No, but don't leave yet!
It seems that a number of people come to this site thinking that they've found computer roleplaying games. Many of them write and sound quite enthusiastic, until they find out these are "pen and paper" rpgs. That's typically the last I hear from them. Now, this is just my opinion, and I'm obviously biased, but I think that's a shame. If you like computer rpgs, there's an excellent chance you'll like traditional rpgs even more.
In a column over at RPGNet (see link at the index), Jeff Freeman refers to the range of choices in crpgs as amounting to going through the door now or standing around for a while and then going through the door. Crpgs don't have a whole lot of roleplaying in them. In traditional rpgs your character has as many choices as a person in the real world, and rather than being a dry collection of abilities and skills, he has a complete personality that you give him.
I like crpgs, they can be fun. They've definitely got traditionals beat when it comes to flashy graphics and sound effects. However, they can't tell a story or accomodate character personality like a pen and paper can. They also can't compete with the sights and sounds that a traditional rpg will call forth from your imagination. A computer is a glorified word processor, you think it can compete with your mind?!
If you're dead-set on finding a crpg today, I wish you luck but you'll have to look elsewhere. If you'd like to try something new, though, read the "Roleplaying" section of this page and see if anything catches your eye. If you need any help getting started I'm just a quick email away.
The entire text of both games is provided online, so you can check them out before you go to the bother of downloading them. If you decide you're interested, go to the "Downloads" page. Both games are available in .doc, .wpd, and .txt format, you can download them to read through your word processor or print out.
If you download Alternacy, you need to be aware that the game's charts are not included in those files. The "Downloads" page contains links to the charts, you'll need to follow the links and print the charts directly off the web. There's a similar link to a character sheet as well.
Now, if you're asking "How do I start to actually play a game?", that's a tougher question. I've been asked that before and have come up with a standard response. It's pretty huge and it's a very basic introduction to running a game, but if you think it would help email me and I'll send it to you.
Well, none that Iím a part of. My job is just to design these systems and make them available for you to play however you like. You can run them as face to face rpgs, play by (e)mails, play by post, or online chat games. I'd like to believe there are people running online games, but due to time constraints I am unable to.
Slowly but surely, I'm trying to build one. The Registry page isnít specifically for that purpose, but it can be used to help people form games. Check there to see if anyone is listed from your location. Also, it might be a good idea to add yourself to the list. You can include your email address so people can contact you, and I'd be happy to mention that you were interested in some sort of online game as well. See the page to get an idea what it's like.
Someday, I may just get around to writing a gigantic, brilliant essay on the meaning of roleplaying. Footnotes, references, astounding insights, the whole nine yards. For now, though, if you've wound up here you probably already know everything you'll ever need to about the hobby. With that in mind, I'll keep this brief for any beginners who've wandered in, and all of you vets can skip ahead. Unless, of course, you want to read yet another ode to gaming.
Roleplaying is organized daydreaming. Basically, you give a structure to the fantasies that exist in your imagination, you take them out of the chaos and subjectivity of your own head and wrap them around a set of rules. I would imagine that just about everyone who's sane engages in fantasies of one type or another. They're fun, they kill some time, and they're usually vastly more interesting than whatever you're supposed to be doing at the moment. But they have some weaknesses. For one thing, they often don't have a lot of continuity, they skip around in time and mutate as you come up with new ideas. Another problem is that you always have a little too much control over how things turn out. There's rarely any real doubt that you'll succeed one way or another, so you can't really get excited wondering what's going to happen next. Fantasies are fun, but they don't exactly leave you with a sense of accomplishment. Finally, they're a bit lonely. Your friends aren't there to see your amazing adventures, and, fantasies being what they are, you probably don't feel much like telling them about it later.
That's where roleplaying comes in. It takes what's in your mind and transforms it from a daydream into a story. The characters have adventures, make friends and enemies, and carry on their daily lives just like the characters in a book or movie. Unlike books and movies, an element of randomness is added; you can never be certain what's going to happen next, and wanting to succeed at something is no guarantee that you will. Roleplaying is also a shared experience, where two or more people join together to create the characters and story. When you look at it's various aspects, roleplaying is a blend of traditional story telling, improvisational theater, and strategy gaming. It mixes these elements up to create a unique experience.
In it's basic form, roleplaying requires players and referees. Players take on the role of one (sometimes more than one) character in an imaginary world, called a Player Character (PC). The rules of the game being played are used to quantify the player character's abilities and attributes; is the character strong, smart, good with weapons, or an amazing pilot? Players try to create characters with qualities they'd like to imagine having in the game. In a traditional fantasy world, a player can make a nimble elf who is an experienced outdoorsman and an incredible archer, but who is shy in social situations. In a science fiction setting, a character might be a starship engineer, a farm girl who has a natural facility with technology and is willing to wander light years from home just to have a vessel of her own. A player comes up with the idea for a character and defines the details that give it life, and the rules quantify the player's vision.
Referees are responsible for everything else. No joke! The ref is the narrator of the world in which the game is set. He decides what the weather is like, what the terrain looks like, and so on. As players run player characters, the ref runs Non-Player Characters (NPC's); this means he's responsible for every person or critter the PC's run into, from mayors to street sweepers to dragons. The ref tells the players what their characters see, smell, hear, taste and touch, he plays the role of the bartender who tells them rumors and the robot that tries to kill them. Refs are responsible for creating an entire world for the characters to run around in. It's also their job to give the PC's a chance to do something interesting in that world, to turn it into the backdrop for a great story.
The player experiences the referee's imaginary world through the senses of his or her PC. Once the players know what's going on, they decide what they want their characters to do as though the characters were real people. It's important that players treat their characters as though they were real. If a player knows information that a character doesn't (such as the location of a missing comrade), the player needs to make decisions based on what the character knows, not what the player knows. Also, separating a player's personality from a character's is important; if a basically nice person is playing a nasty character, the player needs to make decisions that reflect the character's personality rather than his or her own.
Then the players tell the ref what their characters want to do, and the ref uses the rules to figure out if they're successful. Most games use dice to do this. The ref takes into account the difficulty of the attempted action and the attributes of the character who is trying to perform the action, and determines the likelihood of success. Dice are rolled against that likeliness to see if the character actually succeeds, thus the game becomes more like real life and less like daydreaming. Sometimes characters accomplish what they're trying to do, sometimes they don't. Out of this interaction, the ref and players share in the creation of a story, and hopefully everybody has a grand old time!
You bet. You can find images for Alpha-Zulu and each of the games on the Resources page.