To further clarify what really goes on during a RPG game, read the following example. This is typical of the sort of action that occurs during a playing session. Shortly before this example begins, three player characters fought a skirmish with a wererat (a creature similar to a werewolf but which becomes an enormous rat instead of a wolf). The wererat was wounded and fled down a tunnel. The characters are in pursuit. The group includes two fighters and a cleric.
Fighter 1 is the group's leader.
DM You've been following this tunnel for about 120 yards. The water on the floor is ankle deep and very cold. Now and then you feel something brush against your foot. The smell of decay is getting stronger. The tunnel is gradually filling with a cold mist.
Fighter 1 I don't like this at all. Can we see anything up ahead that looks like a doorway, or a branch in the tunnel?
DM Within the range of your torchlight, the tunnel is more or less straight. You don't see any branches or doorways.
Cleric The wererat we hit had to come this way. There's nowhere else to go.
Fighter 1 Unless we missed a hidden door along the way. I hate this place; it gives me the creeps.
Fighter 2: We have to track down that wererat. I say we keep going.
Fighter 1: OK. We keep moving down the tunnel. But keep your eyes open for anything that might be a door.
DM Another 30 or 35 yards down the tunnel, you find a stone block on the floor.
Fighter 1 A block? I take a closer look.
DM It's a cut block, about 12 by 16 inches, and 18 inches or so high. It looks like a different kind of rock than the rest of the tunnel.
Fighter 2 Where is it? Is it in the center of the tunnel or off to the side?
DM It's right up against the side.
Fighter 1 Can I move it?
DM (checking the character's Strength score) Yeah, you can push it around without too much trouble.
Fighter 1 Hmmm. This is obviously a marker of some sort. I want to check this area for secret doors. Spread out and examine the walls.
DM (rolls several dice behind his rule book, where players can't see the results): Nobody finds anything unusual along the walls.
Fighter 1: It has to be here somewhere. What about the ceiling?
DM You can't reach the ceiling. It's about a foot beyond your reach.
Cleric Of course! That block isn't a marker, it's a step. I climb up on the block and start prodding the ceiling. DM (rolling a few more dice): You poke around for 20 seconds or so, then suddenly part of the tunnel roof shifts. You've found a panel that lifts away.
Fighter 1 Open it very carefully.
Cleric I pop it up a few inches and push it aside slowly. Can I see anything?
DM Your head is still below the level of the opening, but you see some dim light from one side.
Fighter 1: We boost him up so he can get a better look.
DM OK, your friends boost you up into the room . . .
Fighter 1 No, no! We boost him just high enough to get his head through the opening.
DM OK, you boost him up a foot. The two of you are each holding one of his legs. Cleric, you see another tunnel, pretty much like the one you were in, but it only goes off in one direction. Thee's a doorway about 10 yards away with a soft light inside. A line of muddy pawprints leads from the hole you're in to the doorway.
Cleric Fine. I want the fighters to go first.
DM As they're lowering you back to the block, everyone hears some grunts, splashing, and clanking weapons coming from further down the lower tunnel. They seem to be closing fast.
Cleric Up! Up! Push me back up through the hole! I grab the ledge and haul myself up. I'll help pull the next guy up. (All three characters scramble up through the hole.)
DM What about the panel?
Fighter 1 We push it back into place.
DM It slides back into its slot with a nice, loud "clunk." The grunting from below gets a lot louder.
Fighter 1 Great, they heard it. Cleric, get over here and stand on this panel. We're going to check out that doorway.
DM Cleric, you hear some shouting and shuffling around below you, then there's a thump and the panel you're standing on lurches.
Cleric They're trying to batter it open!
DM (to the fighters) When you peer around the doorway, you see a small, dirty room with a small cot, a table, and a couple of stools. On the cot is a wererat curled up into a ball. Its back is toward you. There's another door in the far wall and a small gong in the corner.
Fighter 1 Is the wererat moving?
DM Not a bit. Cleric, the panel just thumped again. You can see a little crack in it now.
Cleric Do something quick, you guys. When this panel starts coming apart, I'm getting off it.
Fighter 1 OK already! I step into the room and prod the wererat with my shield. Whathappens?
DM Nothing. You see blood on the cot.
Fighter 1 Is this the same wererat we fought before?
DM Who knows? All wererats look the same to you. Cleric, the panel thumps again. That crack is looking really big.
Cleric That's it. I get off the panel, I'm moving into the room with everybody else.
DM There's a tremendous smash and you hear chunks of rock banging around out in the corridor, followed by lots of snarling and squeaking. You see flashes of torchlight and wererat shadows through the doorway.
Fighter 1 All right, the other fighter and I move up to block the doorway. That's the narrowest area, they can only come through it one or two at a time. Cleric, you stay in the room and be ready with your spells.
Fighter 2 At last, a decent, stand-up fight!
DM As the first wererat appears in the doorway with a spear in his paws, you hear a slam behind you.
Cleric I spin around. What is it?
DM The door in the back of the room is broken off its hinges. Standing in the doorway, holding a mace in each paw, is the biggest, ugliest wererat you've ever seen. A couple more pairs of red eyes are shining through the darkness behind him. He's licking his chops in a way that you find very unsettling.
Cleric Aaaaarrrgh! I scream the name of my deity at the top of my lungs and then flip over the cot with the dead wererat on it so the body lands in front of him. I've got to have some help here, guys.
Fighter 1 (to Fighter 2) Help him, I'll handle this end of the room. (To DM) I'm attacking the wererat in the first doorway.
DM While Fighter 2 is switching positions, the big wererat looks at the body on the floor and his jaw drops. He looks back up and says, "That's Ignatz. He was my brother. You killed my brother." Then he raises both maces and leaps at you.
At this point a ferocious melee breaks out. The DM uses the combat rules to play out the battle. If the characters survive, they can continue on whatever course they choose.From GitHub (greg Borenstein)