The term TTRPG stands for tabletop roleplay game (or tabletop RPG). TTRPGs are the “old-school” equivalent of video game RPGs. The main difference being that games usually take place between a group of players all sitting around a table, and action primarily takes place in the “theater of the mind.” Even as video game RPGs become more popular, so too do TTRPGs. People like trying out the more in-depth tabletop games that started the video game RPG genre.
Which TTRPG should you Play?
There are literally thousands of TTRPGs to choose from. The main difficulty with selecting one is that tabletop RPGs usually have pretty in-depth rules, and reading the rulebook can be time-consuming. Which is why many people, once they find a TTRPG they like, tend to stick with playing just that one game. So, which TTRPG should you play? Try finding a game with some of the following traits:
- Easy for new players to learn, so you can invite your friends.
- Fits the genre you want to play (fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk, or a game set in a world you already know and love).
- A game with a lot of depth and options for players, but not so many rules that gameplay gets bogged down.
- Most importantly, a game that you and your friends find massively fun!
One of the best ways to go, if you’re new to the world of TTRPGs, is to create a list of games that look interesting as you’re doing your research. Narrow down that list based on the bullet points above. Once you have a gaming group you know is interested, bring the list to them, and see what they think. They may add a potential game or two to your list, as well. Then, try one out. You can always switch games if the first one you tried wasn’t exactly what your group was into.
Trying New TTRPGs
If you’re someone with a lot of experience with tabletop RPGs, trying new TTRPGs can be a lot of fun. The same problems exist for you, of course, as someone just beginning their journey. Rulebooks are time-consuming to read, and your gaming group may not love the game. But if you’re a die-hard fan of tabletop gaming, it’s worth the risk to try out a new game even once or twice per year. Make it a birthday or Christmas present.
Many people also customize the TTRPG they play with their gaming group, especially over time. Some things in the rulebook may not suite the group very well, or better ideas get proposed. After all, the whole point of the game is for the group to have fun. So why not? And one of the best ways to come up with small “in-house” rules changes or adjustments is to bring them in from another TTRPG.
The fact is, no one has yet created the “perfect” or best tabletop RPG. Just like no one has yet created the “best” video game RPG. The best games are always a matter of preference. And people are always designing better ways to play. It’s worth it to keep up with the new TTRPGs coming out.
How are TTRPGs Played?
TTRPGs are typically played with a group of people sitting around a table. Everyone prints out character sheets, pulls out their dice, and the rulebook of whichever game they’re playing. Some websites now support playing TTRPGs online, and allow people to game together even if they live in different geographical areas. But the main ingredient is cooperative gaming. Like playing board games, almost every TTRPG is best played with a group of friends.
In the gaming group for a TTRPG, there’s usually one person who “runs” the game, called the “game master.” The game master’s job is to create the gaming world. They decide the world’s setting, it’s NPCs (non-playable characters), unique items and treasures, and the story taking place. Everyone else in the gaming group roleplays a character that they create in the world set by the game master. There are some rare tabletop RPGs that either have no game master, or multiple game masters. It doesn’t really matter which format of roles and responsibilities is used – there isn’t a “right” way to play – so long as everyone in the gaming group is having fun.
Video Game RPG or TTRPG?
TTRPGs will never have the graphics or pure sensation factor of video game RPGs. There are great video game RPGs out there. Each year they get better and better. The way they look, the music created and used, gameplay mechanics. All of it. As technology improves, video games become more and more immersive, and more and more fun, which is really the point of a roleplay game to begin with.
However, nothing is more immersive than true roleplaying. Not just the “roleplaying” where you’re using a controller to press buttons and move a character around on a screen. But the roleplaying where you take on persona of a character, whether of your own, or another’s creation. Roleplaying with a group of people playing a TTRPG creates for even greater immersion, as each of you contributes to the collective theater of the mind. You don’t just move a character around. You become the character. You see what they see, speak through their lips, hear what they hear, feel as they do, and sense real (imagined) danger and drama.
Players definitely get back what they put in with TTRPGs. Video games bring everything to the player, with very little effort or energy required back. So, both are good. And luckily, you don’t have to choose one or the other. But if you’ve only ever played video game RPGs, it’s definitely time to step into the world of a TTRPG. Give it energy and effort while prepping the game and playing, and you will be amazed how much fun you get out.
TTRPG Character Sheet
Probably the most useful part of any TTRPG is the character sheet. Each tabletop game system has a different set up for the character sheet. Some are very simple, and are comprised of only a couple columns on a sheet of paper. Others are multiple pages long, with each page crammed with information. The character sheet is so useful because it’s basically a summary of the game’s rules, laid out for players as a quick reference on how to play.
It’s also a summary of each player’s character in terms of their strengths, weaknesses, and important notes for roleplaying. Need to know whether or not a player’s character is capable of achieving a task with any uncertainty of success? Check the character sheet. Need to remember some important detail from a character’s past? There’s probably a section for that on the character sheet (and hopefully the player used it to write down that important detail).
Aside from just being dead useful, TTRPG character sheets are fun. They’re fun to look at, for the unique designs game creators so lovingly put into them. They’re fun to read in detail, to get an idea for how a game is played. And they’re fun to search through when in the heat of an important moment in the game, hoping beyond hope there’s something listed on there that can save you.
Dice, Miniatures, and Tabletop Gaming Mats
Don’t worry about getting anything fancy before playing a TTRPG for the first time. If you really enjoy the genre, and find a good group to play with, you can always upgrade. For your first few games, you may want to pick up the following:
- Set of dice. Most sets come with a couple d6 (6-sided dice), d8, d10, d12, and d20. Some also come with a couple d10’s so players can “roll” a d100.
- If you’ve already chosen or created the character you’ll play in the game, pick up a miniature that fits your character. Some people also enjoy painting their miniature, for added customization.
- If no one in your group has a battle mat, and the game uses miniatures, pick up a basic one, or find one with some good background artwork.
If you get into playing a TTRPG you will see the appeal to customizing which dice, miniatures, and gaming mats you use, almost immediately. They really do add a world of fun in their own right.
People tear up talking about their TTRPG campaigns. Loaded with drama, intrigue, betrayal, passion, and desire to overcome all opposition, a “campaign” represents the best part of TTRPGs. Campaigns are essentially a series of game sessions all played in the same world and storyline, over a period of time. Some campaigns last just a few gaming sessions. While the best ones usually last at least 6 months. Like all good things, good stories take time to mature.
The goal of any gaming group is probably to have the most fun possible. Even though life can get busy and schedules can be hard, most tabletop gamers have the most fun with a long campaign. If a gaming group can meet for a few hours once a week, once a month – whatever – for long enough, and each player stays diligent with immersing themselves in the story, that’s when the most satisfying moments of playing a TTRPG take place. Ask anyone who’s played TTRPGs for any amount of time, and they’ll confirm.
If you’ve never played before, don’t get too ambitious, though. A great TTRPG campaign can be played in a few gaming sessions that each last only a couple hours. Just create one small story at a time. See where it goes. Enjoy the TTRPG journey. Oh, and bring your friends.