Do you play tabletop RPGs?

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Venerable old Dungeons & Dragons has been around since 1974, and has been an influence on videogames from the beginning. Without it we wouldn't have foundational texts like Colossal Cave Adventure or Rogue. Other tabletop RPGs like Vampire: The Masquerade and Shadowrun have been adapted into excellent videogames, and everyone's got their fingers crossed Cyberpunk 2020's adaptation into Cyberpunk 2077 will be another. Even Paranoia, the game of weird Orwellian comedy, is being made into a videogame now.

The influence goes back the other way too, and now there are tabletop RPGs based on Fallout, The Witcher, Sea of Thieves and plenty more. There's a modern renaissance of interest in sitting around a table pretending to be someone else. Do you play tabletop RPGs? Let us know in the comments.

Evan Lahti

Man, I wish I still did. If anyone reading has practical suggestions on how to not make being a Dungeon Master days of preparation and plotting, help a brother out. I've done everything—bought bespoke standalone campaigns and resources from DrivethruRPG, downloaded free and paid tools. It still amounts to loads of mapping, writing, and reading—which I enjoy! But have insufficient time for.

My quiet dream is to run a game of Star Trek Adventures set around Deep Space Nine and the Dominion War.

Tom Senior

(Image credit: Atlas Games)

At school my friends and I played free-form martial arts pen and paper game Feng Shui. The way we played it, it was basically an excuse to riff on martial arts films by completing combat sequences in the funniest ways we could imagine. Ever since I've mainly approached pen and paper games as a comedy exercise rather than a way to explore character, though dramatic high-stakes moments can still pop out of a ridiculous action scene.

Since then I greatly enjoyed Warhammer 40,000 Dark Heresy, in spite of the game's extremely crunchy rules, the universe sustains horror and detective stories equally, and roleplaying a cleric who will try to torch a library at the first sign of heresy is fun, though perhaps not as fun as being a malfunctioning psyker trapped in the confines of a crashing spaceship. That was a good campaign.

Then, of course, there's Dungeons and Dragons. It's a classic for a reason, and I particularly like the Planescape setting for the variety, and the lack of kobolds in caves. Years ago I wrote about how programs like Roll20 let people run campaigns remotely, and that's allowed me to keep up with the odd campaign. These days I prefer simple systems like Apocalypse World, which supports a ton of good hacks, and quite want to try the Mouse Guard RPG because of the excellent setting.

Tyler Wilde

I played D&D for about a year, and I miss it, but it's hard to get a group together when you live 60 miles away from anyone you know. I did DM a campaign online for a bit, but to echo Evan, it ended up being too much work to keep up with. I was also too inexperienced to generate the complex world I wanted to. There's been some chatter about doing one-offs with pre-made characters, and I think that might be the way to go for now.

Robin Valentine

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Appropriately for someone who used to run a magazine called 'GamesMaster', I absolutely love tabletop RPGs, and have done since my first session of D&D as an impressionable teen. It's been lovely seeing them go through their current renaissance of popularity, and I'd encourage almost anyone to give them a try. I'm a firm believer that there's an RPG out there for everyone, and there's far more to the hobby than just hitting monsters in dungeons.

I almost always run games rather than playing in them, but that suits my love of inflicting my weird ideas on people. Over the years, I've overseen zombie apocalypses, occult conspiracies, sci-fi heists, adventures across parallel dimensions, and more, often using my go-to system Savage Worlds. At the moment I'm running a dungeon-crawling campaign where the party happen to all be dogs, using these wonderful miniatures.

Tyler and Evan, you guys definitely need to try different games! One of the problems with RPGs as a hobby is that the accepted gateway game, D&D, is actually one of the most complicated, prep-heavy, and slow games out there. There are loads of alternatives that run fast and can even require no prep at all. Fiasco's a great one to try—with a few simple rules and no GM it generates fantastically fun Coen Brothers-style crime capers. Even for more traditional fantasy adventures, there are games like Dungeon World that hugely streamline the formula, or clever experiments like the free one-page Dungeonscrawl, where the group preps collaboratively during the session. 

