I love RPGs (see Wikipedia if you dunno what I'm saying).
I'm always looking for gamer groups. When I get in a good one, I move away soon after by some chance of fate. Unfortunate.
Shared fantasy is an excellent high, as those who've tried it know. Comparing TV or movies to RPG'ing, I'd say the fun ratio would be something like 100 vs 1, perhaps more. And why?
On TV: viewers watch someone's conception of a character do something and sit passively and observe. Even AMAZING TV consists of this.
In RPG: players listen to an description of a time-space and a scenario. Often plot points are hinted at by a GM, but not fully revealed. Players co-create the game with the GM by pursuing what interests them or their characters. Generally all parties are surprised by the results, and can laugh later about an adventure which they took part in -- together AND in their minds. And ultimately, what is life but what we remember in our minds anyway?
The worst of role-play gaming, for me is very close to miniature war-gaming. I'm a peace-loving person, completely anti-violence. When I roleplay, I want conflict and tension for excitement, not for body count or gore. And the main focus is ACTING and PRETEND, not killing and destruction.
I feel the game tension is often in my character's survival, and often just them being true to themselves in uncomfortable situations. The focus is not in the massive destruction of my character's enemies.
Now a tribute to my favorite RPGs:
ShadowRun - Tolkien fastforwarded to the future, but this time multi-racial people count. The corporate takeover is complete, and a non-euro race successfully breaks out of the empire. Plus magic + matrix + cyberware, and some great slang that includes some actual Japanese.
Cyberpunk - Grit and tech.
Mekton - a classic where you basically do future stuff all for a chance to hop in a giant robot and fight. I always liked all the other stuff, but 90% of Mekton players just want to get in the Mech!
Traveller - non-humanoids have a chance in this space exploration classic. You don't HAVE TO kill everyone, interact, or fight. You can explore, trade, and solve mysteries while seeing amazing places.
Star Wars - Jedi vs Empire, or play rebels, pirates, or new Empire recruits, or even bounty hunters. A bit force-heavy, but a few good game sessions can be more exciting than the last 3 movies! Lucas hit the nail on the head for awhile, then blew it.
d20 Modern/Future - keep the new D&D system (3.0 or 3.5), play in the modern world, and remove most of the Tolkien stuff (unless you add in the Urban Arcana book, which takes you closer to ShadowRun or X-Files type of world). Tries to work with regular modern people, but heroes will be overpowered. Overly complex, but great art and can work ** if you don't use miniatures! ** Run the game like a storytelling game with minimal props and it works great.
Paranoia - the classic game of constant senseless conflict in a future where logic is broken and nobody knows it. The only RPG I've played repeatedly where the goal is not necessarily to survive but to have your glory moments and then die, as everyone tends to at least once.
Mage: the Ascension - I like the darkness and the flexibility of it. I wish the Vampires and Werewolves (and other misc) from the other White Wolf games would go away. The new Mage: the Awakening, doesn't impress me at all.
Dragonstar - a good attempt at magic scifi. A feuding galaxy ruled by warring dragon empires. Yeah, that's the bad part. Pretty good attempt at magic and tech mixing, deadly firefights, and 'soul-mech' characters allow droids with personality.
Red Star - amazing art, but I'm not sure about the world or the game. Based on the amazing comic of the same name, Red Star has some neat ideas, but seems like the backdrop is constant war. Could be like a Robotech style setting, except an Eastern totalitarian regime instead of vaguely Japanese military one. Sounds pretty good!
Fading Suns - great idea, but the game is dry. Religious scifi future, everyone is somehow related to some deity. Bogs down.
Polyhedron (Dungeon Mag) supplements with Dark Sun & Iron Lords of Jupiter
ShadowRun - I love these issues.
Dark Sun is D&D set on a desert planet, most action taking place in evil city-states controlled by a corrupt leader. Battle for survival, and survival ain't that great.
Iron Lords of Jupiter is more of a 'John Carter on Mars' type of tale, with a super example of humanity travelling to another planet to adventure.
Genres/settings I DON'T love include:
Dungeons & Dragons & Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Mostly I don't love these b/c there's a lot of implied racism in Tolkien-esque stuff, everything's Euro-centric, and for me as a Jew it rubs me the wrong way. But I've played many hours in both game worlds and similar ones, and gotta give props to the core genre of them all.
There's also a new creative/collaborative style of RPGs where the rules and space are formed as part of the games, in a team. I haven't played yet, but they sound great and I can list some names:
Universalis - a free form game designed to work in all genres.
Prime Time Adventures
I am excited how the 'in-person' RPG world will evolve. Computer RPG'ing will never stop growing, particularly since it's addictive, profitable, and can be done anywhere there's a computer ... but the face-to-face has it's own unique rewards.