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cotton, Bob; oliver, Richard


"Role playing games (RPGs) grew out of wargaming the reconstruction and simulation of battles using miniature toy soldiers, tanks, ships etc., and fought on a tabletop 'map' or model landscape and rely on the same elaborate sets of rules governing what can and cannot be done. These 'rules of engagement' specify the potential of each unit in terms of fire power, manoeuvrability etc., and dice are used to simulate the chance factors of real-life military engagements.
Spurred by the phenomenal success of JRR Tolkien's trilogy The Lord of the Rings after the paperback publication in the late 1960s, many wargamers began to add fantasy elements to their medieval battles, and rules began to appear for games including dragons, magical swords and other fantastic creatures and artifacts. In 1974, two wargamers in the United States, Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax, collaborated in the production of a fantasy wargame they called 'Dungeons and Dragons'. It became the first and probably the most popular of the role-playing games. Published as three boxed booklets by Gygax's company Tactical Studies Rules, Dungeons and Dragons was enormously successful, and became the focus for a whole industry of games, toy models, magazines and conventions. The concept has since been successfully adopted for numerous computer videogames and virtual reality environments.
By the early 1990s, the first commercial 'virtual reality' RPG, 'Legend Quest', had appeared. Designed to run on W Industries' 'Virtuality' machine, 'Legend Quest' is a VR game for four players, each of whom adopts an 'avatar' personality (or 'digidentity') a computer-generated character that the player can select and customize. A database of 18 characters is available, including a human, dwarf or elf, of either sex, each of which by profession can be a wizard, a thief or warrior. The player's moves are tracked and recorded in a database, which also keeps track of the avatar's attributes and progress. The four characters search for wealth and knowledge, and meet monsters whose responses are based on learning techniques developed in artificial intelligence research. With different human players, and different responses from the monsters they meet, the game is never played the same way twice."

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