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By Mykal K Grimm
If you are new to role playing games then I hope this piece will shed some light on the hobby and help further your interest in this truly enjoyable form of social entertainment. Table Top Role Playing Games are not like other games the majority of your friends might play when they hangout in their free time as it has a heavy reliance on the players imagination and it is narrative driven, a story is unfolding throughout play and you can change the course of events by decisions taken by the player. The dice have more than 6 sides or less depending on which ones are needed to be rolled and the game is not competitive in the sense that there is a winner and looser at the end. The game also lasts longer than most traditional board or card games and is played in a way that most people have not encountered as it is vastly different to Uno, Chess or Poker. We will go deeper into the mechanics at another time but it is a very different game that offers a truly unique and fun experience for the players and game masters. I will do my best to help explain what it is we do around the table and why I enjoy it and think more people would if they tried to play TRPGs.
Role Playing Games are games in which the player takes on the role of a character of a certain class and race in often a fictional setting where they are given a quest to resolve. When generating this character you roll or calculate Points for your ability score and distribute them among your skills and attributes which is done during the character creation phase. Different classes possess different talents and abilities as do races which can include dim light vision if you were an Elf or resistance to poison if you were an Orc shaman. Classes can range from the combat focused Fighter to the versatile Wizard and Elves, Dwarves and Halflings are but some of the playable races and classes in some of these systems. These tabletop games are not merely restricted to medieval fantasy settings but those are the ones I prefer and will use them for most of my examples.
Games can be set in any era, in any environment and classes and powers vary from system to system as do the rules of play. Mutants and Masterminds is an RPG system which sees you take on the role of a super hero or villain and battle it out Marvel style while Call of Cthulhu has the players play as Investigators trying to solve a murder before dying or loosing their collective s##t in the process. Some RPGs require a gaming surface and miniature figurines for staging combat, others may use index cards to tell a story while some do not require anything but a piece of paper and is entirely spoken. RPGs come in many forms , levels of complexity and have actually been around since the 70’s with Dungeons & Dragons being the first leading name in the industry and remains so until today.
Gary Gyax and Dave Arneson were enthusiastic war gamers who wanted to create a game in which you controlled a single soldier opposed to an entire unit or platoon. They would eventually brainstorm a very basic Dungeons & Dragons system and later Gary Gygax would publish it through his company TSR. D&D would change the face of gaming forever as many video game developers would use the character stats from their game to develop and design their own games with them serving as a template. In time their brand would have bestsellers popularizing the genre of fantasy further and familiarizing the reader with their RPG settings and lore. They would push the envelope for the entire industry while creating it at the same time. Fantasy was the first setting but later they would release futuristic science fiction settings in Gamma World and other books including D20 Modern where players could use SMGs and helicopters. The whole idea was to give players a chance to enter their imaginations and with their guidelines play out epic adventures all from the safety of their own home and in the company of their friends.
Me and my guild first really got into RPGing because we all enjoyed similar things and for most of us, none of us had a chance to really play an TRPG. We would come together and after long discussions about D&D we decided to give it a shot and start playing. At first most of us were brand new to Dungeons & Dragons TRPG games but we enjoyed reading the books, seeing the great artwork. We did start with a more complex system (3.5 Edition which later evolved into Pathfinder) that did have many stats, numbers, reading and may not have been the best choice for newbies in hindsight. The learning curve is not as steep as it may appear at first glance but it does require reading the material in order to have a basic grasp of how it the game is played. Coming to the gaming table without reading anything is a mistake. With the resources available online today a new player can get a decent idea of what the game is about and a basic comprehension of stages of play and how a turn goes. We ourselves plan to put out tutorial videos down the line.
In the beginning your eyes will be overwhelmed with many of the Character sheets but after a few gaming sessions you will know what to look for and where what goes. With every session we ran we would feel more comfortable with the rules, questions would get addressed and answered and the deeper we delved into this imaginary world. My first character was Marcus Marvella, a Half Elf Ranger with a cliche backstory and I remember how much I like attributes of the class. My brother player a more advanced class of a War Mage, Boris of the Bash Bros was a Human Barbarian and Medeni played a dwarven cleric. All of us enjoyed figuring out which skills and weapons to use depending on the situation they found themselves. We learned very fast that there was a big coop component to playing the game, communication and teamwork is the only way to survive an attack or escape a potentially fatal argument. We also grew closer as friends and before long we are snapping D&D puns and jokes and it was something we all would continue to look forward to until this day.
