What is a Role-Playing Game?
Epic Path is a tabletop role-playing game (RPG) of high heroics set in a fantastic land of magic, monsters, sinister plots, ancient evils, and terrible secrets. Players will interact with their game-master to weave a complex story of brave heroes facing these threats.
Role playing games are a bit like playing cops and robbers as a kid, in that each player takes on a persona and describes their actions based on how that persona reacts to the situations within the story. The persona of a player's character need not be anything like the personality of the player themselves. In fact, a great deal of the fun of Epic Path, and role-playing games in general, is playing a character that is quite unlike you, capable of making dangerous choices and facing the consequences without flinching.
While there is no technical limit to the number of players that can play a game of Epic Path, it is generally easiest to play with a group between three and six players. One player takes on the role of the game master, or GM, who describes the world in which the player's characters navigate.
Each player creates a persona, called a player character (also called a PC, a hero, or just a "character"), which has their own goals, personality quirks, mannerisms, vices, and morality, and then describes the actions of that hero within their part of the story.
Players are encouraged to use accents, funny voices, or odd mannerisms to make their characters feel unique, and distinct from the player, and the other characters in the game. The more lively and entertaining the character is, often the more fun everyone will have. However, it is possible to take this too far. It is important to give everyone else at the table a chance to describe how their own characters are reacting to situations as well.
While witty banter, haggling with devious merchants, and taunting the villain before a fight begins are all extremely important to a successful game, combat, and other situations in which risk is involved, is abstracted through a set of rules and dice rolls. Once you've learned how these rules work, the dice rolls can add an element of unpredictability to the story, creating exciting moments of near-disasters being overcome at the last second by making a risky choice, and having a little luck fall your way. Players should use the rules of the game to resolve encounters, whether a sword fight in the middle of a burning art gallery, or trying to sneak past a bunch of sleeping ogres without waking them. Players describe their actions, and may even detail the sounds of their blades meeting the scaly hide of some terrible beast, or their grunts of pain as they suffer a terrible wound, but it's probably best not to physically act these scenes out. We don't want anyone getting hurt.
Characters in Epic Path can have almost any background, from a mundane peasant who took up a sword because no one else would stand up to the raiders who attacked their village, to a scholarly elf who will gleefully launch arcane devastation upon anyone who would dare interrupt their studies, to a mysterious Vanx orphan covered in eerie runes carved directly into their flesh. Each character is as unique as the humans here on our world, but these characters all have one thing in common -- they are heroes. Heroes in Epic Path carry a spark of potential, which allows them to surpass their fellows, ascending to levels of staggering power, and possibly even into a kind of demi-godhood. They are the sorts of people about whom songs are sung, and books are written to chronicle their deeds. They are no mere bystanders or bit players, whose names are barely worth remembering. They are heroes!
Of course, heroes aren't always charming, or good natured. Not every hero will go out of their way to save someone in peril. They may be so self-centered that they cannot think past how they will acquire their next meal, or fatten their purse a bit more. It is entirely up to you how your hero interacts with the world around them, although it would be a good idea not to stray too far from the morality of your fellow player characters, or you'll find you spend more time fighting each other than discovering the threats and opportunities of adventure.
One of the players takes on the role of the game master. The game master doesn't create a hero for themselves. Instead, they describe all of the other people in the world as the players meet them -- the odd villagers who stare askance as the heroes walk through their town, the conniving nobleman who belongs to a secret cult, the devout priest who counsels the players with words of wisdom. These individuals are called Non-Player Characters (or NPC's, for short). The game master also describes the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings of the world -- a fine meal at a celebratory banquet, the smell of the horses who are lathered after a hard gallop through a forest, the soft buzzing of a pixie's wings. The game master is the narrator and moderator of the world.
The GM is the arbiter of the rules, and the final judge on what can and cannot be done. This puts them in a position of great power. They can create scenarios and encounters that the heroes could never hope to defeat, but they shouldn't. Instead, the art of being a GM is to create encounters and scenarios which push the characters to the edges of their endurance, tests the limits of their wits, and tease the very fabric of their morals. When the heroes played by your players are pushed to their limits, and emerge triumphant anyway, you'll witness the real joy of role-playing. These are often the moments fondly spoken of, even years later.
