Games: RPG : Essential Elements - What makes a good RPG?

Essential Elements - What makes a good RPG?

I can think of only a few essential elements to this genre:

CHOICE
The events of the game and actions of the NPCs must be at least partially dependent on the player's choices. What makes a good choice system? For me, I like to have a little more variety than "be good or evil". And what are the best ways to balance the removal of paths based on choice with the urge to COMPLETE ALL THE THINGS?

CUSTOMIZATION
Whether its crafting the perfect cyber-cultist-blademaster with perfectly themed weapon and armor paints, or having a perfectly harmonious team of characters of different classes, races, etc... What are some really great ideas for customization and the underlying skill and stat systems that support it?

STORY
While this is not unique to RPGs, it's what sets the really good ones from the chaff. The tragedy of the Krogans...Alistair's worries about becoming king...Caesar's fatal dream of unity and power...the truth about Morte... these are some very meaningful and memorable experiences. What themes should be explored more in games to come? Any non-game franchises that might port very well to video-gaming?

Thoughts?

Re: Essential Elements - What makes a good RPG?

Choice is huge.

In a tabletop setting I generally have a ton going but I always allow the players to go with the flow. It doesn't matter if my finely honed political system is awesome, if it bores them I lose and we all lose. It's essential that there be an underlying structure though.

In an MMO or Console game, I need to be able to explore the world and basically do silly things or off-the-board stuff. I'll finish the main quest eventually...but without side stuff to learn, it's pointless. I agree on the customization aspect since I almost always have a character concept in mind and if I can't get the hair, suit, etc. down I feel really, really annoyed.

As for themes, really wish politics would be more of a thing. Skyrim had this to some degree where you could side with factions and influence stuff. Health worries (to a degree) are cool too. The people remembering what you've done, learning to use vehicles, so much out there.

Re: Essential Elements - What makes a good RPG?

I don't think customization is required to make a good RPG, but I might only think so because I considered Telltale's The Walking Dead to be a role-playing game, but it's a video game, and not all role-playing games are video games let along electronic games but often card games or board games. But customization is important for satisfying "role" play. It's nice to have some way to control the definition or characteristics of a role. Another nice thing but very much simply a bonus is an inventory system (which is like an extension of customization), and a further other is a map, a board, a set or a stage of some sort, a finite open world.

Re: Essential Elements - What makes a good RPG?

How about emphasising more *restriction* of choice, i.e., that choice is possible but difficult or biased in certain directions. And that customisation can only come about through choices made within the game and how they are supported or resisted by other players.
Characters should also be customisable, but only after one has a character allotted where choice is not involved: you get what you get and then have to work with it to make it the character you want it to be.
I don't there should be a story. The story is what happens in the game. There need to be aims, targets, obstacles, a backstory, I guess: but the full story should be what evolves in the game, with room for radical revisions if the players can swing it.
The rules have to be tight so that the "world" holds together enough to have plausibility and to have sufficient substance to withstand the strain of customisation and revision.

But I'm talking about mimicking real life really, because real life is an RPG and the escapism of playing should address the frustrations of reality.

I actually have found most RPGs I've tried to be rule-laden and cumbersome and not user-friendly to newbies - like real life, in that respect, perhaps. The game I find most intriguing, but have never been in the right group to play, is Nomic. An RPG version of Nomic would be terrific.
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