ROLE PLAYING GAMES – 6 Secret Awesome Things Nerds Know About Playing Tabletop Role Playing Games That You Don’t.
If you don’t know anything about Tabletop Role Playing games (TRPGs), you’re missing out. You may or may not be familiar with Role Playing Video Games, but even if your are, TRPGs are actually quite different. In this post I will explain what TRPGs are and give you six reasons to give them a try.
The Geek Shall Inherit The Earth
TRPGs seem to be the last hold outs of the big “nerd pastimes” to go mainstream. Nerds knew how cool science fiction was and were mocked for liking it, before it went mainstream. We also knew how cool video games were and we were made fun of, before they went mainstream. We were totally into superheroes because they were awesome but we were considered juvenile for liking them and now they’re mainstream.
Nerds knew how great anime was to watch, and now it’s totally mainstream.
Lately, the nerdy side of board gaming has started to make it’s way into Target and Barnes and Nobles. Games like, Ticket To Ride and The Settlers of Catan have gotten into people’s radars. Nerds knew how fun these games and games like them are, and they’re slowly becoming mainstream.
This leaves TRPGs as the last to go mainstream.
You May Be Influenced By TRPGs Already
Pretty much any video game that has the initials RPG has been influenced by TRPGs. Japanese Roleplaying video games like the Final Fantasy series for example, RPG video games like Skyrim, as well as MMORPGs, like World of Warcraft.
Even something like Fantasy Football, has elements of TRPGs in them.
So if you’ve played any of those games, you might already be familiar with some of the TRPG experience.
Nathan Fillion tried out a game of the Firefly TRPG at Gen Con once. Even the director of the Disney movie Wreck-It Ralph , Rich Moore, plays TRPGs and currently has a gaming group that plays Dungeons & Dragons.
So what’s the secret that they know, that you don’t? After all, nerds play them and therefore they must be totally awesome right? I mean, we have a really good track record of liking awesome things.
Here’s the six secrets you should know:
The ideal way to understand what it is, is to play a game. Since you can’t do that reading this, I’ll try to describe them as best as can.
TRPGs are like games of pretend with rules.
There’s usually a designated player, often called the Game Master, or referee, who runs the game. They’re in charge of coming up with scenarios and stories, knowing the rules, adding conflict, playing characters that interact with the other players around the table, and generally making sure everyone is having fun.
All the other players around the table control one character. They’re job is to be the protagonists of the story or adventure that’s being told.
The goal of the game is to have fun. The Game Master is not trying to beat the players. The players are not trying to beat the Game Master.
It’s more like a big improvised story everyone around the table is creating, and the rules of the game are there to throw in random factors that make the story unpredictable and exciting.
They’re like no other game out there.
The closest thing I can compare them to are multiplayer choose you’re own adventure books with limitless choices.
If you’ve played video game RPGs, imagine a MMORPG or a game of Skyrim, with no boundaries or pre-scripted reactions to choices you make in the game. More on that below.
2. They’re Social
Contrary to popular belief TRPGs are very social experiences. Often people who play TRPGs are portrayed as lonely people with no friends. But in order to play TRPGs you often need, if not two people, then a small group of people. Typically around five or so.
It’s as social as playing a tabletop board game. Even more social in fact than, inviting friends over to play video games at your house. Especially since TRPGs require you to face each other and to speak to one another.
This is one of the things that makes playing TRPGs over Skype, Google Hangouts, chat or forums, difficult. TRPGs work best when you can physically play them with friends around a table or in your living room.
3. They’re Creative
I first started playing TRPGs in High School. My friends and I would get together and come up with characters and their backstories.
We’d world build and come up with interesting relationships between our characters. We’d do this so much that we even started branching off into creating worlds outside of the game.
Two of us, my friend Damon and I, even started writing “Novels” and short stories based on ideas we came up with that were unrelated to our games.
We would have never done that if we hadn’t been playing TRPGs to begin with.
TRPGs actually started giving us the skills we needed to come up with creative ideas. It taught us collaborative storytelling, character building, and world building. It inspired us to write.
It also gave me drawing inspiration. I would design our TRPG characters and I would even try my hand at drawing comic book representations of things that would happen in our games.
Over the years, I’ve found the skills I learned playing TRPGs to be invaluable in my career as a creative person in animation and comics.
4. They’re Not Digital
TRPG only require imagination, some paper and perhaps a few dice. If you have the basic rules for the game you want to play, you’re ready to go.
Digital RPGs require a device of some kind, some kind of computer, console or hand held digital device. None of which is bad.
If fact, digital RPGs have an advantage over TRPGs in their visual spectacle, in their ability to play them solitaire, and their accessibility. They’re also very immersive in themselves.
That said, TRPGs have the advantage of endless possibilities and being even more immersive.
Unlike digital RPGs where you can only do or say what is coded into the program, TRPGs have the advantage of endless freedom. The reason for this is the Game Master.
In digital RPGs, the rules of what can be done is arbitrated by a computer program. If you wish to do anything that the game is not programed to do, you can’t do it.
In a TRPG, the rules are arbitrated by a person. If you do anything in the game not specified in the rules, it’s up to the Game Master to decide whether you can or can’t do it.
This simple difference is huge. It’s the diference between doing a paint by numbers activity and learning to paint.
Also while a digital RPG allows you to work within the framework of it’s game world, a TRPG allows you and you’re friends to CREATE the world game from scratch.
5. They’re Incredibly Fun
The combination of creativity, social gathering, and endless possibilities, makes TRPGs one of the most unique forms of fun you can ever have.
Although I should say, perhaps more so than any other type of game, the people you play TRPGs with are important. Because these types of games are so social, a good or bad group can increase of decrease the fun of a game.
6. They’re Addicting
I have a confession to make, I’m writing this post because I’m suffering from TRPG withdrawal. Ever since I played my first game in high school, I’ve been hooked on TRPGs.
After playing my first game, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t wait for the adrenaline rush of the next game. It was really that immersive an experience.
I didn’t act out anything physically when we played. It was all in our “mind’s eye,” yet I had felt as if I’d been through something. I craved more.
That craving never went away. It was so fun.
Over the years since my first game, I’ve played and Game Mastered many TRPGs. Although I must admit, I’ve read the rules of more TRPGs than I’ve played.
Since these games are so immersive, fun, creative, social, and full of endless possibilities, it’s difficult NOT to get addicted. And really, it’s definitely a addiction worth having, since it’s so full of positive benefits.
If You Want to Play
If what I’ve written here, makes you curious about playing a TRPG, I wish I had an easy way for you try one out, but I don’t.
The best and ideal way to play one for the first time is to find an existing TRPG group where you can learn to play by playing.
Or find a friend that already knows how to play and convince them to run a game for you. Those are the best ways to learn to play.
That said, if these aren’t options and you just want to jump in a try one for yourself, or if you simply want to read the rules of a TRPG to see what they’re like, here are links to some FREE TRPGs you might want to take a look at:
- RISUS – The most basic TRPG I’ve ever read. Super easy to understand. The rules are only five pages long.
- Dungeons and Dragons Basic 5th Edition rules – The newest and most streamlined version of the rule for Dungeons & Dragons since the original edition.
- FATE Accelerated – This is a simple introductory rule set for people who are interested in trying out TRPGs for the first time.
TRPG Gameplay Example
They’re the funniest things listen to. Although they can be a bit explicit, they’re still a very good ways to check out what a TRPG is like.
And if that’s a bit too much you can always watch these two episodes of Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop, where he and a few celebrities play the Dragon Age TRPG: