I thought I’d talk a little bit about D&D, and role-playing tabletop games in general. It’s going to be really nerdy but bare with me.
So what am I talking about?
That help? I’ll go into it a bit more as we go.
A Tabletop Role Playing Game: a game where people as a group tell a collaborative story together using a framework defined by a specific system, usually involving a “leader” of some description who narrates the world, and a group of players who narrate their own actions. Dice are frequently involved.Sammy, just now.
The core idea of the games is that you all pick a system you like, you’ll probably have heard of a few of these regardless of how interested you are. There’s the biggest; D&D or Dungeons and Dragons. There’s FATE, World of Darkness, Pathfinder, Savage Worlds, Numinera, GURPS, the list goes on for approximately forever. Helpfully most of these games also have “editions” as they’re reprinted every few years and redesigned to make them better. D&D, for example, is on 5th edition currently. Editions are rarely backwards compatible so you all have to be working from the same thing.
Each system then usually comes in several books, some designed for players to look at that have all the stuff in them to make an awesome character, then some for the person running the game that include all the rules about how to do stuff and how to build great stories to tell. There’s also usually a book or two just packed full of enemies and monsters to fight.
Everyone sits down and starts by building their character. This varies dramatically between systems, but D&D is a good place to start. You get some stats such s how strong or intelligent you are, then you pick your race, class (what you do) and some skills and stuff. From there you go off into the world with a list of things you can do well and a list of things you can’t do so well, and you adventure!!
The reason they’re called Tabletop Role Playing Games is that they generally happen around a table with not much else. Some people use maps, some don’t, but the majority of the work happens in everyone’s collective imagination. The role playing bit is that when you’re in the game your acting things out from the point of view of your character, rather than yourself. You can make all the decisions you want as them, and do pretty much anything in the game world. These games have this advantage over video games in that the only limit is what people can think of, rather than what’s been programmed.
I could write tomes about Tabletop RPGs (role playing games) and in fact many people have, so instead I’m going to have a small list of resources down below for anyone who wants to check it out, and I really hope you will.
I started gaming in year 10 of secondary school, putting me about 13-14 years old. I was invited to join an ongoing game by a bunch of people who had been playing for a while. There were two main groups of players, about 5 in each, who were in the same adventure. Both groups would split off to go do things they wanted to but we would routinely meet up to trade stories and loot, or change who went with who. The games were run by a pair of teachers who had all the books needed (Which could be a bit expensive for a student!).
The group I’d joined have been going for that whole school year (which starts in September) and this was close to the June, so I was a little behind. One of the other players helped me out by going through the creation process, helping draw up a good character who wouldn’t be killed by the first thing I met, and in the end I had a reasonable half-elf bard. I don’t remember the name I gave them, and I don’t remember much about them, but I do remember I enjoyed it a lot.1I do remember one other thing, the loot we got at the end of the school year was insane. We weren’t going to be playing anymore so we each got something that would elevate our character to ludicrous power, so I got an instrument that could take any form I wanted, had a +3 magic sword in it, and gave me +20 to perform. If this makes no sense to you TLDR: guitar with a powerful sword in it that meant I could declare anything I wanted and as long as I played a song it happened.
After that I took a break for a year or so when I moved to college but shortly after meeting my future-wife she intended me to join an ongoing game her secondary school friends had been running for a while. This one was in a different version of D&D to the one I’d started in and was really different. I was allowed to play a character class the person running the game had created called an Umbromancer who was all about shadow magic and sneaking. After playing for not very long I quickly found the problem with making your own classes, they were hilariously overpowered. I got my character to the point that by mid-level every turn I could turn invisible; all of my usual actions like move, attack, help someone etc., had a side effect of “you also turn invisible”. Invisibility could be quite overpowered and was easy to break as if you ever attack from invisibility you become visible again, but I could do it so quickly and often it didn’t matter.
The game continued for a year or so and eventually ended when we beat the “big bad” by killing a goddess (Lolth for those in the know) and stealing her power. We got to do a little bit of narrating after that with what we did with it all.
University was a good time for gaming. The uni I went to had a really big and involved RPG club where I met some of my best friends. The first year I joined a game that I can’t remember in huge detail but involved robot arms, killing a dear, and a wizard who could tell the entire history of a glass of beer.
The second year I started running some games as well, for the first time. It was quite nerve-wracking to run a game, and maybe I’ll talk more about that later, but this post is more focused on the playing.
Third year I played more games but I was always playing male characters as there was a strong idea to create characters that represented parts of yourself.
After uni I started playing more casually with friends on a weekly basis (uni was often multiple times a week with different games, got quite busy!) and played a bit more experimentally.
I quickly found again that playing female characters was more interesting to me, and at the time I didn’t really try to think about it too hard. I was vaguely embarrassed I wanted to play female characters but also really wanted to do it, and justified it to myself and others by saying it was because I wanted to play strong female characters, like some kind of feminist bastion.
Since I moved for work (and to live with my wife) we’ve both been playing in some games from a slowly changing group as people drop in and out, and I’ve been more comfortable playing female characters. My most recent character, created just before I started getting these funny ideas in my head and realising I was a woman, is a changeling; a gender-less transforming race who mimic anyone they like.
Part of designing this character did make me think back times in my childhood (and more recently) when I wished I could just change gender at will. I would agonise over thinking “if only I could just spend a day as a woman”, or when reading those wacky-gender-swap stories where they main character has to try and turn back I would just think “I’d love that, I wouldn’t ever try to turn back”.
It took me quite a while to figure out I may have been trying to tell myself something.
So there we have it, a brief introduction to my introduction to Table Top RPGs. They’re great fun, I don’t think I’ve met anyone who hasn’t started playing and utterly enjoyed it, and next time I’m going to talk about a group of people who stream their game, and why they’re awesome.
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