UPDATE: This post has been updated and included in the recently released book, How to Play a Character & Other Essays, available for purchase from the Lulu marketplace.
I'd like to make a point about roleplaying, if I could, in answer to arguments that "rollplaying" destroys the development of characterization.
It's nonsense, of course. Human beings are hardwired to construct or fabricate personalities into everything from the stuffed animals they bonded with as infants to the cars and houses they live with and in as adults. Anything familiar tends, in our thoughts, to develop a personality - even non-sentient objects that seem to turn on us, like hammers or fireplaces. If the small peg will not quite fit into the small hole, but seems almost to fit, we will describe the peg as a "goddamn bloody stubborn sucker" and insist that it somehow help us in getting it into the hole. This is natural. We can't help ourselves.
So to argue that "rollplaying" will somehow strip the long-time character in a game of any personality, or suck dry the characterization of said imaginary fighter or thief, is perfectly ridiculous. No matter who the player is - no matter how little interest that player appears to have for his or her character, or for roleplaying in general - there will yet remain an intensifying involvement with the character once that character has survived battle after battle. This is true even if the only activity a particular campaign carries forth is battle.
For anyone who has played campaign wargames, where even a particular "lucky" tank or horse cavalry unit develops spontaneous personality traits for both the owner and the opponent, this should be obvious. Have you ever rolled dice to destroy a single counter in RISK that just won't die, only to have several people at the table claim that counter to be made of elite green berets, imposing into that cheap plastic form the personalities of staunch, indefeatable SOLDIERS? Of course you have. Why? Because it is astoundingly easy to invest most everything with human characteristics. We are sentimental that way, and the longer we are acquainted with something, the more sentimental we are.
That is why the players of Chainmail began roleplaying their characters even when NO RULES for roleplaying had even been conceived. The rules followed the original human inclination - and as such, those same rules do not drive the inclination. Roleplaying drives rules, not the other way around - and if there were no rules for roleplaying at all, roleplaying would still exist.
This is something that all the creators of games designed to create roleplaying seem to completely ignore. People roleplay at the level of comfort which suits them personally. Some people name their cars, and some do not - and yet their cars retain "personality." Some children only give a name to their stuffed animals and nothing more. Some children design whole histories and geneologies to describe where Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla came from and ultimately how he's related to Rafaella Gabriela Sarsparilla - they're not just brother and sister, they're half-brother and sister, with their bunny mother having married both the tiger and the teddy bear. No one has to teach little children to think this way ... and they will do so to the degree with which they love it, a great deal or very little.
No matter how you huff and puff, no matter what games you invent or tables you ascribe towards the manufacture of roleplay, at best you'll get those who were inclined to sketch out the Sarsparilla family tree without your help; and if those people happen play a game where there are no roleplaying rules provided, they'll do it just the same, because they don't need your damn rules.
You're building cardboard houses for people with real homes, then claiming you've built the homes, too. You've done a good job deluding yourselves - but in fact, the RPG world doesn't need you.