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The most interesting and confident people I’ve ever met have been avid tabletop RPG players. Over the years tabletop RPGs have been labelled as everything from satanic worship to the cause of suicides – but they’re really just a form of collaborative storytelling.

A group of gamers gathers to tell a story, contributing from their own characters perspective – improvising, basically – but within the framework of that particular gaming system. The system can dictate things like how a fight is resolved or whether a character can successfully perform an action, and dice are typically used to add the element of luck.

Please don’t let the geeky image of tabletop (sometimes called pen-and-paper) RPGs put you off from taking up this wonderful hobby – I promise, it’ll benefit you immensely. It’s really no different than getting together with the lads to watch a football match, but it is a whole lot more cerebral. Board games are also a great option – use this handy flowchart to pick the perfect board game How To Choose The Perfect Board Game How To Choose The Perfect Board Game What better way to spend time with friends than to fool around with a board game? But which board game shall you pick? Read More .

Start Here: LearnTableTopRPGs.com

This is your essential gateway to the wonderful world of tabletop gaming – start with the section on Why People Play explaining the motivations behind playing, particularly the video on how RPGs players are more confident and successful in life.

learntabletoprpgs

Move on to How a Game is Played to watch some actual examples.

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The site also has some links to free starter games to download which offer a little teaser of a full system, usually with pre-made characters and scenarios so you can get started immediately. Read through some until you find a theme you like, and invite 3-4 friends to have a game.

The tabletop RPG market generally revolves around selling you source books for your next adventures, so it’s hoped that once you find a system and setting you enjoy, you’ll buy more scenarios. However, purchasing something is never strictly necessary – the D6 System is completely free and open source (you might also want to check out these free download and print board games Save Money On Expensive Board Games With These Self-Printed Alternatives Save Money On Expensive Board Games With These Self-Printed Alternatives Christmas is coming, and that means getting together with friends and family around a good board game. But board games can be expensive, and many of you will only play them once or twice at... Read More ). 

Keep in mind that nearly all RPGs require one person to be the designated Dungeon Master or Game Master (DM or GM, used interchangeably). The DM will play as everyone else – that is, non-player characters (NPCs) – as well as provide the narrative structure. If this sounds daunting, don’t worry: when you play starter games or scenarios, encounters are laid out for you in detail and the story is usually linear. As your storytelling and improvisation skills increase, you may find you increasingly want to create your own epic adventures, but it’s important not to spend too long on the planning phase – I’ve played some sessions where the DM has walked in with a notebook full of ideas, only to throw it aside when the pesky adventurers accidentally choose an entirely different direction for the adventure.

While we’re on the topic, our own Technophilia podcast did a special roleplaying episode set in the world of Numunera – the system is light (no dice rolling), so it should give you an idea of how the storytelling aspect plays out. Warning: there is NSFW language used, and it’s about 2 hours long. Roleplaying takes a long time!

Find a Game: Official Dungeons and Dragons Website

Dungeons and Dragons (DnD) is by far the most popular tabletop role-play gaming system around – it was the first tabletop RPG after all, published way back in 1974.

official-dnd

Now owned by Wizards of the Coast (creators of Magic The Gathering trading card game, available on iPad too Try Your Hand at These 3 Great iOS Collectible Card Games Try Your Hand at These 3 Great iOS Collectible Card Games Looking to take your collectible card habit beyond dead trees? Your iPad has access to digital editions of some of the longest-running collectible card games (CCGs) in existence – and entry is free! Read More ), it’s important to note that Wizards is a commercial company, and as such a lot of what you find there will be trying to sell you the core rulebook set or a subscription to the online tools. Instead, I’d suggest you head straight over to the Find a Game section. Wizards sponsors DnD Encounters at game shops across the world – they’re free events (usually, though this is at the discretion of the venue) primarily designed for new playersto provide a taste of the game in the hands of an experienced DM. Failing that, hit up the forums to find gaming groups in need of a new member.

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Sadly, the many versions of DnD are the source of much tension in roleplaying communities – some gamers swear by 2nd edition, others prefer 3.5. Newer players will have come to the series with the card-based combat powers introduced in 4th edition, a mechanic that left older generations wondering if DnD wasn’t trying to be more like World of Warcraft and less about the storytelling aspect. And just to complicate things further, 5th Edition will be released in July 2014.

