Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The RPG Three: Part One

I like to think of myself as sort of a polymath (how's that for a word) when it comes to the RPG world. While Dungeons and Dragons does of course have a special place in my heart (and my wallet) I have played rpg's from a large number of settings and in three distinct ways - Tabletop, Live Action, and Play-By-Post. For those of you who are scratching your head and assume I must be crazy for thinking there's any way to play other then tabletop, then this post is for you.

Yes, the truth comes out. I'm a geek. Well, you already knew that I suppose, but I mean I'm really a geek. I hope you don't hate me.

I am an active member of communities that provide access to each of these gaming types, and as such, my future posts will probably bring each type up, so I think it's worth discussing them a little bit. Maybe taking a look at each of the three gaming types with some good old-fashioned comparing and contrasting will open your eyes to a new form of gaming that you hadn't previously considered! They're all tons of fun, but of course, they're all very different as well.

With each of the three RPG types, we'll deal with two of the big deciders when it comes to choosing a game. Cost, and of course, food. Then I'll go into the who's, what's, where's, when's and why's of each gaming style. Who plays, what can you expect, where will you be play, how often will you play, and why should you play at all?

Lets begin with everyone's favorite.

Tabletop Roleplaying

Cost: The rulebooks cost money and so can supplemental information such as magazine subscriptions or adventure paths. Playing the actual game is free, save for the cost of munchies, but depending on whether you're taking on the mantle of DM or Player, you may be investing largely different quantities of money into the game initially. With any basic tabletop game though, an initial investment of about $60.00 is all that's usually needed to get the basic books needed to play.

Food: Generally a "bring your own" policy, going to a session doesn't mean that free snacks will be provided. Be prepared to order out, or bring your own snacks for the session. Food costs can go up between $5 to $10, maybe a little more, per session. Standard chips, soda, and pizza usually.

Who: Generally, tabletop games are played with a group of friends. Tabletop roleplaying can be a one-on-one experience, or you can play with a big group of friends. Most sane DM's won't allow a group of more then six players, but I've seen pretty crazy DM's before.

What: Tabletop roleplaying games use "pen-and-paper" rules where your character's abilities and scores are recorded on a character sheet, usually resorting to dice rolls to determine chance effects. A typical session will have you sitting around a table, moving miniatures about on a grid, and going through a series of battles and roleplaying encounters as your characters explore the world.

Unless you have a die hard group (no pun intended), you can generally look forward to it being a very social experience, where you can spend time with a group of friends, and maybe kill a dragon or two in the meantime. There is usually no dress code (please come clothed) and in general, tabletop sessions are pretty laid back.

Where: If one player had a free house, apartment, or dorm room, games can really take place anywhere. The only things that have to be moved are the players, the required books, and the battle grid (if you use one). I've even played sessions in a pizza parlor before, so I know firsthand that you can really play anywhere.

When: With a tabletop game, usually groups play between twice a week to once every other week for a game to be successful. I've known sessions to last anywhere between three to twelve hours. An average playing group though probably plays once a week for five hours, give or take an hour.

Why: Why go tabletop? Tabletop RPG's have many positive aspects. Such games function as a casual social gathering, offering players a chance to do some light roleplaying, kill some monsters, and chug down Mountain Dew - all within the temperature controlled comfort of a home or dorm room. Tabletop sessions are long enough to provide you with a fun afternoon, but short enough to allow for short attention spans, and other plans.

Since the clock is ticking ever-closer to 9:00pm, my home's internet is out, and Panera Bread is closing, I'll get into Live Action Roleplaying Games and Play-By-Post Games next time!


Ravyn said...

Technically, there are four.

(When I posted about this, I made a similar mistake, but the one I left out was LARPing.)

You forget to take into account play by chat. While most people might consider it a hybrid of play by post and the full-fledged tabletop game, it's most definitely neither; there isn't enough interaction for tabletop, but it's far faster and more efficient than a play by post can ever be; along with that, it allows for the cleanest split-group game of any gaming style. (I'm a little biased towards this one, as it's a good way of dealing with a tabletop group spread out over the country, and because I'm a lot more eloquent by text than in person.)

Storyteller said...

Ravyn: Welcome to the blog and thanks for this excellent input! I'd never even heard of playing through a chat program, except to help run play-by-post combats quicker, so this is very interesting to hear.

Do you have a blog post that I can link to dealing with play-by-chat roleplaying? I wouldn't even know where to begin with discussing it.

Ravyn said...

I dealt with it in short-form in this post:

It's about midway down the page, as I did it after tabletopping and before play by post. (If you're willing to wait a few days, I could even provide you with a post-length writeup.)

Storyteller said...

I would definitely be interested in reading a whole post about it. If you want to write up such a post, I could throw up a link to it and talk about it in my next RPG 3 post. I'll hold off on finishing that little series up for a few days, or break it into three sections to give you some time for that.