So you wanted to find out more about role playing? First off, this isn't me dressed up like Dracula walking around biting people at night speaking in some horrible accent, no no no. This also isn't some kinky roleplay thing where you get to be Helga and I am some choir boy named Boots, not just no, but hell no. There are however certain small elements of those two statements that are true. The first question I ask when explaining it is, have you ever dreamed of being an actor? Wondered what it might be like? Actors need to fit themselves into a role, to get into it, to think like that person and feel like that person, so that you as a person watching the film will truly believe for that two hours that they are the character that they are portraying. One actress can portray a timid woman that wouldn't hurt a soul much less stand up for herself and the next movie she is an action rebel that doesn't take any crap from anyone. Neither one of those personalities may be like the actress herself.
This is the idea behind role playing, to be able to control a person, a person that is not you. We can't control other people so we make one. Now here I must make a distinction. There are two kind of roleplaying. One is live action role playing which is like acting, you are potraying the charcter yourself. This way a person can experience expression and body language as part of the experience. The other type of roleplaying is call table top gaming. This type of a scenario is unlike acting however, we do not need to mimic all of the actions, all we have to do is say what our character is doing.
Here comes the big question, the one that I usually hear first. "What do you do with the character?" This is where most people think about a bunch of people walking the streets biting people. My character is on a piece of paper and a GM or Game Master will create a story or situation the that character find them selves in. Now you have to respond based on how your charcter, as a seperate individual from yourself, would react.
Let say that you are playing the timid woman that we talked about above, and yes guys you can play a woman and vice versa, this is a character not you. The GM puts you in a situation in front of a book store in San Francisco in a rough part of town, this is where your character lives. All of a sudden a car drives by with several gang member and they all pile out carring knives, bats and one of them has a gun and they start walking in her direction. Now regardless of what you would do in that situation, this woman is going run back in the bookstore or maybe just cower in fear. This is what you would be telling the GM that your character is doing. This is the essence of gaming, to "stay in character", to make sure that you make the decisions of what the character would do based on their personality and not on yours.
Now once you have made the determination that this might be something that you might want to try, there are several gaming systems that you can use. Each system has a different way of setting up the rules to make sure that the experience stays fair for all of the individuals involved and generaly speaking what type of setting you will be playing in. There are many out there and they cover settings from fantasy with dwarves and dragons, to futuristic with computers and cybernetics. One of the systems that many people have heard of is Dungeons and Dragons (commonly known as D&D). Here are a few more: GURPS, White Wolf, Rifts (or Palladium), Mechwarriors, Star Wars, Earthdawn, and Warhammer.
If you are interested and you have more questions, please send me an email and I will be more than happy to explain anything that you like. Have fun!!