Have you ever wondered why Dungeons & Dragons is still a thing after forty years? Why countless digital games with awesome graphics have emulated it and people still keep going back to pen and paper and keep playing?
The easy answer is because it’s awesome, but let me see if I can shed some light on what a “tabletop role-playing game” has to offer that no other experience quite does. Role-playing games (RPGs) are a totally unique experience that offer so many different outlets for many different people that it’s impossible to address every one.
So what’s an RPG?
It’s an opportunity to get together with friends, step outside of yourself for a few hours and enjoy a shared experience that you’ll talk about for years to come, all while sober! Role-playing is about exploring a shared story, where you take on the role of a character in the story and interact in ways that you believe the character would. Any action-adventure is fodder for a good RPG. Stories have been told from the stone age to the Star Wars universe. You pick the genre that appeals to you, and as long as you can get a couple friends who want to tell that story with you then you’re good to go! Whether you want to be a swashbuckling hero or a down-on-her-luck street urchin, that story is waiting to be told.
Let the storytelling begin!
Once you’ve got your friends together, picked a ruleset, and made your first character, what then? Well, then is when you start storytelling. You make your character’s history, you provide their abilities within the game’s framework and explain what they’re capable of. The rules will guide you to a character appropriate for your setting.
If you have the fortune of playing with experienced people they’ll make it easy. Otherwise, there is some reading involved to get started. You’ll need to know the basic rules, someone is going to need to know at least enough to get you through your first adventure, and you’ll need a couple basic supplies like dice.
It’s a world all your own.
Why should you go through the effort to learn all this stuff and put together a group of people? Again, it’s awesome. You’ll get the opportunity to explore a life that is not your own. One that involves horseback riding everyday, saving peasants from the depredations of evil men, conversations with faeries, exploration of unknown lands, finding treasures beyond imagining, and more things you only ever get to read about. You get to experience those things first hand and make the decisions that will make your adventures successful.
Unlike movies or even expensive video games, you are not on a track. Your experience is not dictated by the work of those who came before you. In a movie you watch the story unfold. In a video game you may have a number of choices, but ultimately they do not begin to match the options that might exist if you weren’t limited by someone else’s imagination. In an RPG your choices are your own, you decide not just if you’re going to take the left or right trail, but exactly what you’re going to say to the people you encounter and whether you choose to fork up 10 gold to the greedy merchant for supplies or risk stealing when his back is turned.
Role-playing offers the greatest chance to participate in the ancient tradition of storytelling. The modern world is filled with entertainment options, but none will allow you to express your creativity, gather with friends and explore quite like a good RPG. Whether your interests are in developing characters, telling a story, exploration, tactical challenges or just hanging out with friends, if you’ve never given RPGs a shot, it’s time you did.
Image sources: dnd.wizards.com