Chris Livingston

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I've tried to get back into D&D a couple times over the past 15 years—I played it all through elementary school, middle school, and part of high school. But after one campaign online with friends over voice chat, and trying a few other RPGs here and there like Champions and Call of Cthulhu, I just don't have the patience required anymore. A 25-minute discussion between five people about how to deal with an mysterious stranger or a locked chest or a closed door... I know I used to love D&D for just that reason, but it all just moves far too slowly for me now. I can't handle the glacial pace.

Wes Fenlon

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I've never played a tabletop or pen & paper game, except for a copy of HeroQuest my dad brought back from a yard sale once when I was a kid. I think it's fair to say HeroQuest was basically D&D lite, but I think we were missing some pieces and I never got multiple friends together to make a campaign fun. 

Since then, I've always found the roleplaying aspect of D&D intimidating. The idea of performing in character, even though I've been told many times it's not really required, freaks me out about as much as the thought of getting on stage to act or taking a public speaking class. Give me a videogame and I'll happily try to break it and play in ways I wasn't intended to, and yet I find the open-endedness of tabletop RPGs, where my own creativity determines how interesting my character and adventure will be, frankly terrifying.

Fraser Brown

(Image credit: Chaosium)

Not nearly as much as I'd like. I play quite a lot of tabletop games, but my favourite RPGs all require a bit more ongoing commitment than I've been able to muster. My last D&D campaign ended after two sessions. If had the time, I'd love to get another Call of Cthulhu campaign on the go. I'm a glutton for punishment and it's been too long since I last read a spooky book, lost my mind and killed my party. 

One of the best campaigns I've ever played was a homemade thing conjured up by a pal, all played over Hangouts. Around four or five of us spread out across the globe would show up and spend like six hours stuck to our PCs on a Saturday. We were in a street gang that consistently made the wrong enemies, stole the wrong things and got stabbed. It was great. We didn't use it for that campaign, but stuff like Roll20 is also real boon if you're struggling to get a group together locally.  

James Davenport

I moved to a place where I don't know anyone, let alone anyone willing to tense their throat to sound like a gnome astrologer with a dark past. Tabletop gaming is tough for me. I love games but get antsy sitting around too long. And a few attempts at D&D petered out due to the time commitment involved. If the stars align, I'm extremely game to spend more time tabletopping, though I'm digging what Robin's saying about looking elsewhere. And as much as I like role-playing, I might be more tatcically minded. Something strange happens in my chest when I see those massive Warhammer games with wild terrain and measuring instruments and intricately painted figurines.

Jody Macgregor

(Image credit: Games Workshop)

I played Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play when I was 14 and then worked my way through a serious slice of the hobby: Call of Cthulhu, Vampire, Shadowrun, Ars Magica, Over the Edge, Buffy, Fate, Mutants & Masterminds, Don't Rest Your Head, World Wide Wrestling, InSpectres, Jovian Chronicles, One Last Job, 50 Fathoms, Esoterrorists, Deadlands, Mage, Earthdawn, and more I've forgotten. By the time I got around to Dungeons & Dragons I'd played other games that built on it, so trad old D&D seemed quaint and clunky. When its fifth edition came out I gave it a shot though, and it's a huge improvement. I'm running a regular game now, though we only average one session a month, and finding it adaptable enough I can turn it into a pulpy pirate fantasy adventure with regular visits to spooky town.

The current revival of interest in tabletop RPGs is something I never thought I'd see, especially the growing diversity of players. My old gaming groups typically had one woman at best, but now it's 50/50 and so is every group I see at the game store. Strahd bless The Adventure Zone, Critical Role, D&D 5E, Stranger Things, that one episode of Community, and everything else that contributed to this cultural shift and made RPGs popular.

Andy Chalk

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I do not. I played a summer-long D&D campaign years ago and it was great, but it was also a one-off: I was born, raised, and continue to live in a small town, and the number of RPG-playing people I know and can tolerate for any length of time is tiny. That's one of the reasons I love CPRGs, and particularly great D&D videogames like Baldur's Gate and Eye of the Beholder: I get the "full experience" without needing, or having to put up with, other people.

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