If you enjoy dashing adventures, deep mystery, or pitting yourself against a worthy opponent, it would follow that you would also likely enjoy tabletop RPG. While at first it can be a challenge to acclimate to a game where 90% of it happens in your heads, RPGs are a type of game that are flexible in a way that no other game could ever be. You can literally do whatever you want (or at least attempt to), and play in any method you prefer. There are the popular fantasy games such as Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder, but if you branch out from the mainstream RPGs you can find sci-fi adventures, turn yourself into a superhero, wild west, steampunk, and so much more. If this seems like something you would like to get into but don’t know how to start, let me pass on to you a few tips and tricks I’ve learned in my almost four years playing D&D(Dungeons and Dragons).
To get started you will need other people and there are a few avenues you can take for this requirement. You can grab a few of your friends close by and set up a game night, connect via video or voice chat with friends far away, walk into almost any comic book/game store and likely they will have weekly game nights for at least the popular rpgs, or you can go on the internet to forums and websites for the game you are interested in and try to plug into an online game already started there.
You only need a GM(Game Master) and at least one player, but I would recommend somewhere in the 2-6 bracket for amount of players at the table. This limit on the number will help keep things running smoothly and at a comfortable pace. Too few, the in-game interaction and involvement can end up limited, but too many and it’s hard to keep track of anything going on.
Next, a player will need to gain some basic information on how the game is played and build a character. Most games will come with books and manuals on gameplay and character creation, but youtube is also an amazing resource, and there are tons of forums where you can ask more experienced players your questions. I’d recommend putting most of your focus into understanding how your character of choice “works” to allow for a smoother game and more enjoyment for you.
You also should follow some basic tabletop etiquette once you sit down with your group to play this game. First, work with your group to set up a common mindset about your sessions. Communication is essential for an RPG group, and it is unlikely for it to happen passively. Also, be respectful of your other players, particularly your GM. Don’t interrupt, insult, or ignore during gameplay. Remember that these people are putting their time and effort into playing with you, so try to foster and encourage an environment that everyone can enjoy. Lastly, the GM is basically god of this universe and you are trusting them to build it for you, so unless you want to spend the rest of the game with an unbreakable curse...don’t fight their rulings.
As for the GM, I welcome you, my brethren, to this chaotic and wonderful job! You are responsible to weave the entire world, guide the players, know the rules(or at least pretend to), set the mood, play all of the other people in the world, build engaging sessions, try to keep the players from killing themselves and everyone else all while you are trying to kill them, and still end the session on time. Don’t worry though, because the players are responsible for bringing you snacks.
As overwhelming as it seems, GMing is addicting, fun, and the whole world is yours to control. You can grab one of the pre-built campaigns or sessions or create your own, but work to craft each session you run with your players in mind. Your job is to make sure the players are enjoying the sessions, and, believe me, there is nothing better than seeing your players get lost in your world. As the GM, you can literally do whatever you want, while the players have to rely on their luck and dice, but use this power wisely.
You should also be prepared for chaos. Your players will never do what you expect and quite often they will do something stupid like attempting to karate chop a boulder at level one or sleep in an obviously cursed coffin. (Insert a moment of deep silence or a facepalm here). A good rule of thumb is not say “no” to your players, as it can end up stifling for them, but also don’t automatically say “yes” and make things too easy either. Try instead asking how they want to do something or letting them know they can certainly try, then adjust the difficulty of the task and the results of it according to the stupidity level. I personally err towards what makes sense rather than trying to make things outrageous or funny. Your player’s ideas and creativity are the best inspiration and things like this are always better organic rather than forced.
Other things that may be helpful for you would be to keep all your GM gear within reach, keep detailed notes, pay attention to the mood of the players and table, make full use of the resources for GMs (literally, there are tons and they are so helpful), and really just have fun! All these tips are aids, but not mandatory for you to have a good session. Start with your story and your players and just go from there.
Player or GM, if you just remember to set the expectation of having fun together then the story as a whole will pull itself together, despite rules forgotten or preparations gone wrong. A missed rule or a 5 minute break while the GM sets up a spontaneous encounter will not be remembered, but the story you build together and the relationship you have will be something that stays with you for years. But if I can leave you with one thing through all of this, I hope you can remember… don’t forget the snacks.
Your GM buddy,
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