Guest Post by Jacob Tegtman Creator of Eternity TTRPG
People sometimes tend to think of themselves as either tabletop gamers or video gamers, and play only one or the other. Video games and RPGs have only ever grown in popularity, since their inception. However, there’s been a surge in recent years of more people trying tabletop games, even and especially among hard core video gamers.
As great as graphics are becoming, as fast-paced as video game RPGs can be, and as complex as character-building and combat options are in the digital world, there’s something fundamentally awesome about rolling a d20 to kill a dragon.
Video game RPGs are based on games like dungeons and dragons, after all. If it wasn’t for the imaginative power of tabletop RPGs, video game RPGs wouldn’t be nearly as thrilling and engaging as they are, today. There’s also a reason that people spend hours poring over tabletop RPG core rulebooks, crafting the best possible character, and story for their weekly game.
If you love video game RPGs but haven’t yet delved into the immense world of tabletop gaming, it’s time to give it a try.
The Core of RPGs: Storytelling
Great RPGs are comprised of great stories. No game, no matter how wonderful the mechanics, combat, customization options, or graphics ever reaches “legendary” status without the foundation of a great story. Story is so important, that every other part of a great game could literally be cut away and the game could still be really good.
Consider some of the following video game RPG greats:
- Chrono Trigger
- The Witcher
- Mass Effect
- The Elder Scrolls Series
- The Final Fantasy Series
- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
- Fire Emblem
Each of those games was beloved in many regards. They had great graphics for their era, awesome gameplay, fun mechanics, and engaging character progression/ customization. But without the stories that went along with those games, they only would have been “ok” games.
The reason you know this is true is that when most people think of those games, what first comes to mind for them is the “feel” or “vibe” of the game world. The darkness of plotlines in The Witcher. The growing sense of awe and power of Final Fantasy games. The mystery and sense of urgency with Knights of the Old Republic. The story grips players and pulls them onward. With great games, the pull is inexorable.
Storytelling in Tabletop RPGs
When it comes to tabletop RPGs, they obviously lack the graphics, speed, and automatic math calculations of video games, but that doesn’t really negatively affect them in any meaningful way. In fact, in their own way, tabletop RPGs deliver every bit as much to players as any video game today ever could.
Most tabletop RPGs have a single “dungeon master,” or “game master” who creates the foundations of the gaming world. The players at the table then decide what they want their characters to “do” in that world, and how they respond to things that are happening. The point is that tabletop RPGs feature group storytelling, which often results in equal or even better stories than most video game RPGs.
Many great dungeon masters, for example, listen to their players as they try to work through mysteries or complex parts in their ongoing RPG campaign, and learn from some of their better guesses. They then write them down in something like a DnD campaign planner. When great ideas present themselves, even if they weren’t part of the original plan for the story, there’s nothing wrong with taking that idea, or tweaking it to fit the overall picture. The best part is that most times, players don’t even know that they helped create the emerging story.
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When multiple people are engaged in a single story, the chances for creative brilliance increase. If you’ve never been part of a length RPG campaign, you might be amazed at the ideas people come up with, and the quality of storytelling.
Graphics, Mechanics, Combat, and Customization (H2)
As if the quality of tabletop storytelling power wasn’t enough, there’s more.
First off, there are many options nowadays for bringing a tabletop game to life. More than ever before, there are quality options for maps, battle grids, miniatures – even many that come pre-painted, and full-fledged 3D dungeons.
Even if none of those options are available to you, however, or you want to start small, without all the extras, tabletop RPGs have always relied on what’s known as theater of the mind. Imagination really is just as thrilling (and often more so) than gaming graphics. It takes a little brainpower, of course, and takes practice. But, as you develop your mental muscles, the colors, action, drama, and intensity of your own mental images really can’t be beat.
Top-tier tabletop RPGs come with just as much design work as any video game RPG. In fact, most video game RPG mechanics come straight out of the hard work already accomplished by some of the industry firsts, like dungeons and dragons.
Of course, tabletop combat is slower than video game combat. However, slowness doesn’t mean there’s less drama. It all comes back to the storytelling aspect. Whereas video game RPGs focus more on the challenge of the encounter, tabletop focuses more (not entirely – combat challenge still counts a great deal) on the story of the encounter.
In tabletop RPGs, every single swing of a sword can be visualized in great detail, and every attack often means more than just calculating damage. Oftentimes, enemies don’t just “get hit” by an attack, but rather, “get cut across their shoulder, causing their own swings to slow.”
You can see the difference, and the resulting implications as the fight and story progress.
Looking for endless options on how your character looks, talks, and carries themselves? Look no further.
Want to create the ultimate character build as a fighter, archer, wizard, or healer? There are literal tomes of options available to you in tabletop RPGs, with abilities, spells, magic items, feats, tactics, and more.
Start Your Tabletop Adventure
With the recent increase in popularity among tabletop RPGs, you’ll have no problem finding a local gaming group. If you have a local tabletop gaming store, head there and just ask around for a group you can join.
Remember that each tabletop RPG is different, as well. If you want to give the hobby a try, you may check out a second game, if the first one isn’t to your liking. Each gaming group is also different, so you may find that you love the game you’re playing, but need different players to game with.
In any case, you’ll almost certainly be happy you played.
Guest Post by Jacob Tegtman Creator of Eternity TTRPG