There’s a level of hipocracy in the world of video games and nerds. I saw a flow chart a few years ago that denoted the Heirachy of Geeks, it claimed that video gamers considered themselves better than role play gamers and furries, now I’m not one to crap on a sect of our lovely nerd kingdom, but yeah furries are weird. Pen and Paper RPGs have always had a rough time of it, the assumption is that overweight hairy weirdos gather around a table and talk about wizards and orcs, and whilst this is technically a truth, it also fascinates me that people who play video games look down on their hairy brethren.
Those of us who take video games seriously as a hobby have often taken some flack from a non-gamer about their choice of past time. Recently a girl I know who only ever really plays Temple Run decided to mock me tirelessly for calling Mirror’s Edge a beautiful game. What concerns me is that most video gamers would actually really enjoy a game like Dungeons and Dragons if it wasn’t for the stigma attached with it.
For the un-itiated a Pen and Paper Role Play Game is basically like every video game RPG you’ve ever played, apart from one element, you are only restricted by the rules of the world, not by the rules, lack of budget, or time that hampered a programmer somewhere. At their hearts games like Skyrim, Diablo, Mass Effect and even World of Warcraft have all taken their basic rule set from Dungeons and Dragons. Sure the minutia may be different but all those numbers that appear above the head, all the mentions of hit points and all the green and red arrows when looking at a new weapon all come from the humble beginnings of pen and paper RPGs.
I remember when I was a kid playing Resident Evil, it scared the brown stuff out of me, I’m not ashamed to admit that. One element always bugged me though, I was in an old decrepit mansion, a wooden locked door stood in my way, my rocket launcher on my shoulder I would take aim at my oak friend and take fire, nothing would happen. How can this logic be accepted? We take leaps of faith where zombies, monsters and evil terrorists can ruin a day, but the idea that a rocket launcher can take some wood off a hinge is too much for the gaming world.
If you’ve ever come close to this thought process I urge, no, beg you to try out a tabletop game like Dungeons and Dragons. Now I know what you’re thinking, it’s too complicated and it’s only for sweaty men, and in some cases I completely agree. Certain tabletop games relish being for the hardcore, needing to memorise equations and rule sets, but get good group together and pick something simple like 4th Edition D&D and you’ll have a blast.
The basic idea behind D&D, and most other tabletop RPGs, is that you have someone called a Dungeon Master, this person comes up with a story for the players. He or she will present the players with a scenario e.g. there is a locked door infront of you, the players then try to overcome this issue using the characters they have created. A rogue may try to pick the lock, a warrior may ask to smash it down, a wizard may try to grief the other players by making their hair glow. Each of these suggestions require the DM (Dungeon Master) to pick a difficulty level, generally a number between 1 and 20 and then the player roles a D20 (20 sided dice) to see if they can beat the target. If they do the DM would describe how they did it and what’s on the other side, if they fail the DM would describe how they failed and ask for another suggestion. If you can’t tell already D&D and all other games like it are interactive stories. They allow you to decide how and why stuff happens. If you want it to be funny and entertaining then great, the DM can tailor that, if you’re more into harrowing and dark stories that’s ok too.
It’s all about what you put into the game, it’s not the number crunching heavy spreadsheet game it used to be. There are character building programmes that take away the pain of rolling characters. In terms of money that needs to be put it then it’s up to you, generally everyone needs a set of dice, these can be found online for a couple of quid for a set. The only real cost is to the DM, they would be advised to buy the basic rule book and player handbook, each can be found on eBay for about a tenner. A game can last for as long or as short as you like, some people spend weekends playing, others a more comfortable with 4 hours on a lazy afternoon.
I find it hard to say that these games are more fun than video games, the stress of getting a group of people together and for the DM to put together a scenario that will be fun for the players can be too much for some. But something that can’t be topped is that feeling of when you’re playing, the stories that you will think about later and the genuine comradeship you will experience. I’ve played these games on and off for a few years now, and what I enjoy more than anything else is that actual sitting with my friends, no TV’s, no iPads and no phones. Just listening to a great story being told and being able to say stupid things like “Ok, what do I need to role to rip this door off its hinges and then use it as a battering ram down the alley way?”.
What films and TV programmes don’t show enough of when showing pen and paper RPGs is the fun that’s had. The laughter of a stupid suggestion and the enjoyment of a really high roll against a low-level enemy. All those ‘What If’ conversations you’ve had in the pub are just training for this type of game, every time you’ve said a game is broken because you can’t jump from one roof to another, every time you’ve stopped playing an online game because people are annoying you, this is why you should try D&D. It’s ok if you don’t enjoy it, it’s fine if you love it and never admit that to your work colleagues, what I must implore though is don’t judge it until you’ve played at least one session. We’re all nerds and geeks of one form or another, we have all no doubt been judged or mocked for our interests, we shouldn’t be turning this tension inwards to our own kind though, we’re in this together…Except furries, they can naff off.