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Arcane Lore: the history of role-playing

We look back at the history of role-playing – prepare for ‘wizard’s sleeve’ and ‘whipping out your broadsword’ jokes – you have been warned…



Dungeons and Dragons

The never-ending story

Imagine playing through an Elder Scrolls title with a high charisma score, and visualise how easy it is to talk your way around certain situations – you can save yourself a lot of legwork and aggro by being smart and quick-tongued, and it can be an incredibly satisfying way to play. Now imagine replaying the same situation with zero charisma, and all those extra points lumped into strength and stamina – sure, you’re tough as nails, but you’ll have to walk a lot further, and fight a lot more battles to reach the same result, and you might enjoy that approach.

Now imagine if you will a third scenario, where you’ve made all those choices and play your character in exactly the same way but the experience can still change, because the arbiter of events is not a pre-determined algorithm that calculates what to do next based on some (albeit astoundingly clever) boolean logic about what has occurred before. No, the arbiter of events in this case is a sentient being – a human overseer who can tailor-make the experience and make similar-sounding scenarios play completely different, every single time – and you can see why the customisable experience and subtle nuances of tabletop roleplaying games are evidently being striven for by developers in their multi-faction, pseudo-infinite approach titles.

Best of all though is that the dungeon master is usually your mate, and if anyone knows how to make an experience magical it’s a group of friends – around a board, with their Dungeon Master’s Guide, their polyhedral dice, and their pens and paper – it literally never gets old.


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Tom is an itinerant freelance technology writer who found a home as an Editor with Thumbsticks. Powered by coffee, RPGs, and local co-op.


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