To me, the game in roleplaying game refers to activity engaged in for diversion or amusement2 a (1). Roleplaying games are like game of make-believe with some added rules structure and a set of tools to determine what happens. Dice are one of those tools. You can have an RPG without them (or without any randomizer), but I find them a useful tool to offload the decision making; running without dice is mentally taxing. Plus, the dice add variety and suspense that the players and GM may not be able to muster on their own.
The method by which the rules come about their decisions will shape the type of stories told and the type of experience the players will have. Some games are focused on the narrative aspects of crafting a compelling story. Others care more about being true to a genre and have tools built around the tropes of the genre. Some games focus more on the tactical challenges related to combat, not unlike a miniatures game or adventure board game.
While some GMs can hog screen time playing their NPCs, if the players aren’t complaining, then they are probably being entertained by it. If you question whether or not your antics are bothering them, ask them. The fact that you worry about such things is a sign that you’re a conscientious GM.
As limited humans playing without a script, I think we all fall into a few stock characters for NPCs, especially those we have to make on the fly. To break out of any ruts, you can pre-determine, perhaps randomly, some character quirk or hook (I forget the word used in the podcast) to anchor how your play the NPC. It might be helpful to have d20- or d100-based chart within easy reach or use an online resource such as Personality Generator
Regarding the use of the Tarot in character definition; one should probably mention Everway, though I’m not sure if the shiny new edition is in the shops yet. (I backed it on Kickstarter.) That makes heavy use of its own pseudo-Tarot “Fortune Deck” - all PCs are required to have a three card spread (Virtue, Fault, and Fate), and NPCs, locations, and scenarios could actually be developed from six-card spreads (which add Past, Present, and Future) or even ten-card spreads (adding Questioner, Family, Community, and External Forces), or by playing around with the Season Deck (basically the minor arcana equivalent).
I could be tempted to try using the decks to drive a campaign, especially a fantasy game, even if I was using another rule set for game play.
Non-games are a class of software on the border between video games and toys. The original term “non-game game” was coined by late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, who describes it as “a form of entertainment that really doesn’t have a winner, or even a real conclusion”. Will Wright had previously used the term “software toy” for the same purpose. The main difference between non-games and traditional video games is the lack of structured goals, objectives, and challenges. This allows the player a greater degree of self-expression through freeform play, since they can set up their own goals to achieve.
Yes, I first encountered it in an interview with Will Wright (Mr. “Sims”), sometime in the mid to late noughties. I think he called it a “software toy.” Can’t track down the interview, right now. I was reading a lot of Salon DOT com, at the time ( ), so I think it was somewhere in there.