreciate long cutscenes more than players of faster action games. While most games advance the plot when the player defeats an enemy or completes a level, role-playing games often progress the plot based on other important decisions.
For example, a player may make the decision to join a guild, thus triggering a progression in the storyline that is usually irreversible. New elements in the story may also be triggered by mere arrival in an area, rather than completing a specific challenge. The plot is usually divided so that each game location is an opportunity to reveal a new chapter in the story. This offers the player a smaller set of possible actions, since computers can't engage in imaginative acting comparable to a skilled human gamemaster.
In exchange, the typical role-playing video game may have storyline branches, user interfaces, and stylized cutscenes and gameplay to offer a more direct storytelling mechanism. Characterization of non-player characters in video games is often handled using a dialog tree.
Saying the right things to the right non-player characters will elicit useful information for the player, and may even result in other rewards such as items or experience, as well as opening up possible storyline branches. Multiplayer online role-playing games can offer an exception to this contrast by allowing human interaction among multiple players and in some cases enabling a player to perform the role of a gamemaster.
Exploring the world is an important aspect of many RPGs. RPGs usually allow players to return to previously visited locations. Usually, there is nothing left to do there, although some locations change throughout the story and offer the player new things to do in response. Players must acquire enough power to overcome a major challenge in order to progress to the next area, and this structure can be compared to the boss characters at the end of levels in action games.
This practice was common among players of early role-playing games, such as early titles in the Wizardry and Might and Magic series. Later on, games of this type started featuring automaps.
The player typically must complete a linear sequence of certain quests in order to reach the end of the game's story, although quests in some games such as Arcanum or Geneforge can limit or enable certain choices later in the game. Quests of this sort can be found by talking to a non-player character, and there may be no penalty for abandoning or ignoring these quests other than a missed opportunity or reward.
Trade takes place while interacting with certain friendly non-player characters, such as shopkeepers, and often uses a specialized trading screen. Purchased items go into the player's inventory. Some games turn inventory management into a logistical challenge by limiting the size of the player's inventory, thus forcing the player to decide what they must carry at the time.
Pictured here is the roguelike-like S. Heroes of Lesser Renown. Note the paper doll in the top left portion of the image.
Most of the actions in an RPG are performed indirectly, with the player selecting an action and the character performing it by their own accord. Role-playing video games often simulate die-rolling mechanics from non-electronic role-playing games to determine success or failure. As a character's attributes improve, their chances of succeeding at a particular action will increase. Although robbing and murdering indiscriminately may make it easier to get money, there are usually consequences in that other characters will become uncooperative or even hostile towards the player.
Thus, these games allow players to make moral choices, but force players to live with the consequences of their actions. However, if winning is contingent upon the survival of a single character, then that character effectively becomes the player's avatar. This allows players to choose their character's sex, their race or species, and their character class. Although many of these traits are cosmetic, there are functional aspects as well.
Character classes will have different abilities and strengths. Common classes include fighters, spellcasters, thieves with stealth abilities, and clerics with healing abilities, or a mixed class, such as a fighter who can cast simple spells. Characters will also have a range of physical attributes such as dexterity and strength, which affect a player's performance in combat. Mental attributes such as intelligence may affect a player's ability to perform and learn spells, while social attributes such as charisma may limit the player's choices while conversing with non-player characters.
These abilities are confined to specific characters such as mages, spellcasters, or magic-users. In games where the player controls multiple characters, these magic-users usually complement the physical strength of other classes. Magic can be used to attack, to defend, or to temporarily change an enemy or ally's attributes. While some games allow players to gradually consume a spell, as ammunition is consumed by a gun, most games offer players a finite amount of mana which can be spent on any spell.
Mana is restored by resting or by consuming potions. Characters can also gain other non-magical skills, which stay with the character as long as he lives. In this particular game, players can assign points into attributes , select a deity, and choose a portrait and profession for their character.
Although the characterization of the game's avatar will develop through storytelling, characters may also become more functionally powerful by gaining new skills, weapons, and magic. This creates a positive-feedback cycle that is central to most role-playing games: The player grows in power, allowing them to overcome more difficult challenges, and gain even more power.
Whereas other games give the player these powers immediately, the player in a role-playing game will choose their powers and skills as they gain experience.
Experience is usually earned by defeating enemies in combat, with some games offering experience for completing certain quests or conversations. Experience becomes a form of score , and accumulating a certain amount of experience will cause the character's level to go up. This is called "levelling up", and gives the player an opportunity to raise one or more of his character's attributes. Many RPGs allow players to choose how to improve their character, by allocating a finite number of points into the attributes of their choice.
This may sometimes be implemented as a skill tree. As with the technology trees seen in strategy video games , learning a particular skill in the tree will unlock more powerful skills deeper in the tree. Once a certain amount of experience is gained, the character advances a level. In some games, level-up occurs automatically when the required amount of experience is reached; in others, the player can choose when and where to advance a level.
Likewise, abilities and attributes may increase automatically or manually. The first video game to use this was Dungeon Master ,[ citation needed ] which emphasized developing the character's skills by using them—meaning that if a character wields a sword for some time, he or she will become proficient with it. Turns, rounds and time-keeping systems in games Ranged magical combat in the party-based graphical roguelike-like Dungeon Monkey Eternal.
The fireball being cast by the wizard in the image is an area of effect AoE attack, and damages multiple people at once. Older games often separated combat into its own mode of gameplay, distinct from exploring the game world. More recent games tend to maintain a consistent perspective for exploration and combat.
Most RPGs also use stationary boss monsters in key positions, and automatically trigger battles with them when the PCs enter these locations or perform certain actions. The order in which the characters act is usually dependent on their attributes, such as speed or agility.
This system rewards strategic planning more than quickness. It also points to the fact that realism in games is a means to the end of immersion in the game world, not an end in itself. A turn-based system makes it possible, for example, to run within range of an opponent and kill him before he gets a chance to act, or duck out from behind hard cover, fire, and retreat back without an opponent being able to fire, which are of course both impossibilities.
However, tactical possibilities have been created by this unreality that did not exist before; the player determines whether the loss of immersion in the reality of the game is worth the satisfaction gained from the development of the tactic and its successful execution. Fallout has been praised as being "the shining example of a good turn-based Combat System [ sic ]".
But other RPG battle systems such as the Final Fantasy battle systems have imported real-time choices without emphasizing coordination or reflexes. Other names for "real-time with pause" include "active pause" and "semi real-time". Brotherhood of Steel and Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura offered players the option to play in either turn-based or RTwP mode via a configuration setting.
The latter also offered a "fast turn-based" mode, though all three of the game's modes were criticized for being poorly balanced and oversimplified. Other games, such as most of the Ultima series, employed duplicates of the miniatures combat system traditionally used in the early role-playing games.
Representations of the player characters and monsters would move around an arena modeled after the surrounding terrain, attacking any enemies that are sufficiently near. At left is the character's current stats.
Players typically navigate the game world from a first or third-person perspective in 3D RPGs. However, an isometric or aerial top-down perspective is common in party-based RPGs, in order to give the player a clear view of their entire party and their surroundings. For example, spell-casting characters will often have a menu of spells they can use. On the PC, players typically use the mouse to click on icons and menu options, while console games have the player navigate through menus using a game controller.
Tolkien ,  traditional strategy games such as chess ,   and ancient epic literature dating back to Epic of Gilgamesh which followed the same basic structure of setting off in various quests in order to accomplish goals.
With the advent of the Internet, multiplayer games have grown to become massively multiplayer online role-playing games , including Lineage , Final Fantasy XI , and World of Warcraft.
Featuring ASCII graphics where the setting, monsters and items were represented by letters and a deep system of gameplay, it inspired a whole genre of similar clones on mainframe and home computers called " roguelikes ". This early game, published for a TRS Model 1, was just 16K long and included a limited word parser command line, character generation, a store to purchase equipment, combat, traps to solve, and a dungeon to explore.
The Compleat Apventure and Akalabeth: World of Doom , the precursor to Ultima. Exodus , one of the prime influences on both computer and console RPG development. For example, Wizardry featured menu-driven combat, Tunnels of Doom featured tactical combat on a special "combat screen", and Dungeons of Daggorath featured real-time combat which took place on the main dungeon map.
Their game Phantasie is notable for introducing automapping and in-game scrolls providing hints and background information.