Playing The Part: An Intro to TableTop Role Playing Games
By Seth Nicholls
I’m an avid player of TTRPGs, or TableTop Role Playing Games. These are imaginative adventure games played with friends through a collectively imagined world, restrained by the ruleset of whatever game you’re playing. Such games usually have a Game Master (abbreviated as GM) who narrates the adventure and puts your characters in the scenarios they need to overcome, be it a puzzle or a big ol’ brawl. I’m here today to discuss why TTRPGs may be the right hobby for you, why you might choose to give it a pass, and some games that may make a fun entry point into the hobby.
Reasons to Love TTRPGs
The main reason that I love TTRPGs is because of their social element, the fact you’re sat down with a table of friends to have an adventure. You each bring your little element, that little bit of self-expression to the table, to have a good time with good people. You’re participating in a team match against whatever the GM thinks best to throw at you, enjoying the ride along the way. In this particularly isolating time, I’ve found RPGs to be both a release from the uncertainty of today, and a great way to maintain healthy relationships with friends. There is an undeniable sense of comradery that comes with playing TTRPGs. Having a social group invested in the same narrative that you created collectively is a uniting experience in itself.
Another major upside to TTRPGs is their freedom of expression to play as who you want to be and escape the mundanity of this suck-ass flesh-prison we call a body. I know I need to escape the daily monotony of my trapped 2020 lifestyle. I might spend a good few hours as a warrior, or a wizard, or a hot dragon (judge me all you want.) Not only are you free to come up with a character, you’re also free to act how you wish. Maybe you run in and slay that dragon for the Lord of this Mountain, or maybe you convince the beast to leave his lair for better lands. Anyway, It is this freedom to act to the limits of your imagination that players find so alluring about TTRPGs. The ability to inhabit characters through your own creations within an open world set up, means that we are able to access an escape unmatched by any other platform.
All in all, TTRPGs are the best way to kill a dragon with your friends while magic mushrooms are out of season.
I think that TTRPGs are a great medium for creative expression and social fun, but they come with some caveats. The first potential downside I want to discuss is that focus on creative expression. If you aren’t inclined towards coming up with characters you can always use something premade, but you may feel left out among players who are more confident in this creative field. Going into the hobby, you should keep in mind how comfortable you are with this part of the activity.
Another issue is the time investment. RPGs take up a lot of time as a hobby, which can cause problems for a full-time student or anyone else with limited free time. An RPG session may take three to six hours, and that doesn’t even include the time you take outside of the session to learn the rules and set up your character. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Holy fuck, that is indeed a lot of time. More than a reasonable amount of time, to be honest. But if you’ve got that time on your hands (lucky you) and you enjoy this kind of activity, I promise it’s worth it.
I might spend a good few hours as a warrior, or a wizard, or a hot dragon (judge me all you want).
Because I see it as a potential turn-off to those who show interest, I should address the stigma associated with the TTRPGs. We all know the image of unhygienic and creepy smegheads dwelling in TTRPG communities and other geek subcultures, treating them like incel safehouses. I want to let you know that these people DO EXIST. I also want you to know they fucking suck. Nobody likes them. They are banned from games and avoided due to their shitty behaviour. They are the reason an important social contract comes with TTRPGs. Remember when I said you are free to act within your imagination? Well… you’re not allowed to rape people, for reasons I really shouldn’t have to make clear. You’re also not allowed to creep on your fellow players, for the same obvious reasons. Players like that are blocked and reported and actively avoided. I recommend checking out ‘r/rpghorrorstories’ on Reddit for tales of terrible players and GMs alike. Use them as a guide to sketchy behaviour!
Well if you’re still interested in joining a game sometime, I’m gonna lay out a couple of fun RPGs that should be fairly easy for a new hobbyist to get into:
Dungeons & Dragons (5th Edition):
Dungeons & Dragons has been a classic since the 80s, and its newest edition is the most friendly to new players! Enjoy an accessable romp through a fantasy land, fucking up monsters with your buddies. If you can get a somewhat experienced player to act as Game Master, running the game and helping you learn the rules, then the rest should be easy-peasy.
This is a great one-page RPG you can find online where you play as criminal bears, of various cuddly and less-cuddly kinds, as you attempt to steal various honey and honey-related artefacts. It’s super simple to get into and enjoy, as all the information you need can be printed on one page.
Dread is for those horror fans in the audience who enjoy the tension ratcheting up every minute. In Dread, the players test whether they succeed in difficult tasks by pulling blocks from a Jenga tower. If the tower tumbles down, well, you fall into the clutches of whatever monster chases you...