Tabletop Role-Playing Games

What are they, why are they popular, and which ones are better for you?

Parker Bradford, Editor of Community

The world of tabletop role-playing games (TTRPGs) is filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of various games; and a separate community around each one. Because of this, choosing which game to play can be daunting, as many believe you can never truly know if a game is right for you until you start it. And for most people who are new to TTRPGs, they probably only know of one or two, let alone the vast array of options before them.

Let’s get more in-depth- what is a tabletop role-playing game? Well, a role-playing game, or RPG, is a game wherein you play as a character that is not you, taking on the identity of this separate character and acting as them. It’s like a mix of acting and improv, using your knowledge of the character to respond to things at the moment they happen. A tabletop role-playing game is a version of the RPG format where a group of players all sit around a table or in a voice call together, and create the story as a group.

Those not currently playing TTRPGs might think of them as exactly what they say they are- a game where people sit around a table and play as characters within an imaginary setting. However, many players of TTRPGs would disagree with this simplistic view of the subject. “It doesn’t feel like a game, it feels almost like living a second life.” a Dungeons and Dragons player who wishes to remain anonymous said.

Many TTRPG players find themselves becoming as invested as avid readers do with books, as not only is there a completely foreign world to create and explore, but you get to interact directly with said world alongside your friends. Many people often give their characters certain traits and experiences that they can relate to more to empathize easier with their character.

Not only this, but many players also find an emotional benefit from the games. “It feels like group therapy. Obviously, you should still go to therapy if you need it, but when you have a room full of friends all letting themselves become more vulnerable and personal together, it can have a big impact,” a Call of Cthulhu player adds.

Each party is different, just like each player, so it can be hard to find what games would be best for you. If you’re a fan of the fantasy genre, for example, you could play the ever-popular Dungeons and Dragons, or the lesser-known Pathfinder. Fans of dark fantasy could also find enjoyment in Dragon Age, while fans of superhero fiction may prefer Mutants and Masterminds, and still others who prefer cosmic horrors and Lovecraftian tales may find their place with Call of Cthulhu.

Taking a step away from fantasy, the sci-fi spectrum has many games like Starfinder, which carries the feeling of the sword-and-sorcery genre into a futuristic setting, or Cyberpunk Red, which puts a more gritty-realism feel on their dystopian future. And of course, with the new movie coming out, those fans of Frank Herbert’s work would probably enjoy a game of Dune: Adventures in the Imperium.

There are countless TTRPGs out there, and that means there is bound to be at least one that any given person can find enjoyment out of. Not only can you come to clubs or hosted events to find people to play sessions with, but you can check out different game shops in your area, or even look online. There is a subreddit called r/lfg, or Looking for Group, where you can make a post looking for others or find people who are looking for someone like you, and it is inclusive of all TTRPGs, to my knowledge.

When all is said and done, the world of TTRPGs is massive and mostly unexplored- and because of how open-ended most of the systems are, the door is ajar for all people who want to be at least a little creative and make something brand new. No two worlds are the same, much like no two players or characters. When you and your friends come together to play one of these games, no matter what you decide to play, or how you decide to play it, the result will be truly magical.