(Note, in this post I talk about The Sims 2, as The Sims 1 is not advanced enough for this purpose and I don't have experience from Sims 3).
The Sims 2 is life-simulation/doll house game, where you create your sims and build houses and community places for them. Basically Sims 2 is building and decoration game but also advanced virtual pet.
So, how can one use The Sims 2 for roleplaying purposes?
I don't mean, that you could use The Sims for roleplaying in the matter of actual play, but you can use it as a tool. In a fun way.
I myself have sometimes troubles drawing a map. I am too "artistic" (read sloppy) person to use rulers, so usually I have problems with dimensions. Also another problem when drawing is how to array everything. I see only lines I have drawn and the visualization is a bit problematic especially when I don't have anything special in the mind what I want a place to look like.
Here The Sims steps in. As you know, quite big part in The Sims is building buildings. With The Sims you can quite easily build buildings for your roleplaying games. I have used it for:
- character's and npc's apartments
If you know how The Sims builder works, you can quite fast get your own 3D building done. If you are "advanced" roleplayer and use your computer as gaming assistant, you can easily show players in real 3D mode what kind of place they are in. Or you can take screenshots and print them out, what isn't bad option either.
Only problems are, that when you create houses, apartments, buildings etc. in The Sims, you actually "play" the game. And it takes time. So you don't necessarily put together the bar for next gaming session in 5 minutes, it can take even hours depending of the complexity of the building.
Good part is, that internet is full of custom content from new wallpapers to medieval weapons. Everything for your needs. You can make medieval castles, spaceships, wild west pubs etc.
And if you are really into playing with The Sims, you can make your NPC's and roleplaying characters into sims! It might be fun to create your cyber commando, 21th century vampire or even elven ranger for sims (you can easily find everything you need for this characters from internet). And if got humour enough, you can play with them making them do stupid stuff... Well, I don't go that far, I am builder type (my player has told me how this and this character did bully that and then bullied one cried...)
So, The Sims 2 can be a tool for rpg's. It is slow, takes time, but fun and you can easily build 3D buildings without knowledge of programming or advanced applications.