Image: "Out of my mind" by Tim White
Imaginary worlds offer escape from reality. Sometimes this is a good thing.
Role playing is assuming the role of a character and becoming part of a story. This means one can be whatever one wants; a dwarf or a giant, a powerful magician or a powerless peasant. All these choices are fun to role play as every character (every role) has its charm. Role playing does not always have a medieval/magical setting. There are stories that take place in the future or the distant past or even the present.
The original role playing platform is the tabletop game. There are many systems but the most popular and oldest is the Dungeons & Dragons (tm) system, widely known as D&D. Online people role play in more interesting ways. You can role play on IRC by simply typing in what your characters say and do in real time. You can do it over email where you get the chance to be more detailed in describing what you do and say. This is better for people who have a more narrative method. Newsgroups are similar although are not as active nowadays. Then there are chat rooms... and they're everywhere. From instant messaging applications like MSN/Yahoo messenger to Java-based world wide web forums.
I usually role played tabletop Vampire the Masquerade and AD&D 3rd edition but had to give it up now I moved from the UK to Greece. So I only RP occasionally on IRC.
There are many sub-types of role playing, the traditional types being defined by D&D. These are role playing systems that are based on dice or are diceless but are usually based on strict rules for character creation and world mechanics, like what weapons you can use and how battles take place and how magic (if it exists) works. For those who are more relaxed there is FFRP, free-form role playing where you can do more or less what you want as long as you stick to some general guidelines and don't kill off other people's characters without their permission.
So, here are some relevant links to worlds,role playing systems and chat channels:
- [Stardragon Inn] This is a FFRP channel on IRC I play in. Check out the website, it's cool :-p
- [Syree] - Another FFRP IRC channel I played in for a while. They take themselves a bit too seriously in there. They even put that little copyright sign next to everything.
- [D20-based:AD&D] The original tabletop role playing game
- [Dice-based:Vampire the Masquerade] - Another tabletop which is very somber, being a vampire game. Great atmosphere