What I Like About Tabletop Role-Playing Games

Posted by on November 4, 2008

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I love role-playing. This is odd, since I only started role-playing a few years ago. And yet I’ve loved it since I was a young boy.

My older brother was a role-player. He played D&D, and Car Wars, and others, I’m sure. After he died, I looked over his few remaining hand-written materials. I was amazed at his creativity, not thinking at the time about how much of his stuff may have been copied from published work. Either way, he definitely loved it. Even if it was all copied from published books, it was lovingly and carefully copied.

I was drawn to the idea of role-playing, of thinking up an adventure and living it in my mind. I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy at the time, so I was naturally attracted to the idea of collectively imagining an exciting adventure.

But I was also shy, so I never had anyone to role-play with. Not until I was in my 20’s, when a few co-workers involved me in a short game of Nobilis, then I found a few younger friends for whom I could run games. And when I did, we had an absolute ball. That’s when I realized what I love about role-playing.

I didn’t own any role-playing source books, so I found and printed the simple Sherpa rules. They’re brilliant; you can easily create a character and write up him or her in five minutes. They focus on simple conflict resolution, so we spent most of our time playing around instead of rolling dice.

We played a rip-roaring game of low-level mafia thugs in a science fiction setting, which culminated in a city-wide mafia war involving giant walking tanks. Then we moved to a short-lived heroic Greek fantasy game, then a D&D-inspired game before the group fizzled out.

Role-playing requires a huge imagination and a little guts (to yell “Och, y’not be wantin’ to double-cross a dwarf, laddie!” to your friends). The result is a collaboratively created story, which can have everything from pathos to action to comedy, and in which you are involved. You’re actually driving the story in whatever direction you want to take it. If it’s not fun, you can make it fun.

As a GM (Game Master), I present the world, situation, and antagonists facing the players. So I get to create a world—or at least simulate one—which I love to do anyway.

A fun, imaginative game where everyone is actively involved and collaboratively push each other to greater and greater heights of story and personal interaction? What’s not to like?

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