Community: reddit.com/r/rpg 

Apart from the fantastic FAQ, r/rpg is a great place to read about the adventures of other gaming groups once you’ve gotten a little further into the hobby, and to get help and advice for your campaign. The subreddit might seem like a clique at first, but they’re also quite welcoming to beginners (assuming you’ve fully read the FAQ, that is).

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Reference: RPG Geek

Before you click, be warned: it’s a bewildering complicated website running on a tragically antiquated system. BUT – it’s also the best resource you’ll find for user compiled lists and more information on a specific game than you could ever want. Here for instance, is the entry on Hero Kids, an introductory system designed to play with 4 to 10 year old children.

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Did I just suggest roleplay gaming with 4 year old children?! Absolutely: introducing your children to the hobby can be a great family activity that will provide them with some serious skills for later in life.

But back to RPG Geek. You’ll find user uploaded images of games, ratings, session reports – such that if you’re on the fence about buying into a system, you won’t be any longer. It’s the Wikipedia of RPGs (and board games, in fact, at the boardgamegeek.com sister site).

Play Online: Roll20.net

I can’t stress enough that playing with friends is the most fun you can have, but if you don’t have any friends and can’t find a game in your local area, consider a virtual tabletop game. Roll20 offers complete video and voice chat with a virtual tabletop for moving around characters, sounds, dice, and much more. It does feel a little more like a computer game, but then some players enjoy the nitty-gritty mechanics of movement, line of sight and such, more than the storytelling aspect.

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I regret thinking tabletop RPGs were for serious nerds only when I was a kid: they should be a mandatory part of education! Particularly in today’s climate of mobile addiction, anything that will let our children (or ahem, adults!) develop social, imagination, and confidence skills whilst still having fun is a win all around in my opinion. What are you waiting for?

  1. Jack
    May 15, 2015 at 4:56 am

    Chaos system used by Chaos 6010 uses d20 and all the other dice, d6, d8, d10, d12. If you like a cyberpunk style open galaxy game that one is great.

  2. Anonymous
    June 12, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    The game is called Numenera.

    Yes you do roll dices in this game, the game master just don't.

    • TheTechnomancer
      June 13, 2014 at 4:31 pm

      Correction: The game master does roll dice in Numenera, but generally only to generate from tables.

      I'll also point out that each player in the Numenera system only needs TWO dice: 1 d20 (20-sided for "normal" people) and 1 ordinary 6-sided die. Focus in the system is more on story and discovery than combat, though, so people used to hack'n'slash dungeon crawlers may find it to be a very different experience.

    • Nochtal Balzer
      August 4, 2015 at 3:35 pm

      Dice is plural, die is singular.

  3. likefunbutnot
    June 9, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    Disclaimer: I have never actually played a pen and paper RPG. I do play other tablet top games though.

    I think pointing people to the official D&D might be a disservice. 4th edition is widely reviled and now that there's a 5th edition on the way, the player base is about to become even more fragmented.

    Rather than just looking at D&D, new players are probably better served by finding out which game is popular among local players. That might be Pathfinder (based on AD&D 3.5) or Hackmaster (based on old school original late-70s Advanced Dungeons and Dragons), but it might also be some other game like World of Darkness or Paranoia. The best way to find out what's going on is probably just to go spend time at a local game shop. Meetup Groups or Social Media might also be an option, but it's also very common to find postings for groups that broke up ages ago.

    • Alex D
      June 10, 2014 at 12:21 am

      Incorrect, the Dnd website is a huge resource for all your needs. Also, reviled is a very harsh term for someone who's never played it. It is the best way to get into Dungeons and Dragons thanks to its simpler learning curve. Plus, 5th is not fragmenting the fan base it's adding more content. 3.5 is my personal favorite edition, but it's by and far the hardest game to learn. The reason I think the main Dnd site is a great resource is because it has a vast amount of information.

    • James B
      June 10, 2014 at 6:47 am

      I knew it would be controversial, but I'm expecting a lot of our readers to be computer gamers, for whom the concept of "power cards" from 4e is more immediately familiar than a list of spells you can cast or text on a character sheet. If they then get deeper into the hobby and end up hating me for suggesting DnD in the first place, no matter, I'll take that hit for the team. But I'd far rather they got into the hobby at all than be put off by perhaps more archaic and traditional RPGs.

      I've played a few other systems, and I always come back to the familiar DnD 4e; if I'd been started on the others, I might not have continued at all.

      Gaming shops and meet ups are both good options, but I've found them rather off-putting to noobs. My local board game group was full of real obsessives who couldn't even be bothered to tell me their name.

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