Well, maybe not right now. I don’t know your life. Maybe you’re reading this at 4am in a train station, or in a boardroom sitting through an impossibly long and boring meeting that you thought you’d attend because you were accidentally CC’d on an email about it. By right now, I mean as soon as you’re comfortable. The purpose of this post is to get people who have been hesitant or dismissive of RPGs to hopefully open up a little more about the subject. For them to understand why other people like RPGs and why they might like them too. This isn’t a post on how to actually play RPGs. This is just an introduction to RPGs and RPG culture as a whole. If you’re reading this and you already play an RPG, give it a read anyways and see if our opinions align enough for you to share it with a non gamer in your life. You’ve already given me the pageview, so there’s no point in turning back anyways.
They’re Actually Fun
“I just don’t think it’s my thing. I don’t think I’d be that into it.” – Average Person
Well, no shit. If it wasn’t fun, there’s no way millions of people around the world would keep getting together with their gaming group week after week to tell stories and throw some dice around. So, what makes RPGs so fun? It varies from person to person. Different people get different things out of the hobby, just like with any other hobby. Some people play hockey (I’m Canadian, sorry) because they love the competitive nature of the game, so they play to win. Some people are just weekend warriors and use it as a way to get some exercise and stay in shape. And some people just want to hang out with their buddies and only play so they can head to the pub for a well deserved pint afterwards with the team. Same thing happens when you look at RPGs. Some people love the mechanics and rules of the game, so they try to find the best strategies within the ruleset. Some people like the storytelling and creative side of the game, so they use the game as a creative outlet and put into practice ideas that have been bouncing around in their heads. And some people just like going to games so they can hang out, drink beer, and roll some funny shaped dice with their friends.
RPGs are a flexible enough medium that no matter what you find fun, you can focus it through the lens of a game. Maybe you like being creative. You like writing or storytelling, so what better way to help supplement that newest character or story idea than to literally test it out using the differing perspectives and imaginations of other humans? Do you enjoy deep philosophical conversation amidst cigar smoke and fine scotch? You and your friends can collaboratively think up and peer into a world that runs on those same philosophies and morals. Maybe you’re just a simple person who just likes watching movies. RPGs let you see a movie where you can change the outcome. No longer will you be screaming at your TV screen because of stupid characters in a horror movie! You, yes you, get to be the character and get to use that big ol’ brain of yours to not fall into the same mistakes that the movie characters did. RPGs can be way more than just a game you play for a couple hours every Wednesday night. And at the same time, RPGs can be exactly that. Just a game. They’re a tool to help you have fun, no matter how simple or complex your idea of fun is.
They’re Not As Scary As You Might Think
“But don’t you have to be, like, a huge nerd or something?” – Average Person
So what goes into becoming a fully-fledged RPG player? Do you need to stop showering? Gain 100 pounds from a diet of Mountain Dew and Cheetos? Move back in with your parents and live in their basement? Surprisingly enough, no. RPGs (and most other tabletop games, for that matter) get a really bad rap. There’s a stereotype for the kind of people that play these games, and that stereotype is enough to fend off most people from the hobby. “RPGs are just for balding, fat, sweaty guys who are burdens on society and who can’t grasp how real life and human interactions work, right?” You’re wrong, and fuck you. Now, any piece of content that talks about how “RPGs are for everyone” always mentions celebrity RPG players – people you’d never expect to play or have played role playing games. Vin Diesel. Stephen Colbert. Anderson Cooper. I like these examples, however, I’m going to take it in a more relatable direction here and break down the main gaming groups I’ve played with over the last 6 or so years. These are groups of people I have played one RPG or another with consistently once a week for many months (even years in one case). So, here are the facts: Almost every group has been 50% female. The first group of people I played with in university was all guys, only because the group consisted of my housemates and I. Quickly though, the group expanded to eight people, four of which were girls. All of the groups I’ve played with since have been six people strong with a split of three girls and three guys.
