Why play a tabletop RPG over a console or PC RPG - and where do I start?
Which system will I like?
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Where I'm coming from...
So, I've played the best MMORPGS and CRPGS: World of Warcraft, Diabolo, Baldur's Gate, XII Final Fantasies, Anarchy Online, Mass Effect, Fallout, AdventureQuest, Daggerfall and Morrowind, Lost Odyssey, Zelda... The list goes on, but for me none of it compares to good old-fashioned tabletop dice rollin'. Here's why:
- Story. PC/console RPGs have a fixed storyline. Personally, I always thought Daggerfall was superior to Morrowind, for example, as the storyline was much more flexible, with random quests thrown into the mix. Frontier: Elite II was an amazingly immersive game because it had no story other than the path you carved for yourself. A good Game Master can spin things to include players' own interpretation of the story, and allow them to have a real input to their game.
- System. GMs can run whatever system the players like - and add "house rules" as they please - as opposed to being fixed and open to...
- Cheating. Come on, admit it: You've somehow cheated or exploited the system or loopholes in a PC/console RPG - even if it's looking up item locations or optimising your skills. Tabletop RPGs aren't about one person winning or losing.
- Social. Playing with my friends beats pick up groups or random strangers every time.
- Replayability. Starting a new character never means having to play those same few intro quests/missions to get them up to speed.
Real male and female gamers talk about tabletop roleplaying:
Dungeons & Dragons links:
OK, you've convinced me - where do I start?
This is controversial, and will no doubt raise a few eyebrows from hardcore roleplayers, but I'd point people towards 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. D&D should be pretty familiar to anyone who's played Baldur's Gate - or most CRPGs, in fact - and the new edition plays very much like a video game. The books are high-quality and the system is easy to get in to, and there are plenty of ready-made adventures for new DMs - even including monster stats. It's where I started, and I've moved on since, but it made the transition easy.
The fantasy genre is pretty easy to dive into for roleplaying, as everyone's got some idea about the setting.
The main drawback for new gamers is that D&D's a bit of a money sink - you only really need a Player's Handbook and a Dungeon Master's Guide as far as books go, in fact I'd recommend keeping it simple - but you'll find yourself buying a gaming mat, miniatures, dice sets, possibly dungeon tiles...
Savage Worlds links:
Savage Worlds is a pretty easy to use "rules light" system, and as such would make a good introduction to tabletop gaming. The core rulebooks are not only cheap - $10/£5 or so - it's also pretty easy to get started playing a fantasy campaign for free.
I'm currently planning a campaign using the Deadlands setting book, and the thing I like about the Savage Worlds books is that rather than outlining an adventure, as D&D adventures do, they outline the world and drop plot hooks here and there to allow a GM to weave their own story. This is perfect for my group as they have a habit of going off on tangents!
SW has a variety of setting books, from fantasy to futuristic, wild west to pirate, and will definitely feature in my campaigns in future. The core Savage Worlds rulebook is available to download too, which is a bonus if you live outside the US (like me).
The long running Generic Universal Role Playing System - also in its fourth edition. GURPS is more complex than D&D in many ways, but simpler than others. It's incredibly customisable - as you'd expect with a name like that - and the many, many GURPS sourcebooks are incredibly detailed and well worth buying for whatever system you may play due to the sheer wealth of information there.
GURPS can be played with or without miniatures, so you might save some money here too. There's also a free "lite" version to try before you buy, and a very good introductory adventure available for free.
We're currently playing time travel GURPS as it's pretty easy to switch between worlds and timelines on the fly - the scenario in the 4th edition Campaigns book centres around world hopping - and pretty much any character you could imagine is possible under the system.
Unfortunately, all this generic universality leads to information overload - there's much more content to skip over than you'd use for any one campaign. Ploughing though superpowers, extra head/limb rules and secret kung-fu knowledge to find the rules for "Gullible" gets old.
You could also try...
- Descent: Journeys in the Dark
If you enjoy the idea of dungeon crawling without subscribing to the whole RPG thing, you may want to check out a boardgame like Descent.
A fun "rules light" system that isn't for everyone - one of our gaming group hates the mechanics - but can produce some really fun games with imaginative players.
- FUDGE / FATE
A pretty fast and loose system with custom +/- dice that makes it easy to set up and resolve challenges.
- Mouse Guard
Multi award winning RPG, described by the Indie RPG awards as, "a perfect introductory role-playing game that explains how to play without taking anything for granted."