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A role-playing game is a game in which the player or players must take on and play the role of a created character. It may therefore be described as a kind of interactive fiction. Various types of role-playing game exist. They include:
- Pen and paper role-playing games or "tabletop RPGs": Several players and a referee, usually referred to as a "game master", gather around a table and play using dice, miniature figures, maps and so on. Many commercially available pen and paper role-playing games exist, the most famous being Dungeons & Dragons. Often abbreviated to "RPG".
- Live-action role-playing games: A range of games in which the participants physically play the role of their characters, and may move about the play area and interact with other players and the environment. Depending on the game, the play area may be a large room in a hired venue, someone's house, a campus, a field or even a large woodland. The sub-genre can cover everything from "Murder Mystery Weekends", to "rubber sword" battles, to real weapon use by the Society for Creative Anachronism. Re-enactment is not generally considered to be live-action role-playing. The number of players in a single game can range from a handful to several thousand. Often abbreviated to "LARP" or "LRP".
- Computer role-playing games: These are usually taken to mean single-player computer games. The player is represented in the game world by an avatar or character, and must make decisions for the character. Due to the nature of the genre and software limitations, such options will generally be limited in scope. Examples from this genre include the Final Fantasy, Ultima and Baldur's Gate series of games (the latter of which is a computerised version of the pen and paper Dungeons and Dragons game). Often abbreviated to "CRPG".
- Multi-User Dungeons: These are computer role-playing games allowing for multiple players, as the name suggests. They were some of the first online applications to be developed. Generally, they are text-based games featuring few or no graphics. Usually abbreviated to "MUD".
- Massively multiplayer online role-playing games: (MMORPGs) Computerised role-playing games, usually with well-animated graphics, allowing for thousands of simultaneous players. MMORPGs are the latest incarnation of MUDs and usually require high-end computers to play. Ultima Online was one of the first such games, and they have become incredibly popular - World of Warcraft, for instance, has over eleven million subscribers paying a monthly fee to play.