Why Strategy RPGs Are RPGs

And the RPG Madness continues! After taking on Zelda, and robbing Link of his "Action RPG" title, I am now going to make this claim : Strategy RPGs Are RPGs. But, before getting into this mess, let's review :

  • In Zelda is NOT an RPG, the original article, I explained that Zelda is an Action Adventure game because it is based on ability keys and on progressing by force rather than an RPG battle system based on determining results of actions by random rolls weighted by stats.
  • In Zelda is NOT an RPG II, the nefarious second article, I easily showed how no video game is a true role-playing game because it is impossible to play a role in a video game.1
  • In Zelda is NOT an RPG III, the supposedly final article of utter doom, I showed that "pieces of an RPG do not an RPG make."

The responses to these articles you can read in the comments. It's been split — Zelda fans still argue for the "RPG coolness" of Zelda, and old timers like me who know what an RPG is respond to them, more or less, with a four letter word : Pfft.

Well, I'm not happy just pissing off the believers in Zelda is an RPG. Friends, country men, random purple beasts from Alpha Centuari — this article is going to make me very happy — by pissing off EVERYONE by taking on a sacred cow of the other side.

Ahem. Back to the issue at hand : Strategy RPGs are RPGs. — the sacred cow of everyone else .. er that they are NOT RPGs. Those who have been paying attention in the last three articles will instantly know why — and agree. However, for some of you, I'm going to have to take you back in time using my Article Time Machine to a time (gasp) before RPGs were RPGs.

Let me activate it. BZZT. Damn thing shocks me every time.

Allrighty then. Here we are. The year is 1967 and there's about 20 people gathered playing War games. A war game is played by using miniatures on a board, or map you draw (or build) yourself.

Like in RPGs, what happens in a war game is determined by random rolls weighted by stats. Each unit can take a certain amount of damage and can inflict a certain amount of damage. So, if your RBT2 makes a successful roll against a RSUS3 then the RSUS gets their heads blown off (or removed from the board).

And this is exactly how an RPG system such as Dungeons and Dragons works — and every video RPG known to man. It's the essence of an RPG battle engine. As further evidence, look at that pasty fellow there, he's Gary Gygax, the inventor of the RPG. I know the Zelda fans are shocked, so I'll give them a moment for this to sink in.





Yes, that's right. The inventor (actually co-inventor) of the RPG was not some Otacon from Japan drawing androgynous elven characters. He was an American. Continuing…

BZZT. Ouch. Now were in 1971. Gary Gygax has just invented Chainmail a war game in a fantasy setting. Chainmail is exactly what you would think a non-electronic Strategy RPG would be. However, does that make it an RPG? Well hold on my fellow fellows.

BZZT. Owee. Now it's 1974 and madman Gary Gygax has done it again! He's modified Chainmail to include real role-playing elements. Players can now talk to the Ogre they're about to kill or leave behind the boring guy everyone wishes the new guy hadn't invited. And so, Dungeons and Dragons — the first RPG — was born.

BZZT. Arg. We're back. You can now see how a battle engine from war games evolved into the RPG. So, returning to the Strategy RPG — which pretty much just a battle engine with a bit of conversation — is it an RPG. Why yes! But only because it's a video strategy rpg.

From the previous articles you learned two important facts :

  • You can't really role-play in a video RPG and
  • The only thing video RPGs and the original RPGs have in common is their battle system, which, for the last time, determines results by random rolls weighted by stats.

Strategy RPGs meet the only requirement for a video RPG to be an RPG — it has an RPG battle engine. Therefore Strategy RPGs are … video RPGs.

I'm not done here. In the next article, entitled, How Make Video Sports Fans Cry I will show you … how to make video sports fans cry. I'm just kidding. It is my greatest hope that this is the last article in the series. :)


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