[RPG] a “trad game”

terminology

Having come across this term here for the first time, I wonder what it actually decribes. Is it a (pejorative) umbrella term for "conventional" rpgs as opposed to "storytelling"/"narrative-driven" games? That's at least what I've deduced.

Best Answer

It is indeed a new term used to describe conventional, normal RPGs in the "traditional" tabletop RPG format as opposed to newfangled indie games. It is not pejorative in nature, though it is used a little grudgingly as it mainly exists to distinguish "games that work like most every RPG ever as opposed to whatever crazy new variation you've come up with" in Internet discussions.

A trad game likely has:

  • strongly differentiated GM and player roles
  • task resolution via dice against skills, ability scores, or other metrics
  • some basic nod to realistic simulation of the game world
  • character advancement
  • other stuff common to most RPGs ever made

D&D, GURPS, Rolemaster, and the vast majority of games published before the year 2000 are trad games. (Notable exception: Amber Diceless Roleplay). There are many new "trad" games too, from Savage Worlds to Eclipse Phase, that bring new genres or systems to gaming but stay within the traditional tabletop RPG format.

There is no clear legalistic differentiation between trad and indie. Most would say that the White Wolf Storyteller system, though it had initial aspirations to being narrative, is in retrospect a completely trad system. However, many new games have some aspects of traditional RPGs but innovate in one or a couple ways - there's no real clear "this crosses the line" criteria, it's more an attribute of self identification by the game's creator(s).