So as the title suggests, this is going to be an Educational topic for new players to the great hobby of Tabletop Roleplaying. This article is NOT going to be a “Tabletop RPG’s are better than Video Games” article or be a “Video Game Players can’t play Tabletop RPG’s properly” article. I too am a video game player and my intent here is to simply point out what a person who has only experienced Roleplaying through the virtual experience of video games can expect when they finally join a tabletop game. This will be in regards to any Tabletop RPG, but, for this article I will use a lot of examples from high fantasy games such as Dungeon’s and Dragons. Also alot of these examples will be from what I have seen over my experiences. Everyone’s experience will be different, but these will be helpful to anyone.
Video games already provide you some in depth looks to a characters background, sometimes a player gets the choice to customize this. But when you are going to play a Tabletop RPG, you are expected or at least encouraged to come up with major key parts of your characters backstory. Now this is where it gets tricky. To fully enjoy playing a TRPG and engaging with building a story together with your group, you should expect to play out your character’s backstory and how it influences their thoughts, feelings, and actions in the present time of the game. Does this mean that you need to come up with every little detail of their past that is set in stone for the game? Absolutely not. A Game Master might even ask you or even tell you parts of your character’s backstory that you didn’t even think of to tie in to the current game.
“You see a group of orcs up ahead. The one in the lead looks familiar to you. You remember a time when you were a kid, a band of orcs attacked a local farm. Farmer Joe hid you the best he could in the hay before they were upon him. To this day you never forgot the details of seeing him die by the hand of this orc.”
Creating and Customizing a Character
Video games usually come pretty close to providing a lot of options when it comes to creating a character and customizing their skills as they level up. Some games let you choose your gender, race, class, armor, weapons, etc. And these games usually have predetermined skills or skill trees to spend points into when leveling up your character. But even though you see a lot of these elements in a Tabletop RPG, it again can go above and beyond this if desired by your or by the Game Master. For instance, if you are trying to be creative and don’t see anything that seems to be what you are looking for in the rules, you can actually work with your Game Master to possibly create a custom class, race, spell, or ability. The options are endless and this is called “Homebrewing”.
Interacting With People
Most video gamers are used to being given multiple choices throughout hours of game play. These choices could be things like being given certain dialogue to say when interacting with characters. A Game Master might prompt you on how you would like to approach a conversation with a NPC or creature, but instead of getting prompted dialogue, you have to come up with what you want to say and how to act when interacting. This then includes having to roll dice to see if your particular approach even succeeds. This opens a whole new world of freedom to players to interact with anyone and everything they come across, but remember this, there also comes a million consequences as well if you approach someone the wrong way.
Interacting With The Environment
Video games are usually built with a lot of unexplorable areas, impassable terrain, and a lot of immovable or unbreakable objects. Games like Skyrim seem to be the closest thing there is to giving players an “Open World” feel and also the ability to interact with a ton of objects. But in a Tabletop game, there are really “no boundaries” and nothing can be ruled out. Of course, this is if the Game Master allows for it, but the beauty is, that you can certainly try to explore an unknown area, climb up the tree, burn down someone’s house, or move that boulder with your mind. You can expect the Game Master to let you know what type of things can and can’t be done in their game. But the other great thing is, that if you can convince the GM that something you are trying makes sense, they might let you roll the die to see if you succeed.
Going Into Action or Combat
Again, in video game RPG’s, you will notice that there is usually either a set specific amount of moves you can make at any given time such as a single hack or slash from your weapon to interacting with a simple lever on a wall that sticks out in the environment. You may also have played a “hack and slash” RPG video game much like Diablo or World of Warcraft. This is where a lot of people can struggle when going into Tabletop Roleplaying. You will have some set lists of moves, actions, spells, etc that you can make at any given time, but you can also use your brain to try to succeed in combat in different ways. Maybe instead of fighting the enemy, you decide that you want to try to disarm him and use his own weapon against him. You can certainly try to do that instead of just plunging your own sword into him. But one thing that you should know is that combat in Tabletop games is a lot slower than video games. A turn (which is one single movement and attack) is usually considered to be 6 seconds of story time in most tabletop games like D&D. Each person at your table might take a minute each to come up with what they want their character to do and rolling dice to resolve hitting and damage. So if you are expecting your character to ever have to hack and slash their way quickly through giant hordes of enemies, this probably won’t be the case. Unless of course you have a creative Game Master who groups enemies and describes your actions as accomplishing this.
Failure And Even Death
Video games always have a reset button or Save points that you can reboot if you mess up. Tabletop RPG’s pride themselves on not being so forgiving. You should expect to have as many failures as successes when playing a TRPG because statistically you are rolling dice for outcomes. And again as stated above, TRPG’s have consequences for actions, one of which includes a character being at risk of being killed. Some Game Masters (but not most) usually offer their players the ability to have their character get resurrected if they fall to bad fate. But if your character decides to continue to do dumb things in game that are way beyond them, you might just be asked to be rolling up a new character. Most importantly though, you NEED to be ok with this if you want to play and have fun with an TRPG.
What To Bring to Your First Session
First of all, it is always best to get into contact with the Game Master who is going to be running your game (if possible) or someone who has played with the GM before. This will help you know what you should bring to your first session. Here are some basic guidelines of what most players bring:
- Pencils (Not Pens as you need to erase)
- Dice (whatever set of dice the game calls for)
- A character miniature (not always necessary, your GM might already have one)
- Fully filled out Character Sheet (unless you will be making character’s at the first session)
- Snacks or Food Money (people like to eat during these sessions)
As there are many many many other things I probably didn’t address in this article, feel free to leave comments or questions below. Also, if you are looking for another great resource, check out Bacon Battalion RPG’s playlist that will help anyone understand how to be a better Tabletop RPG player. And as always, happy adventures to you!
And if you are looking to get involved playing a Tabletop Game in your area and might not know where to start or to play online with people. Check out my External Resources page HERE.