The game master is also responsible for defining one or more villains, beings who seek to achieve some goal which only the players can stop, and which will have dire consequences for the players, and perhaps the entire world, if they aren't stopped. All heroes are measured by the quality of their villain, so game masters must make their villains as crafty, devious, and horrible as they can. However, game masters should remember that their villain is supposed to fail. The game master doesn't lose the game if their villain is slain or forced to run away from the heroes. In fact, the measure of a successful GM is how much fun they and their players have in finally managing to beat the villain. Taking down the villain of an Epic Path game should be similar to the climax of a great action movie, or the end of a high fantasy novel.
And before the players can get to the villain, they need to discover the plot, navigate past henchmen, solve mysteries and puzzles, and finally hunt them down. Perhaps the villain is locked away in an impenetrable fortress that the heroes must sneak in to, fighting their way through dozens of guards, traps, and monsters before facing the final fight. Or perhaps the villain is right in front of them the whole time, a member of the nobility with a seat on the king's council.
Weaving a story, creating complications, introducing interesting side characters, whether cretinous or noble, and describing the sights and sounds of the world, this is the job of the GM. If it sounds like a lot of work, it can be. But it can also be the most rewarding role of the game.
Winners and Endings
No one really wins or loses a role-playing game. The entire purpose is to have fun, share some great moments, be social with your friends, and create elaborate stories in which each player contributed something meaningful and fun. Even if a character should die through some mishap or misstep, that player hasn't lost the game, per se. They can start a new character, with a new personality and different abilities, and continue to play. Hopefully, their last character died for some meaningful reason, and hopefully, their new character will bring a different perspective to the group.
Role-playing games aren't something that can (usually) be started and finished in an afternoon, but rather they are played with the same players over many afternoons or evenings (often called "game sessions"). Over the course of each session, the players may face one or more battles, interact with several important (or not-so-important) non-player characters, and perhaps move closer to the climactic scene that will resolve the current plot-line. Sometimes a game will end after just a few sessions, once a single story is told, and the players bring the plot to some resolution. Other games can span dozens of sessions, played over several years, bringing the same group of friends back to the table regularly, to continue the adventures of their beloved heroes. Such long-term games are usually referred to as campaigns, and often feature numerous story lines, like a series of books or movies. Even though the heroes may reach the conclusion of one plot line, their adventures continue, as new challenges arise to threaten them.
Player vs. Player
Sometimes, in books or movies, heroes can have a rivalry among themselves, and sometimes that rivalry leads to fighting. Often, in such stories, these fights just end up with a few bloody noses, scuffed knuckles, and a deeper camaraderie between the people who exchanged blows.
Epic Path won't really work like that. If two or more player characters decide to start attacking each other, the fight will be brutal, short, and someone is almost certainly going to die. While the rules will certainly allow characters to attack each other, you will find that such battles are won by the first person to roll high enough to hit the other person. Player characters do a lot of damage compared to how much damage they can take, meaning that one or two hits from another character is likely enough to kill a PC. It won't be cinematic, it won't be poetic, and dead characters don't tend to find their friendships growing stronger, post-murder.
Fighting among a party of player characters, in addition to not being very satisfying from a game perspective, can also lead to some real-life arguments at a gaming table. As a player plays their character, over the course of many gaming sessions, perhaps even years of such sessions, they tend to become fond of the character and develop a personal attachment to their story. They want their character to succeed, become a great hero, and generally have adventures that they can fondly talk about years later. When that character dies, players can get genuinely upset. If the character dies because of a fellow player deciding it would be funny to murder them, it can become the sort of thing that damages friendships. It may sound silly, since this is just a game, but please take a moment to consider the feelings of your friends before you start flipping out and killing their characters over some frivolous thing.
In general, it is recommended that player characters never attack other player characters. Even if there is a rivalry, or even enmity, that develops between characters, it's almost always better for the gaming group's overall enjoyment of the game to abstract a brawl with skill checks, instead of damage rolls. Once you start rolling damage and subtracting hit points, you'll find that the game changes. In most cases, whatever story the GM meant to run for their campaign will come to an abrupt end, as the party loses a member or two.
In the worst case, you might make yourself unwelcome at the gaming table, or even permanently offend a friend or two.
New players may want to review the Combat page for a general overview of the rules surrounding combat encounters. Or, you can just dive into character creation, by following the directions on the Character Creation page. If you choose a class which uses spells (or extracts, or poultices), you may also want to review the Spells page for rules on how spell casting works.