Curious About Role-Playing Games (RPGs)?

Role-playing games are popping up all over these days, whether on popular comedies like Community and Big Bang Theory, or dramas like Stranger Things or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  If you’ve ever wanted to try playing a role-playing game, we’ve got the perfect introduction for you.

In short, to get started with role-playing games you’ll need three things: a game, players, and a place to play.

Choosing a Game

Whenever you see someone playing a role-playing game in the media, it almost always is Dungeons and Dragons, the first and most popular RPG.  In this game each player plays a character taken from the fantasy genre (eg. Lord of the Rings), such as a dwarf warrior or elf wizard.  Together they go on quests or other adventures, fighting monsters and discovering magical treasures.

Dungeons and Dragons is a great game to get started playing RPGs … but it’s certainly not the only one.  There are literally thousands of other RPGs, and you can find entire websites dedicated to cataloging them.

The second most popular RPG after D&D is Call of Cthulhu (and in Japan it’s actually more popular).  Players in Call of Cthulhu take on the role of a Victorian-era investigator, trying to stop an ancient and horrifying evil from being unleashed on the world.  While it does have a bit of “fighting monsters” in it, it’s otherwise completely different from D&D.

Two other popular options are Cyberpunk Red and Vampire: the Masquerade.  Cyberpunk Red is set in the same dark corporate future world as the Cyberpunk: 2077 video game, and the players take on the role of hackers and rebels fighting against evil “mega-corporations”.  Vampire: the Masquerade instead lets players play as vampires, in a world where vampires exist and secretly control the world.

There are also many smaller, independent RPGs out there to consider, such as Wanderhome, a game with no violence in it, where players take on the role of humanoid animals in a pastoral setting (think Brian Jacques, Tove Jansson, or Hayao Miyazaki).  In short, while Dungeons and Dragons is a great game, there are so many other great games out there that you can almost certainly find one that appeals to you.

Finding Players

Although there are a few “solo RPGs”, the vast majority require at least two players.  One player takes the role of the “game master” (“dungeon master” in D&D), and they serve as the game’s narrator while also playing all the monsters and people the party meets.  The remaining players make up the “party” of adventurers, explorers, etc. in the game.

Fortunately, playing a role-playing game requires no special skills, so you can recruit any friends or family who are also interested in trying out a new game.

Internet Play

If you can’t find a group to play with near you geographically, you can also find plenty of players on the Internet, for instance in Reddit’s r/lfg section.  However, playing role-playing games over the Internet is a bit more challenging, so if possible it’s best to find fellow gamers, and then meet in-person, at least for your first game.

Where to Play

Assuming you want to play in real life (and not over the Internet), all you really need is a large table for everyone to sit around … and even that is not a hard requirement.  Really all you need is a space where everyone can hear each other talk, with some stable surface to roll dice on, so a coffee shop, (private) library room, or even a car on a long road trip can work.

Some games (such as Dungeons and Dragons) rely heavily on “miniatures”, ie. small toy-like versions of the players and monsters they fight.  While these games often can be played without such miniatures, they’re often highly recommended, and so for those games a large table (eg. a kitchen or dining room table) really is a requirement.

Get Gaming!

That’s really all there is to it: just a game, a bunch of friends, and (maybe) a table for you to all sit around.  Get everyone together, create your in-game characters (each RPG has its own instructions for doing this), and then get started exploring a hobby that has entranced countless fans over the years!

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