There’s a good chance you’ve already encountered at least two of the following three terms: roleplay, role-play, and role play. But which is correct? Are they interchangeable?
If you’re curious, read on. You may be able to impress your friends at your next roleplaying/role-playing/role playing experience.
If you roleplay, or engage in roleplaying, you change your behavior in keeping with a role that you adopt (play).
If you become Donner the half-elf bard for your D&D 5E game, you’re roleplaying Donner.
You can roleplay in text-based, live-action, or tabletop games.
Text-based roleplaying generally takes place online, and is synonymous with writing fiction or fanfiction with another person.
Live-action roleplaying (LARPing) involves playing a character in a game or reenactment in which you interact with other people in a face-to-face setting: you might talk, act, and even fight each other.
Tabletop roleplaying may take place at a physical table or online, and includes games like D&D 5E, Pathfinder, and RPG Battles. These games have rules that players follow, and all of them entail the rolling of dice to determine outcomes.
There are other contexts in which the term roleplay may be used, as we’ll discuss below.
There is a good argument that role-play is synonymous with roleplay. In fact, a dictionary entry for role-play at Merriam-Webster defines it as follows:
“1 :to act out the role of
“2 :to represent in action”
If that sounds familiar, that’s because it is describing the same thing: acting out a role, or representing in action.
That said, there is an argument based on the Oxford English Dictionary Online that to role-play is the correct verb form, while role-player, the third usage, is the correct form for a noun.
So, in that case we need to distinguish between roleplaying a character, and the role-playing game that character is a part of.
Following the above argument, there is a reasonable case that role player should be used to describe people who engage in role playing, that is to say they play role-playing games.
In other words, if I role play Donner the half-elf bard in my D&D 5E game, I am a role player who is role playing in a role-playing game.
Here we should note that people can be role players in contexts other than role-playing games: there is such a thing as role-play pedagogy, and it has been used in many different contexts and content areas.
Conclusion: Who Needs Roleplay When You Can Role Play in a Role-Playing Game?
If we’re going to commit to role-play as the verb form and role play as the noun form, that would apparently leave us without a home for roleplay, the first term.
But if we’re being honest, how much does it matter? After all, who needs roleplay when you can role play as a role player in a role-playing game?
And if you’re looking for a fun new role-playing game that’s also beginner-friendly, try RPG Battles.
RPG Battles has been reviewed on YouTube by Unfiltered Gamer and Better Half Reviews. You can even play the game online for free here.