Included in these groups are the following people: A veterinarian, a successful marketing entrepreneur, a Master’s student in biomedical engineering, a psychology student planning on getting both a doctorate and a law degree, a military vehicle technician, a video game designer that works with one of the biggest companies in North America, a financial planner, an ultrasound technician, and a lifeguard. As far as I know, we all shower regularly. Considering that half of those are women we hardly fit the weird and gross nerd archetype described above, and we aren’t even a special or outlier group of gamers. We were all just average university students who decided to pick up some RPG books and some polyhedral dice. More gaming groups are made up of people like us than people like the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons.
So maybe you know a group of well adjusted adult humans you think might be fun to game with, but how on Earth do you get around to actually get around to playing the damn game? You’re fresh out of dorky wizard hats to wear and your parents’ dingy basement is under renovations. Assuming the people you play RPGs with are going to be your friends, getting together for a gaming session is logistically the same as getting together to watch the Leafs lose another game, or meeting up for a movie or book club night.
- Show up at a previously decided upon meeting place (Someone’s house, a pub, etc.) at a previously decided upon time.
- Bring drinks and food. Order drinks and food if you are playing at a restaurant or pub.
- Play the RPG.
That’s it. You don’t need to wear weird costumes. You don’t need to yell in funny voices. You don’t need an encyclopedic knowledge of nerd lore. And yes, you can play in a pub or a bar. I have. A couple times, in fact. Unless you’re being rowdy or obnoxious, nobody cares. Everyone else is too busy drinking and talking with their own friends to care about whatever it is that you’re doing.
But what about how your peers view you? Isn’t admitting to playing a role playing game social suicide? Again, no. It’s likely you won’t be running around screaming at your co-workers about how you played a sick game of Dungeons and Dragons this past weekend, just like how I don’t go running around work telling everyone how sweet my deadlift sesh at the gym was on Monday night (It was pretty sweet, to be honest. I’m so close to a 2 plate pull!). So what if someone asks and you don’t want to lie to them? I’ve had tons of people ask about my hobbies, and when I explained to them that I play D&D regularly, there have been only a handful of answers I’ve received.
- “Oh, cool.”
- “You know, I’ve never played D&D before. I’ve always wanted to try.”
- “Is that where you dress up and pretend you’re an elf?”
The overwhelming majority of responses fall in line with 1 and 2. Answer 3 is only given because they simply don’t know any better, so I give them a quick 15 second explanation on what D&D actually is, and then they move on up to responses 1 or 2. I’ve never had anyone react negatively or think any less of me because I play a game with my friends on the weekends, and I guarantee that if anyone decides to react with volatility to finding out something as trivial as that you play D&D, they probably aren’t worth being your friend in the first place.
They Aren’t All Sword And Sorcery Bullshit
“But uncle David, I don’t even like weird Harry Potter stuff. Magic and dragons and Gandalfs make me want to throw up.” – Average Person
Good. Great. Well buckle in kiddo, because I’m about to blow your mind. So, when you whine about high fantasy in the context of RPGs, the game you’re probably thinking of is Dungeons and Dragons. D&D is your typical sword and sorcery and magic and monsters style game, and that genre isn’t for everyone. Game developers have been working countless hours to make games that cater to any genre of story and any intensity of play that gamers are interested in.
Maybe you like sci-fi? There’s a game called Stars Without Number waiting for you. Is anime bullshit more your thing? Try Maid RPG. Really into romantic comedies? Fiasco can be your game. Are you for some reason digging the Mormon State of Deseret in pre-statehood Utah? There’s a little game called Dogs in the Vineyard that’s calling your name. The point is, folks, that no matter what kind of things you’re into, there’s a game for you. We’re in a golden age of RPGs right now, with hundreds and hundreds available (lots of them for free!) and hundreds more being developed or being crowdfunded right now. If you have any vested interest in literally anything, there is probably an RPG out there that is based on that thing. It might take a little bit of searching, but just like digging through a record store or a video store, you’ve just got to put in a little bit of effort to get something really rewarding out of it.
So, after this slew of words, majority of which are the letters R, P, and G strung together, I hope that you have a slightly opened perspective on role playing games. I hope this post has piqued your interest in RPGs a bit, or at the very least helped you learn more about the culture surrounding these games and understand why some people enjoy RPGs as much as they do. We may be nerds, but we don’t bite.
Actually, I can’t guarantee that. I’m sure there’s some crazy person out there who might bite you. But I can guarantee that 99.9% of us won’t.