Friday, September 16, 2011

Epic Game Night of Epicness!

I started this week of Speak Out With Your Geek Out with a look at my geeky life as it is today, then wrote about the long road it took to get here on Wednesday. Now I'll finish out the week by delving into my favorite geeky hobby of all time. No, not comic collecting, and not video games. Today, I'll write about tabletop roleplaying games.

Tabletop RPG has carried a huge stigma for decades. People condemn it as evil, demonic, and completely unsuitable for children. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, I'll bet if these naysayers actually sat down and took part in a game session, they'd understand just how harmless the games really are and why those nasty words are so undeserved.

Let's put it this way: Tabletop RPG is about as evil as amateur improv actors sitting and talking out a scene together, or children engaging in a game of cops and robbers. The only difference is that the "actors" have a sheet (or sheets) telling them what the character they're playing can do, and the argument of "I shot you, you're dead, you can't run around anymore" is easily solved by rolling dice. That's all it is at its core, really. It's a game of Let's Pretend played with friends around a table instead of a stage or the back yard.

I first got into tabletop RPGs in high school because my girlfriend at the time was into them and I wanted to spend more time with her. I was skeptical about the whole dice-rolling, stat-making part of it all, but she taught me the joy of creating a character and playing that character out in a scenario that the Game Master creates. That's the other difference here from the above example: The players all create their single character, speaking on behalf of that character, while one person takes up the duty of playing all the other characters that the players interact with. The GM also keeps the game moving by introducing story elements for the players to overcome, and has the final say when dice are rolled to see if a player succeeds in an action. The GM is like director, background actor and referee all in one.

Playing in a game is one thing, but running a game is something else. I discovered that particular joy fairly early on in my gaming pursuits. Running a game is a lot like writing a story, actually. You create a setting, you populate it with characters, and you develop a backstory to give it depth. You create a plot that draws the characters in and gives them something exciting to do. You make it fun and entertaining for yourself and your audience. The only thing you don't do is create the story's main characters. That's the players job, but you can work with them to make sure that their characters fit the kind of story you want to tell. In that way, it becomes like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book that is read aloud by one person, with everyone else making the choices to move the story forward.

I could see where some people might have a problem with kids pretending that they're witches and wizards, or vampires and werewolves, but those aren't the only RPGs out there. There are superhero games, science fiction games, historical games, any sort of game you can think of, and more than a few games set in your favorite TV show or movie. The only limit to what you can play is your imagination... and your GM's approval.

Give it a try at some point, you might surprise yourself and have a great time!

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