It would seem that, with the proliferation of computer games based on popular pen and paper platforms like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Cyberpunk, and others, the days of playing these games in person with friends are coming to a close. Bags of 20-sided dice, stacks of resource books and handwritten notes, and worn battle mats are becoming less commonly associated with gaming as titles such as Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Dragon Age, Dungeons & Dragons Online, and World of Warcraft have moved in and put the old style of gameplay to rest. Thankfully, a resurgence in tabletop and pen-and-paper gaming is brewing. Here are five reasons to play tabletop role-playing games.
Improvement in Math Skills
Unlike computer-based RPGs, playing a tabletop RPG requires a lot of arithmetic to determine how various factors in a given environment have an impact on your character’s ability to hit, damage he or she deals, and his or her ability to avoid various traps and obstacles. This usually requires a die roll in addition to basic arithmetic each time your character performs an action. Factoring in variables such as your character’s speed, size, skill, and equipment can make a big difference on how they handle various situations. Could your character survive a maximized fireball at a distance of 10 feet while standing on the other side of a thick oak tree? There’s an equation for that.
Imagination is Important
Do you think groundbreaking tech products like the iPhone came about without any imagination on the part of the designer? How about virtually any work of art currently hanging in a museum? Novelists also rely on an active imagination to write their stories. Imagination is one of the greatest gifts granted to mere mortals like ourselves, and a tabletop role-playing game gives us the opportunity to put that imagination to use in a social setting.
One of the greatest things about tabletop role playing games when compared to their electronic cousins is a much more open environment for players to think outside the box. You’re trapped at the bottom of a well with a dagger, a longbow, a rope, and a single hooded lantern. How do you escape the cave? Do you tie the rope to your dagger and attempt to toss it over the top of the well, catching it on unknown objects before pulling yourself up? Do you attempt to scale the wall? Do you signal using your lantern, banging the blade of your dagger against the stone wall as a makeshift flint and steel? A tabletop RPG gives players decisions like that at every turn, making advanced problem solving a practicable skill.
Let’s face it: we geeks don’t get out and socialize very often. Sure, we may talk to our raid group about strategies before charging in to the Horde’s stronghold. Yes, we might take part in an occasional water cooler conversation with coworkers about the differences between the iPhone and Android, but we don’t get out and spend time with friends very often. A tabletop game that requires players to meet up on a regular basis is a great reason to get the gang together and enjoy an entertaining and social activity. Years ago, Dungeons & Dragons was demonized for being an occult recruitment tool. The reality is, young players get an opportunity to step away from the computer and hang out with friends away from the hassles and heartache of the workplace, school, or family gatherings.
Bottom line: Tabletop RPGs are fun. They’re designed to be fun, and many of them rely on a large community of players and content contributors to keep it that way. For the time being, there is no truly open role-playing environment that gives as much freedom to the player to build and run a character in the way that they see fit as a tabletop role-playing game. There are plenty of active online role-playing communities that strive to recreate the feeling of sitting around a table (or in a living room) and rolling the die to see whether or not your character can behead the raging ogre before it clobbers your clumsy rogue.
If you’ve ever considered joining a local gaming group or starting a game yourself, please take these points into consideration. Tabletop role-playing games might not be for everyone, but if you’re tired of the restrictive and lackluster game mechanics your favorite MMO provides, it could be exactly the experience you’re searching for.