I have been playing tabletop role playing games since I was 13 years old. This year, I will be have playing tabletop role playing games for 20 years. Through gaming I have forged friendships that have lasted that time, and I’ve met people from around the country. Role Playing Games also inspired the teenage me to read. I fell in love with adventure, and I fell in love with the stories of people.
How Role Playing Games Work
Tabletop Roleplaying Games are generally played by a group of 3-6 people. In most games, one person tells a story that the other players are protagonists in. In Dungeons & Dragons, the person who tells the story is the Dungeon Master. They use the game rules to build fantasy worlds, like the one portrayed in Lord of the Rings, for their players to experience. Everyone else is a player. They take on the role of heroes in the fantasy world. They may be a group of warriors trying to prevent the rise of an ancient evil like The Fellowship in Lord of the Rings. They might also be mercenaries laying siege to a city as a noble’s request. The Dungeon Master sets the stage, the conflict and then players move through the world trying to resolve that conflict. The players dictate characters actions, have conversations as the character and incorporate themselves into the setting the Dungeon Master has created. Tabletop Role Playing is one part collaborative storytelling and one part improvisation theater.
The Benefits of Role Playing Games
It is important for people skeptical right now to understand that role playing games help build social skills, narrative literacy and an understanding of small group dynamics. There is objective value to playing this game. For me there is also an emotional value. I have had a lot of fun playing role playing games. I think playing them have made me a more empathetic and creative person. The game I started with is the same that most do. Dungeons and Dragons.
Dungeons & Dragons
The most famous tabletop role playing game is Dungeons & Dragons. It was created in 1974 by Gary Gygax and Dave Aronson. The first edition of Dungeons & Dragons allowed players to take on some of the most common characters of sword and sorcery fantasy literature. The early game was amateurishly produced, basically a punch of paper stapled together. The modern game is published by Hasbro subsidiary Wizard’s of the Coast. Each edition (we are on the fifth) has dozens of supplements, even though you only need the three core books to play the game.
The Dungeons & Dragons Core Books
The Core Books; The Player’s Handbook, The Monsters Manual and the Dungeon Master’s Guide each contain one central element of the game. The Player’s Handbook contains the bulk of the rules, and it explains how a player should build their protagonist. The Dungeon Master’s Guide help a Dungeon Master create a story and gameworld. The Monster’s Manual contains antagonists for the Dungeon Master to set against protagonists.If you are intimidated by creating your own story, you can use a supplement like Horde of the Dragon Queen. Supplements in tabletop role playing games have two functions. They either add new rules or they add new settings. Some do both. The Rise of Tiamat is a supplement that provides the Dungeon Master with with a story, setting and monsters that he can easily drop players into.
Other Tabletop Roleplaying Games
After Dungeons & Dragons came out, several hundred other games followed. Some differed from Dungeons & Dragons because they were based off other fiction genres. The World of Darkness & Chronicles of Darkness game lines inspired by the urban fantasy genre. Series such as The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, the Anne Rice Novels and the Patricia Briggs Novels have a similar feel and even similar tropes. Numenera draws from the Space Operas like Star Trek, Star Wars and Firefly. Gumshoe attempts to recreate the noir mystery genre through rules and guidelines for pacing.
Other games, such as the Fate Core System and Gurps attempt to be “setting neutral”, not tied to a specific story or genre. This way the dungeon master can create a story in whatever setting they want using the same rules as a base.
Finally, there are games that are based directly off movies and books. The Dresden Files, Supernatural, Firefly and even Star Wars have their own officially licensed tabletop role playing games that allows people to take on the roles of their favorite characters.
Role Playing Games with Children
Some games, such as Mouse Guard are designed for children and young teens. While other games, such as the previously Chronicles of Darkness are meant for adults. It is important that parents individually decide what games are appropriate for their children. Games based off Star Wars, Marvel or other kid friendly media properties are usually safe. Games that do not have a specific setting are usually safe. Parents need to take an active role in the selection of media their children consume. The main determination on whether a game is appropriate for a child is how the game is run by the dungeon master.
Tabletop Role Playing Games in the Modern Age
It can be hard to find people to play with sometimes. Luckily the internet has made things easier. Websites like Obsidian Portal, not only allow Dungeon Masters to show off their games, but it also allows people to find other people to play with. Another great way to find people to play with is through meetup.com. There are several tabletop role playing meetups on Meetup, including some run by libraries.
If you have no place to meet, you can always use a virtual tabletop, skype or Google Hangouts to play the entire game online. One of the games I play in meets twice a month online. We use Google Hangouts, primarily because it is free and my friends live all over the country.
How to get started playing role playing games
First you need to pick a game you want to play. The person who picks the game is usually the one who ends up being the dungeon master. The book will contain a list of other things you need. Role Playing games require relatively few materials, but most use some sort of die. If you have been playing for a long time, you tend to acquire hundreds of them. But you don’t want to start filling your house with odd shaped pieces of plastic. Instead you can use a die roller app or website. Some of the companies, like Fantasy Flight who make the games, also make free die roller apps available through the ITunes or Google Play store specifically for use with their games.
Usually the hardest thing to find is a group of people to play with. There may be a number of people in your area who have always wanted to play.