Welcome to the July edition of Observer’s Log. This month we are going to put on our wizard hats and jump into the portal that is Role- Playing Games, aka RPG’s. Originally this guide was going to come out later in the series. However in honor of the release of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, I decided to make July its debut.
RPG’s can be broken down into a handful of different genres. There are sci-fi, steampunk, horror, and fantasy to name a few. There are also d20 based, diceless, card, live action, percentile… I think you get the idea. There are countless RPG’s and even more ways to categorize them. Let’s keep it simple and just go over the basics.
What is an RPG? Good question, an RPG is a tabletop game where the players take on the personas of others to complete a story as told by a primary storyteller. The storyteller is usually called the Game Master or Dungeon Master (GM or DM for short). The players take on the role of the primary protagonists in the story and advance the storyline through their actions. Most of these actions are handled via dice rolls and GM adjudication.
Contrary to the belief of some (especially back when the D&D first came out) RPG’s are not devil worship or witchcraft. It is just a game played with a group of friends using their imaginations. Gasp, I know. Dangerous stuff right there. The ironic part is that gamers, who are typically ridiculed for their social skills… or lack thereof, are actually playing these games. Which are at their very core SOCIAL.
So what does one need to play an RPG? Well, a few friends, a few hours to get together with said friends is a really good start. Some books, paper, pencils, and some dice will also help. Gaming, or in this case, Roleplaying is by far the biggest bang for your buck entertainment wise. For under $100, often under $50, you can have everything you need for countless gaming sessions. No movie, video game, carnival, amusement park can make such a claim. Even books, as much as I love them and I can reread them, cannot make this lofty boast.
You get social interaction, months/years of enjoyment potential, and a product with no expiration date. Did I mention you also get to use the most powerful entertainment device on the planet? So why isn’t everyone gaming? Well, it isn’t for some. Others might be turned off due to some religious campaigning a few decades back. Others still might not be aware of it as an option. That is why I am here, to bring the joy of gaming to those who might not yet be aware of its viability as an entertainment option.
There are many options. The first thing you need to decide is what type of game you feel is suited to your personal style.
If you like horror/thriller type stories, I would recommend Call of Cthulhu. You can run wild in the world of H.P. Lovecraft. You can battle to save earth and all its inhabitants from the pull of the old ones as they struggle to break through into our plan of existence. Can you keep your sanity in the face of such unearthly terrors?
If you are a sci-fi buff might I suggest Traveller or Star Wars? Were you can pilot your ship to far away planets. Meet new exotic species all while charting new solar systems and trying to keep trade routes from breaking down.
For the dystopia groupies there is Shadowrun or Paranoia. Paranoia is the only system to my knowledge where every player starts with a six pack of clones. Trust me it won’t be long before you will need them.
Victoriana, though having been originally released in 2003, is a relatively new kid on the block. Victoriana is filling the steampunk craving for gamers far and wide. Do to changing hands a few times it is now under the helmsmen ship of Cubicle 7 and I am looking forward to seeing the direction it will take as it matures under its new captain.
Now we get to the most expansive RPG type, Fantasy. Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Hackmaster, The One Ring, and so many others fill the noble ranks of this group. Play an elf, a dwarf, a halfling (hobbit if you’re playing One Ring). Even dare I say a human? This genre has some of the largest followings and has been around for the longest of the RPG’s we are discussing here.
Now that you know the genres, how do you figure out what play style is right for you? Find a group. Get some friends together and try out a game, or head to a FLGS and see what they have for organized play options.
Let me back up a second, I probably should go over organized play options real quick. While any RPG can, and should have an ongoing storyline, two RPG’s in particular have manufacturer sponsored play options. Pathfinder from Paizo has Pathfinder society. You can create a character and after each module you receive a certificate that allows you to bring your character, at whatever level they have progressed too, to any Pathfinder Society event, anywhere in the world. You can also sign up to run these events in your own home.
There is also Dungeons and Dragons, which sponsors game stores to run the new D&D Adventurer’s League. (The Adventurer’s League has two levels Expeditions and Encounters, both of which are only available for in store play currently.) No matter what the name, it is the same sort of experience as Pathfinder Society. You can take your character to events everywhere. The best part of these sponsored events is not only are they typically minimal, if any cost to participate, the rules are codified so you will get the same play experience from one table to the next.
Whatever your play style there is an RPG for you. Be patient and find the right game and group for you. Every group will have a different dynamic and finding the one that fits you best can take a bit. Be patient and enjoy the journey.
By now you should know the drill. What are some of your favorite RPG’s? Do you have a favorite gaming story?
Remember life’s a game, have fun with it.
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