When you quest you are playing a character other than yourself in a fictional setting where you are not bound by our current reality and norms. Want to slay dragons and rescue the princess, you can do it from the safety of your home with your friends as your allies. Ever wanted to be part of a story as it was written? Solve mysteries in a Victorian city or escape the Death Star with you friends, yes and yes guys. Questing is always going to have more options than any video game because there is no limit to your imagination. Many have described the RPG experience as the players are characters in movie and are playing it out as the Game Master is the director responsible for crafting the obstacles and supporting cast. I cannot describe the laughs had at the table and the tension when the Health Points were low and nobody had any potions and our Cleric was out of heals! The immersion is a big part of why I enjoy playing and running the game. No one session is the same and if done right a session involves just as much role playing as combat encounters.
The community of tabletop RPG players is diverse and the passion for the hobby is very real. There are dozens of groups and pages on social media and websites (cough) including Nerd Dimension who seek to make this hobby more accessible and make it easier for those wishing to pursue it as a hobby. RPGing can be a truly liberating experience, being able to break away from the problems in the real world and it can also be very social if you schedule games with new players once in a while. I hope that this post can help motivate readers to consider playing or maybe return to it now as there are so much more options now. Reach out to members in local gaming groups or go to game shops and see if there other players who need an extra player. The experience can be rewarding and it is better than solitary gaming in my opinion. At the end of every session I feel I did not waste my time, I was socializing while playing a game by telling a story. I do not have the same feeling after playing 4 hours of a PC game or console and my eyes get tired.
If you love playing RPG PC or video games, this is something you should at least look into to get some insight into how your pass time originated. I have noticed it seems harsher for video game players crossing over but there are systems that let you do awesome stuff in the early levels so don’t worry about being bored.
If you love fantasy fiction then I cannot recommend this enough for it is the closest I have gotten to playing a character from one of my favorite novels and immersing myself into a setting. It could also serve as a helpful tool to flush out your own settings and characters if you group are open to trying it out.
If you are looking for something different that could sharpen your writing, voice acting or social skills in general than this is something that could be beneficial to you.
Game Systems I can recommend for new players:
GURPS : A very basic system which is good for a first session as there is less attributes and a basic rule system. A great way to introduce basic character creation and principles of play found in the more complex systems especially for younger players. There are many itirations of the system with loads of settings to choose from and is the cheapest to get price ways compared to the bigger systems.
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (2nd Edition): A step up in complexity but still easier than the later editions and other RPGs on the market. Despite having more rules than GURPS the AD&D system allows for more options in play and character creation. Good starting point if you have a group thinking of playing D&D the amount of materials and campaigns online to me make this the most fun to run and play for new players from teens to adults. Our very own DM Pat still runs the system until this day and you can catch him on Roll20 running sessions.
Shadowrun: A science-fiction / cyber punkish game which is more focused on skills opposed to class for solving problems and resolving combat. It is a more modern setting and is rich in theme and flavor and serves an interesting alternative to players not looking for Swords and Sorcery. The weapons and races are just as diverse as you can find in most fantasy and the twist of entery this ‘Matrix’ like cyber dimension makes for a unique experience. You have hackers to tanks and working together while one of your runners is disabling a security program is pretty cool. If you want to get a feel for the general idea of the game you can get the Shadowrun PC games for fair prices on GOG and I recommend them.
Call of Cthulhu: A horror science-fiction RPG based on the HP Lovecraft’s Mythos in which you investigate mysterious events and have to maintain your sanity and safety as the Ancient Ones hurl every demonic thing it can at your party. The basic role playing rules make it easy to get into for new players and the horror setting will have players on the edge of their seats until the very end where everyone dies…because it is very very very hard to survive in COC. A must play for all horror and Lovecraft fans thinking of entering the RPG realm.
Star Wars Roleplaying Game: What more can I say. This game was designed to be easy for those taking their first steps into roleplaying games and the theme is there in buckets. It is new and you can buy beginner boxes for cheap and I think this goes over well with younger players the most. Unleash the force with your buddies while recapturing some of the magic of the movies.
Vampire: The Masquerade : A system unlike the others which is more story orientated opposed to combat. The system has a strong community and following is designed with those looking for more storytelling in the game and the setting and theme of vampires is very well done. Take on the curse of the night in the form of unique vampires as you and your party have to decide how to operate in this hidden world. There is a great PC game developed by Troika of this system which I recommend.
There is something for everybody in the world of tabletop RPGs and maybe this post helps somebody choose to give them a shot. Until your eyes gaze upon my humble writing once more please let us know what you think of our content in the comments section below. If you like what you read so far we welcome you to subscribe and follow our social media pages and podcast.
*Nerd Dimension also have started recruiting members and players for our Sci Fi Fantasy Club in Kungsbacka, all you need is the app Meet Up to find and get in touch with the group.