meaning and definition

Jump to section

    What is a PC in a roleplaying game?

    PC stands for “player character.” It’s a character in a roleplaying game controlled by a player, as opposed to an NPC (non-player character), which is controlled by the game master or the game itself.

    PCs are central to the game’s plot and are the avatars through which players interact with the game world and each other. They are often detailed with their own backstories, abilities, and motivations, which are crafted by the players themselves.

    The concept of the PC is as old as roleplaying itself, stemming from early tabletop and text-based games where players assumed the roles of specific characters in a narrative.

    This personal approach to gaming allows players to experience the story from the perspective of their character, making decisions that shape the story’s direction and outcome.

    NOTE: This definition of PC is not to be confused with the other kind of PC in gaming: a personal computer.

    PC FAQs

    How do PCs differ from NPCs?

    PCs are designed and controlled by players, allowing for personalization and growth according to the player’s decisions and game outcomes. In contrast, NPCs are controlled by the game master or the game’s programming, serving as characters that fill out the world, provide information, or act as allies or antagonists.

    Can a game have more than one PC?

    Yes, most roleplaying games are designed to accommodate multiple player characters, allowing for a group of players to experience and influence the game’s story together. Each player controls their own PC. This collaborative aspect is fundamental to the social experience of roleplaying games and is part of what makes them so enjoyable.

    How do players create a PC?

    Players create a PC through a character creation process, which typically involves selecting attributes like race, class, skills, and personal background. This process varies greatly depending on the game’s rules and setting.

    For example, in a tabletop game played in person, players might create their PCs by physically writing on paper and filling out a character sheet. In an online text-based game, players might go through a chargen menu or type up an application.

    Can a PC die in a game?

    Yes, depending on the game’s rules and the narrative, PCs can face mortal danger, and player decisions can lead to their character’s death. However, the treatment of death varies widely among different roleplaying games.

    In a hack-and-slash game, for example, death usually isn’t permanent. In contrast, death often is permanent in roleplaying-intensive games that feature high stakes and harsh consequences.

    See: Investment, stakes, and conflict in RPIs.

    Myths about PCs

    A common myth is that player characters are always heroes of the story. While many roleplaying games are designed around the concept of the PCs as protagonists, they can take on a wide range of roles, from antiheroes to ordinary people caught in extraordinary circumstances.

    The role of a PC is not fixed and can vary greatly depending on the game and the decisions made by the player.

    PC examples

    • In a fantasy roleplaying game, a PC could be a dwarven warrior with a vendetta against a particular clan of orcs.
    • In a science fiction setting, a PC might be a pilot exploring uncharted space and forming alliances with alien species.
    • In a detective mystery game, a PC could be a private investigator solving crimes while battling personal demons.
    • In a post-apocalyptic world, a PC might be a survivor searching for family members while adapting to new societal norms.

    Related terms

    Related content

    Smiling blonde woman wearing glasses.
    About the author

    Andruid is a writer, roleplayer, storyteller, and nerd who tries to live by Bill and Ted wisdom, i.e. "Be excellent to each other."