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Title: Roleplaying Relaxes Sailors

Source: The Eagle (shipboard newspaper of the U.S.S. Carl Vinson), 1999.

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Roleplaying Relaxes Sailors
by James R. Stilipec

Sailors have many different ways of dealing with the stress that comes from deployment. Some work out, others write home. A few spend their free time far away from the ship, in another world.

Role-playing is a game that lets people pretend to be a different person in a different place and time. It can be likened to improvisation or acting without a script while still being directed.

"There are a lot of misconceptions about role-playing," said Intelligence Specialist Seaman Jeffrey Parrish, "But those of us who play think it's a very intellectual game. You must be imaginative because most of it takes place in your mind."

Parrish started role-playing with his older brother as a teenager and has now been playing for nearly 12 years. "I like the escape it offers. I can stop thinking about the real world for a few hours and relax," said the Florida native.

"There are two main facets to role-playing," explained Electronics Technician 2nd Class Craig Smith. "First, the players get to make up a character and control him or her through an adventure. The Game Master (GM), or referee, controls all the other aspects of the game; The story, setting and the characters the players meet."

"The GM is the overlord of a game," said Parrish. "He takes the players through a story, and usually it doesn't go along exactly as he expected. Thinking on your feet is an important skill whether you're a player or a GM."

Players make up characters with specific statistics and abilities. Six types of dice are used to determine a character's success at a given skill.

There are many systems and settings that you can play in. Familiar games like Advanced Dungeons & Dragons put the characters into a medieval setting with knights and wizards.

Then there are more free-form game like the Generic Universal Role-Playing System (GURPS). This game lets players create any type of character in any type of setting. It allows you to play space pirates, Chinese warlords or modern-day investigators.

Fire Controlman 3rd Class Fredrick Lopez started role-playing after he came to Carl Vinson. "I was going to check my e-mail when I saw a few guys playing. I asked about the game and if they wouldn't mind me playing."

Lopez said the game can seem overwhelming at first with its many books, rules and charts, but that shouldn't deter anyone from playing. "It took some time, but eventually I got the basics down. I've been playing now for six months, and the game is relaxing," said Lopez.

Parrish explained that role-playing isn't just about rolling dice and fighting monsters. "The games often have puzzles and riddles in them. It's about being able to immerse yourself into a different world and fit the role of your character," said Parrish.

"I get a sense of accomplishment from the game," said Smith, an 18-year role-playing veteran. "It exercises the mind and pushes the limits of your imagination. When you complete an adventure with your friends you get a good feeling from working together and completing the adventure."

"I like role-playing because it's a great way to wind down after a long day," said Lopez, who works on the Phalanx Close-In Weapon System. "We play maybe twice a week or whenever enough of us can get together."

There are several role-playing groups on the ship. "If you're curious about the game, feel free to get with someone and sit in on a session. Games usually last for two or three hours," said Parrish.

"Many people don't understand role-playing," said Smith, "And what we don't understand we tend to put down or belittle. I think once they see what it's all about, they'll see it's just a game."

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