This handy guide is meant to give general hints and recommendations for beginning rpg game players. I've tried to keep it generic in character, which means that you'll have to work out what applies to the game you are interested in playing. My game reviews of individual games usually contain hints of things to be particularly aware of for that game. Start with the game page for the individual reviews.
Read the manual for the RPG. Keep the points below in mind when reading it, but do read it. It should explain anything tricky about the interface, and fill you in on background stories.
There are a number of types of RPG games. A few of the key elements include combat structure, number of characters you control and if the game is meant for multiple players or a single player on one computer. Games can have either real time or turn based combats. Turn based combat is rare amongst newer games but was quite common in older games. RPGs may have a single main character or a multiple character team. An rpg may be meant for a single person to play, may be part of a MMORPG (massive multiplayer online rpg) or allow both styles of play. Choosing a game style to suit you may require trying several of these types.
In general, any role playing game will take some time to complete. You'll need to explore the world, improve your abilities, acquire good eqiupment and find the ultimate goal of the game. If the game offers levels of play, stick with easy until you get your feet wet. Some games will be fairly challenging on even the easiest of levels.
Save the game often.
RPGs may be keyboard based, mouse based (point and click) or some combination of the two.
Key interface items are:
Usually, the character you are about to play is a key part of the game. Character creation tends to be a complex set of choices and varies a lot between games. Some games either already have built the character (in Bard's Tale there is no choice of character, appearance or class) or have a set of pre-built characters (Divine Divinity you may choose: male or female; fighter, mage or thief.) Other games you will build a character including gender, class, alignment (good, neutral or evil), clothes, colours, and much more.
Early in your RPG career, fighters are a good class choice. They are stronger and easier to keep alive. Magic users will be very powerful by the end of the game, but they tend to be hard to keep alive when just starting. If you are playing a game that uses multiple character teams, you should have a mix of types. A six character team should have a couple fighters, a thief, a healer and a mage. The final tip here is that the very first character you create in a new game is likely to be a throw-away. It usually takes a bit of game experience before you can build a character that you really can work with. The same goes for pre-built characters from the game. It's a great way to get off to a fast start. But you'll have more fun with a character you build.
Character leveling is the process of increasing your character's abilities (and frequently attributes) as the character gains experience. In the vast majority of RPGs I've ever played, experience is acquired through conquering monsters and fulfilling quests. However, in the popular game Morrowind, leveling is achieved through improving the key skills for the character. The end effect is the same, a new level will allow you to distribute points to improve your character. Most games have an area in the character panel or on the main screen where you can see your progress toward the next level.
When distributing your points, make and keep long term game goals. In Neverwinter Nights, your character can eventually became one of the prestige classes, but each of those have very specific requirements that you need to fulfil. So you need to ensure you distribute points so the character is progressing toward that goal. It is generally better to concentrate your points and not spread them too much.
Save the game often. Especially just before distributing your points and after if you're positive this is what you want.
While sending a nude weaponless character out into the world may be amusing, that character will not last very long at all. How you access your inventory and how to use the items there are key points you'll need to know. Most games have some default items that may already be equipped on your character. Or at least easy to equip, since you already have them.
In most games, you can find equipment or take equipment from dead enemies or buy it from a shop. Usually early in the game, you'll have to buy equipment to get anything decent. Learn where the shops are and any specialities they have (weapon shop, armor shop, magic shop). Find out if the shop will buy anything from you, or only items related to what they sell. Key points include:
General inventory management is a large component of a successful RPG career. Games usually either have a certain number of lots of space that you can use for carrying things or a character has a weight limit (usually based on their strength). Some games use both space and weight to decide if a character can carry more. This means that you want to sell or stash items from your inventory that you don't use. Before you sell, is this item better than what you have equipped? Is there a way to improve weapons and armor (rings and amulets in Sacred can be forged by a blacksmith into certain items.)
Games in which equipment can be damaged will usually also have a way to fix it. You should fix or replace it, damaged equipment is less effective and may break in combat. I generally perfer to pay someone to fix it for me. That way it is less likely to break and I save a skill point for something other than repair.
Sometimes you'll find items that you won't be able to identify. It can be well worth getting a shop keeper to identify the item. Things that are identified can frequently be better than your current equipment. Also identification will unveil if an item carries a curse.
For most games, anything not nailed in place should be picked up to sell later. In some games, it's perfectly safe to take everything; in other games, don't steal from someone's house while they watch. It may cost you more than you expect. This is something that you need to test for any new game, save before you take anything in a town or house. If something bad happens, reload the save game. If nothing bad happens, keep playing.
The heart of the RPG is getting out into the world and doing things. This means you'll need to check your character, ready the equipment and start exploring. Take your time, the world may be on the brink of doom, but you'll have plenty of time to worry about that later.
When looking for people to talk to, if some people have names while others have generic titles (Eldarn Lionheart vs Palace Guard), talk to the people with names. They're more likely to have quests, useful information or at least something interesting to say. Some games offer conversation choices and the way an NPC (Non player character) reacts depends on which choice you make.
Quests can be short or long, with a single small goal or multiple steps. Talking to NPCs is the way to uncover and begin new quests. Other times, certain events will be set in motion once you reach an area.
Some games offer guilds or training areas. Whenever you can find such a place, you should take advantage of it. Guilds may be able to train you in specialists tasks, offer you discounts on equipment or perhaps offer you employment.
Exactly how combat is managed varies enormously from one game to the next and is something you should understand before attempting to wander far in this new world. Key things to learn about the combat system of a game.
Pausing during combat gives you time to assess the situation. Some games allow you to give orders to your character during the pause, others do not. Even if you can't give combat commands, pausing allows you to look at the opponents and decide if it is time for a stragetic retreat rather than continuing the attack.
Hot keys are the other real life saver for combat. Hot keys should allow you with a single key press to swap weapons, or drink a potion or teleport away from the battle (or whatever you assign to the keys).
Once you've survived the combat, the next question is how do I recover? You might need sleep or food or drink or potions or simply time passing. Some games even require that your character/characters rest regularly even if they aren't hurt. Others allow a character to run all day and night never stopping. Make certain you have enough health to survive at least one attack by the common area monster.
Save the game often.
Most RPGs automap as you play. They remember where you've been, perhaps flag or let you flag significant locations and generally help you orient to the world you're in. Many games have mini-maps with details of the local area.
Another thing to review in the user manual before you start the game, how do you review quest logs and the automap feature. Quest logs are massively convenient, they remember what you've promised to do. Sometimes you can also find details of previous conversations. Also some may summarize what you have accomplished so far in the game. Whenever you are puzzled about what to do next, consult the log for old unfinished quests.
Save the game often.
Did I happen to mention yet that you should save the game often? Well, you should save any time you complete a quest, find a really good item or when it would be really annoying to do something again. If you can give the saved game a good name to describe that save, you should. Don't be afraid to have many saved games before you complete the RPG, this is quite normal.