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This is based on the Terminology section of our Standards pages on RPG Research in trying to standardize the language of all our literature. As with all our content, consider them Requests for Comments (RFCs).
Consistent Documentation Using the Following Professional Standardized Language
Tabletop as one word (transformed from table top in late 1700s and standardized to tabletop by early 1800s).
Role-playing as hyphenated. This may change in future decades, but this is the current consistent English language form.
Following the Hawkes-Robinson RPG Model, larp is a subset of LRPG.
Since 2012, larp as a word rather than the acronym LARP, since the Oxford English Dictionary update in 2012.
The Debate continues in pop-culture circles, but the Certified Role-Playing Game Professional standards are very clear about the consistency of correct usage.
Why make these distinctions? Why does it matter?
Clarity of language, reduce confusion, efficiency, clarifying the RPG model and theories. Lots of reasons.
RPG Research's founder has been involved with role-playing games since the mid-1970s. Originally RPG only meant the tabletop game "Dungeons & Dragons". But then as computer games, live-action games, and solo adventure books and modules were created based on RPG components, using the term "RPG" began to create confusion.
This seems to have a very strong cohort effect to. What you were "raised around" as popular or in the media at the time seems to impact heavily (not really surprising).
When presenting at mostly professional and academic non-gamer (though sometimes gamer/fandom) conferences/conventions, we often have a slide that asks "What do you think of when you see the term: 'Role-Playing Game'" (or just RPG).
- Older members generally mentioned tabletop games like D&D. (RPG or TRPG).
- Slightly younger members usually describe LRPGs (though they often don't know to use larp or any other term), and had always assumed _that_ was RPG. (LRPG or larp).
- And the rest tend to associate it with electronic role-playing game variants. (ERPG with CRPG as a subset) See: https://www.rpgresearch.com/news/add-erpg-place-above-crpg
- Sometimes someone will mention a solo adventure book/module like Choose Your Own Adventure (TM), Middle-earth Quest, or others. (SABM).
- And still others conflate variations of the above together, or non-RPGs, thus the hybrid format (HRPG).
TRPG = Tabletop Role-playing game.
While some people prefer to use Pen and Paper role-playing game, that seems a much less oft used term than tabletop role-playing game, all the way back to the 1970s. Often those same people will say the very long "pen and paper tabletop role-playing game" (PPTRPG?). Phew!
Until recently, it seemed pretty standard to use TRPG, but in the last few years, for some strange reason an increasing number of people are starting to use TTRPG with 2 Ts. Why?
TTRPG or TRPG? One Word or Two? Etymology?
When we reference the original role-playing game format, adjective before noun. Noun = role-playing game, adjective is the type of RPG: tabletop.
Table top has been found used as one word "Tabletop" since 1751
Tabletop is one word since about 1810, we do not use TTRPG.
So, since Tabletop is one work, we use a single T.
We also often refer to just RPG as synonymous to TRPG (when used in correct context) since it is the original RPG format.
Another reason to use a single T instead of TTRPG, it just shorter and easier to say aloud, with one less syllable, and as far as we know there is no need to add a 5th letter to the acronym to help make it distinctive from another form of TRPG that may be causing confusion.
So we are following a logical approach, whether or not a popular approach. Would be happy to standardize on TTRPG if logical reasons are presented.
So in summary, to date we are unable to find any legitimate reason for using TTRPG over TRPG. If you disagree or have examples that would illustrate otherwise, please (politely) comment, and we will consider your suggestions accordingly.
Otherwise, for all RPG Research content (and it would be nice if other folks would too), please try to standardize all literature to use TRPG and not TTRPG, if nothing else you are saving a lot of keystrokes, paper, bits, and syllables that are unnecessarily wasted if you use two Ts. :)
I know this is just a little niggling thing, but it does have impact for professionals presenting, speaking, writing, etc. I am not saying it is easy to sway popular thinking either. And in relation to the much more important battles we have been fighting and need to keep doing so, it is really a small thing.
Many respond with "well it is becoming popular culture, most pop culture I know is now saying TTRPG, so they must be right", but if that approach is true, than rather than going through the extra effort of slowly educating the popular culture to correct their mistaken assumptions, using research, outreach, advocacy,, etc., we should all just not bother and sit idly by and accept the following as true about RPGs as well, since this is still very much thought to be so by the general public:
- "D&D/RPG will make you commit suicide."
- "D&D/RPG will make you commit murder." see here for recent example this month.
- "D&D/RPG will make you more violent in real life."
- "D&D/RPG players have no meaning to their life."
- "D&D/RPG will lead you to the occult and devil worship."
- "D&D/RPG will lead you away from [insert religious system]."
- "D&D/RPG is only for people with no social skills, and will make you anti-social'' (in the layman use of the term).
- "D&D/RPG players are all dorks, nerds, geeks, and losers that that can't succeed in real life and live in their mother's basement."
- "Gamers are all male, there aren't any female RPGers."
- See the long list of examples here.
The list can go on. These are all very much entrenched in the popular culture psyche, and only in recent years has the media started to help slowly turn this around, which will likely take another generation or more at least to turn around.
Again, I agree this is a little thing compared to everything else. It is just a little pet peeve of mine. But it would really help with a lot of work to be able to just list RPG or TRPG, rather than have to keep including RPG/TRPG/TTRPG, or TRPG/TTRPG, and TTRPG. I think there is no chance for just RPG anymore, but with languages tendency to prefer simpler (and lazier) solutions such as acronyms, hopefully a nudge to drop the extra syllable when spoken, and the extra letter when written, will be possible. If not. Not that big a deal, but I'll still be picking nits at it. :-)
Comments from other sources:
Twitter: @tabletopduck: "I think it just comes down to phonetics. Tabletop is a portmanteau, and I've never seen it without the second T." 20190316.
Twitter: @JenHott: "I figured it was Therapeutic Tabletop RPGs, but I could be mistaken if you've seen it in general RPG sources..." 20190316
Twitter: @pedr: "TT feels right to me as the initials for tabletop - even though I write tabletop as one unhyphenated word it is a compound so giving it two letters seems right."
If you enter "table top" instead of "tabletop" all of these sites will redirect the former to the latter.