Table-top Roleplaying Games: An Inside Look

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“The ground started to crack with fractures as eight legged creatures started to pour out. You recognize them immediately. These were the Aranea. Winged-spiders the size of cows. Creatures summoned by those Eldritch Mages. While significantly smaller than the horned creature, you know for a fact that they are not any less dangerous. Some unfortunate souls fell into the crevasse never to be seen again. While some fell victim to the monstrosities that emerged from the fissures. There are countless of them. The militia is getting overwhelmed and majority of the townsfolk have started to flee, abandoning hope, never looking back. As they ran past the fountain, you see one of them get knocked down violently. One of the creatures notice this and quickly sprints towards his direction. You recognize him from the academy. He is in one of your defense classes, and you know for a fact that his fighting skills are inept. He will not survive.

You have never been in a fight outside of training. You look behind you for support,but to your surprise, your friends are not there anymore. You are confident you can outrun these creatures to safety in the hopes of fighting another day. But are you willing to leave your hapless peer to perish?

What do you do?

 roleplaying game

If you read my previous article, then you’d probably be familiar with the excerpt above. It’s the ideal beginning of a Table-top Roleplaying Game. But what exactly is it? I think to properly define it, we need start from where it comes from. To do that, let’sask the more appropriate question, what is a roleplaying game?

A roleplaying game or more widely knowns as RPG, is a type of game where players assume the role of a person other than herself. Normally, this is a fictional character in a fantasy or sci-fi setting. The players are then thrust into a world where all their decisions and actions determine the outcome of the game. There are several types of RPGs but the original system which is table-top,is what we’ll focus on in this article. So, in the table-top version, theplayers are expected to sit in one table where their interactions with each other can be fully exploited. The whole game will revolve on an over-arching storyline and a set of rules that is utilized by a Game Master or a GM. The more experienced the GM is, the smoother the game goes, as she will act as the mediator or referee on how the players interact with the world and the elements of the story based on the agreed rules. Think of it as an interactive RadioShow, with the listeners having free will.

 A Brief History

The roots of Table-top Roleplaying games run deep to the ancient Indian game called Chaturanga. The game eventually developed into the classic game we know today as Chess. This gave the rise to more strategy based table-top games that pushed the envelope of gamers around the world. Then came about the creation of war gaming in the 19thcentury, where players simulated military battles using miniature soldiers,vehicles, and artillery seen in an actual battlefield. 100 years later,Chainmail, a medieval miniature war game was released, which became the foundation for Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), the first ever Table-top Roleplaying game created.

The Mechanics

As I mentioned earlier, the game runs on an intricate system or set of rules that the players must adhere to. While they are not set in stone, it is important that theplayers follow these guidelines to avoid unnecessary chaos. First off, a game cannot start without a Game Master (GM) or in Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) a Dungeon Master (DM). This is because the Game Master is in charge of creating the setting for the specific game session, the actions of its denizens ornon-player characters (NPCs), and of course the enforcement of the system rules. The players should also have their created characters ready for the adventure. The basis of their characters will differ depends on what the Game Master dictated, but in the end this collective of Player Characters (PC) is known as the “party”.

The game begins with a specific event to start off the story, and most of the time this is where the Game Master introduces the main objective of the party known as the “quest”. The goal is to finish this quest through the controlled actions of the party members. As with any other game, this can be done by interacting with the world and its inhabitants or NPCs. And of course, the party will have to go through different micro-moments of combat, cooperation, and negotiation all the while roleplaying in the process. The rules of the system determine the outcome of these micro-moments often using dice rolls that are then added to the different statistics of party members. A common example is rolling a twenty sided die to find out if you are able to hit an enemy monster inside the game.If the monster’s armor class is 15, but the player rolled a 13 on the die, she should miss. But fortunately for her, she has a +2 bonus on attack rolls made to monsters so effectively she got a 15, which is enough to hit the enemy.

Nowadays, there are hundreds if not thousands of table-top roleplaying games that run on different rule sets. Not to mention that they all have different settings as well depends on a player’s preference. One thing’s for sure,they’re all designed to 100% promote role-playing for all players involved,even the Game Master.

Character Creation

Character Creation

Even before the game begins, the character creation phase is considered one of the most sought out experiences in a roleplaying session. This is where you flesh out the persona and identity of the hero you want to portray. The creation process of course will still have to follow the rules system indicated by the GM, but this does not mean you cannot be flexible. Players normally start out by picking out a class from a list of default archetypes. A soldier who specializes in wearing heavy armor and wielding deadly melee weapons. A mage who specializes in casting spells. And lastly, a rogue who specialize in firing arrows, and sneaking about. In today’s game systems, these archetypes have been expanded further to give more variety and flavor to players. Though their core nature is retained. This is to make sure that each class will have its unique strengths and weaknesses. This forces players to cooperate to achieve the supposed goalor fail.

The World Setting

The World Setting

Where the game happens is also one of the most important things to consider before committing to asession. This defines the time, place, and technically the universe where the adventure begins. The most common one is of the 13th age or the medieval times where majority of fantasy settings originate from like Tolkien’s masterpiece “The Lord of the Rings”. There are also some that imitate the present time like “World of Darkness” where players get to play the part of vampires that try to survive the modern age. There are a few new ones that attempt to combine different genres into one system, which results to players having more diverse experiences when it comes to their role-playing.

And there you have it. A brief, but concise introduction to what a Table-topRoleplaying game is. While it may be a challenge to pick which system to tryout, always bear in mind that role-playing is key to enjoying the gaming session in its full potential. Pick with a setting that tickles your fancy thenstart creating your first character!

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