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RPG Formats

by Hawke Robinson published 2019/01/08 14:42:00 GMT-7, last modified 2019-01-30T16:08:13-07:00
Terminology for Role-Playing Game Formats.

While some prefer the term form, we use the term format to define the different manifestations of role-playing games.

See the RPG Model for more information on all of the formats and their relationships. This page just provides a quick list of the most common terminology we use.

According to the RPG Model by Hawkes-Robinson (2004, 2018), there are 5 major RPG formats under the root of RPG.


Format vs. Form

Over the years since writing our first RPG Research essay in 1983, we have gone back and forth between "Form" and "Format" when referring to the different manifestations of role-playing games from tabletop, to live-action, to tabl




Role Playing, Roleplaying, versus Role-playing

We use the hyphenated term role-playing.

There are a number of arguments for using roleplaying in modern language, but this has not yet become standardized enough for consistent use. If the trend continues, we will remove the hyphen and use a single work if that becomes more pro forma standard.



RPG = Role-Playing Game

Role-playing Game. The root term, also synonymous with tabletop role-playing games originally, but different cohort populations in later years conflate with live-action role-play (LARP) or various electronic role-playing games (ERPG), or computer-based role-playing games (CRPG). We use RPG either as the root all-inclusive term, or just tabletop, depending on the sentence context.

We list the 5 formats alphabetically when in a list: ERPG, HRPG, LARP, SABM, & TRPG.

See the RPG Model diagram for further illustration.

RPG Variant Suffixes

  • RPGs = Role-playing games (noun) (plural)
  • RPGer = Role-playing gamer (noun), plural RPGers.
  • RPGing = Role-playing gaming (verb)


RPG Formats 5 Primary Variants

  • ERPG = Electronic Role-Playing Game
  • HRPG = Hybrid Role-Playing Game
  • LARP = Live-action Role-Play (Game)
  • SABM = Solo Adventures Books or Modules
  • TRPG = Tabletop Role-Playing Game


ERPG - Electronic Role-Playing Game

All role-playing games in any kind of electronic format. If it uses electrical current in some form to play the game it is likely to fall under the ERPG category unless it is a hybrid (like DUNGEON! electronic board game for example) more appropriately under HRPG.

All computer-variant RPGs are a subset of ERPG.

ERPG allows to include non-CRPG electronic RPGs such as audio cassette based RPGs, 8-track selectable RPGs, phonographic RPGs, solid-state electronics RPGs rather than integrated (computer) circuit RPGs, etc.


HRPG - Hybrid Role-Playing Game

A "catch all" for all the other variations that are either significantly overlapping the top 4 formats, or mix other products with the top 4 formats (i.e. card games, board games, etc.).


LARP - Live Action Role-Playing (game)

Should we make a further distinction between LARP and LARPg/LARPG/LRPG?

It might be arguable that Live-Action Role-Play is somewhat, or substantially, different from the more gamifed rules-structured form.

LARP training in professional settings like medical and executive settings can be Live-action Role-plays, but without the statistical numerical representations of a game. While a LARPG/LRPG has specific rules and numerical information appropriate to a game.

For now we'll use LARP interchangeably between the variants, but it is possible we may in future literature make a clearer distinction with something like LARP vs. LARPG vs. LRPG (keeping to the 4-letter acronym limit for the primary tier variants, and holding off one 5+ letter acronyms for subsets further down the chain)?

Thoughts on this?


SRPG or SABM = Solo Adventure Books / Modules (SAB / SAM)?

It is critical that all of our literature uses the correct acronym when referring to products that provide solo adventures in book or module form. DO NOT USE CYOA or "Choose Your Own Adventure" (TM) unless you are specifically referring to the specific product now owned by Chooseco. See the $25 million USD lawsuit Chooseco vs. Netflix, as just one example of a good reason to be very careful about confusing format with product.

Solo Adventure Books (SAB)

Any product in a standard book bound form that provides branching options as you read and allows for more than one ending result based on the reader's choices, not a single ending.

CYOA - Choose Your Own Adventure

This includes book format products like Chooseco's Choose Your Own Adventure (TM) which we abbreviate as CYOA which only use the book and no character sheet, maps, randomizing agent, etc. CYOA generally are not really RPGs, rather they are more like Interactive Fiction (IF) with basic branching but no real character development, customization, randomization, or other distinctive elements of RPGs. But they are a close cousin and inspired, so they are included in this category, mostly because of the other SAB and SAM variants.

"Truer" RPG Variants

SAB can also include other book-form products like AD&D, ICE Middle-earth Quest, Tolkien-Quest, etc. Which include character sheets that can be customized or at least grow and change considerably based on reader/user decisions, includes randomizing agents, maps, etc, allow for far more variant results than just the simple IF branching options of CYOA and related books.

Potentially we may want to create a clearer differentiating term and acronym between these to variants. Open to suggestions. Maybe what I used in 2004-2007 just calling it a Solo Role-playing Game for the primary format (SRPG), and then under that branch for form Solo Role-Playing Game Book (SRPGB) or Solo Book Role-Playing Game (SBRPG)?

SRPG would be differentiated from electronic and computer-based solo RPGs by their appropriate designation. For example SCRPG for solo computer-based RPG vs. SBRPG (solo book role-playing game)?

Solo Adventure Module (SAM)

Less complication or confusion with this format. These are published in classic TRPG "module" form, thin in page count, typically 8"x10" or so, etc. There might be some hardcovers of large versions available, but do those exist for solo adventures?

As far as I know there are not any CYOA style IF in this form. Anyone know otherwise?

For distinction perhaps SMRPG (solo module role-playing game), SRPGM (Solo role-playing game module)



TRPG = Tabletop Role-playing game.


TTRPG or TRPG? One Word or Two? Etymology?

When we reference the original role-playing game format, adjective before noun. Noun = role-playing game, adjective is the type of RPG: tabletop.

Table top has been found used as one word "Tabletop" since 1751

Tabletop is one word since about 1810, we do not use TTRPG.

So, since Tabletop is one work, we use a single T.

We also often refer to just RPG as synonymous to TRPG (when used in correct context) since it is the original RPG format.

Another reason to use a single T instead of TTRPG, it just shorter and easier to say aloud, and as far as we know there is no need to add a 5th letter to the acronym to help make it distinctive from another form of TRPG that may be causing confusion.

So in summary, to date we are unable to find any legitimate reason for using TTRPG over TRPG. If you disagree or have examples that would illustrate otherwise, please (politely) comment, and we will consider your suggestions accordingly.

Otherwise, please try to standardize all literature to use TRPG and not TTRPG.



If you enter "table top" instead of "tabletop" all of these sites will redirect the former to the latter.







RPG Settings & Business Sectors














Writing, Designing, Creating, Publishing

















See the section on Genre here...





Participant Role

Not to be confused with the player character roles, these are the roles that the real-life participant is in (and maybe multiples in many combinations), related to their kind of participation in the role-playing game activity.






Game Master











Player Archetype Specialist




Other more typical RPG Industry roles
























Visual Artist



Many others .....































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