Over the past few years most of my friends have been the people in the SciFi club at college. Most of these people know the basic ideas of role playing even if they don't actually play. Recently, however, I have been spending a lot of time around people who don't know what a pen and paper RPG is. I usually try and fail to explain what RPGs are to them so I think I will dedicate a few posts to that goal.
The basic idea of pen and paper role playing games is the same as the games we used to play as little kids. You know those games, the ones where you pretended to be space men or princesses or wizards or sometimes normal people just someone who wasn't you. When we are little we all love to pretend to be someone else so we do, a lot of times we are encouraged to do this. At some point though it stops. We are discouraged from spending so much time in idle fantasy and start playing games with clearly defined limits and squares and rules.
(Now I won't say that role playing games aren't like that at all or that all different games/groups/scenarios are the same. This post is really just about the general idea behind the games I will probably get into more of the particulars in later posts in this series.)
Role playing games are a chance to break the mold, to BE that wizard/princess/spaceman/other person again. Of course since we are older we have to make some boundaries so that we don't spend all our time arguing about whether our spell or attack was effective on our opponent. There are rules set out in advance either by some company that made the game or by the person who is running the game.
So the end result is that you can pretend to be pretty much whatever you want and usually pretend to fight monsters or evil scientists or something (as I said I will have more on the mechanics of RPGs at a later date.) The best part is probably hanging out with friends while doing it but the games themselves are pretty dang fun if you have the imagination to go with it.