Role Playing Games (aka RPG’s)
Role-playing games are in many ways the next step up in complexity from board games. If board games are designed as fun outlets for honing mental acuity through cognitive challenges, role playing tries to bring that to the next level by more closely reflecting life. There are typically two ends to this spectrum which reflect that same progression from focused play to more free form.
The Strategy Based RPG: This style focuses more on that side of life which involves intellectual problem solving (even if in game that is shown by doing the math that makes your barbarian a skull crushing goliath with very little mental capability). These systems are often referred to as being more ‘canned’ because the heavy usage of specific rules and settings that remove some of creative process for the players and story tellers. What it lacks in creative process it makes up for in creativity of rules usage (and rules lawyering), as characters figure out how to use the game format to maximize their character traits (min/maxing) and situational outcomes. It is typically easier to get these games off the ground because the clear lines in character creation and setting. Examples include video game RPG’s and Dungeons & Dragons.
The Role-Playing Based RPG: The systems that are said to support this style are typically less rule heavy, but require more moderation and work on the part of the story teller(s) in order to stay afloat. The focus in these games is more on the acting or story participation than on conflict resolution. These systems inspired the origination of LARPing (Live Action Role Playing: possibly due to my age, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth). These games are meant to be more personally creative and typically more character driven. Examples of these systems include to White Wolf and Shadowrun.
As Robert Burns will tell you, the best laid plans of mice and men will often go awry. In this instance, I bring it up to point out that no matter your system, it will be the players involved that determine whether the game is more strategy or character driven. The right crew will always provide a good time.