ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Choosing a Role-Playing Game

Updated on February 9, 2018

So, you’ve got an idea what role-playing’s all about and you’ve found some people to play with. The next thing you need to do is figure out what game you’re going to play. There are hundreds of role-playing games to choose from, each with its own strengths, weak points, and quirks. There are a number of factors to consider when trying to determine which game is right for you and your group.

While there are several universal game systems (systems, like QAGS or GURPS, that can be adapted to any genre) available, most RPGs are designed with a particular kind of story in mind. Some games, like Spycraft, cover the broad aspects of a genre (in this case, modern action-adventure) and work well for a number of different settings and story types. Others, like Call of Cthulhu, focus on a specific subject (role-playing in the world of H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction). Typically, more specific games don’t provide as much room for variation from the main premise, but their tight focus provides a much more detailed treatment of elements and concepts that are most important to the setting.

The genre of a game can narrow down your options considerably, but most genres are still fairly broad. For example, Star Wars and Blade Runner are both science fiction stories, but other than Harrison Ford they have very little in common. The style of a game will help determine the character types, story focus, and themes that an RPG system will need to be able to handle. Is the game you want to run (or play) set in a world that’s bright and hopeful or dark and brooding? Do the characters have swashbuckling adventures complete with glib banter and flashy swordplay, or do they grimly fight for survival in a brutal world?

There are a lot of different RPGs genres and styles to choose from.
There are a lot of different RPGs genres and styles to choose from. | Source

Unless the game you want to play is based on a particular intellectual property that has been adapted for role-playing, there’s a good chance that two or more games will fit the genre and style that you’re shooting for. Assuming that all of the contenders handle the genre and style you want equally well, the deciding factor as to which game to play will probably be system (game rules set) preference. Groups who want to focus mainly on the game aspect will typically want more detailed rules systems than those who prefer character development and storytelling. You’ll also need to consider how difficult it is to learn to play the game. Players who are new to role-playing or who don’t have a lot of time to commit to gaming will need a simpler system than experienced gamers who are willing to “do homework” outside of the regular game sessions.

The final thing to consider when choosing which game you’re going to play is price. Some games can be played with a single rulebook that can be purchased in PDF format for under $20. Others require multiple books and can cost $100 or more for just the basics. For rules-heavy games that require a lot of cross-referencing, it’s often helpful to have multiple copies of core rulebooks. If a game’s price tag is more than your group is willing to spend, you’ll need to either consider another game or convince someone to lend you the books you need.

Once you’ve decided on the genre, style, system characteristics, and price point you’re looking for, you should be able to narrow your list of potential games down to a few contenders. The best way to decide which game will work best for you is to actually play the games. The best place to play lots of different games is at gaming conventions, but stores often have demo nights for popular games and you may even be able to convince other gaming groups that play the games you’re considering to let you sit in (or at least watch). If playing isn’t an option, you can also read reviews and actual play reports, download previews, listen to podcasts, and talk to other gamers (online or in person) to learn more about the games you’re interested in.

After you’ve researched the short list of possible games, get together with your group (who have hopefully been doing research of their own), discuss the options, and decide which game will work best for the type of role-playing experience you’re looking for. Once you’ve decided, pick up a copy of the rules and start learning how the game works. You’re almost ready to start playing.

© 2010 Steve Johnson


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)