What is tabletop role-playing? What is its’ purpose? What is the “thing,” that draws people to the table? The short answer is an infinite well of possibility that the hobby has to offer. To understand how this is possible it’s worth explaining what a tabletop role-playing is before we go any further.
Tabletop role-playing games are role playing games. The player takes on the role of their character and describes the actions while playing. The players have the option do whatever they like within the prescribed rule set in which their game is operating under. Therefore, their choice of actions can have sweeping effects upon the world they’re occupying.
The promise of an open world and infinite possibilities can be overwhelming, which is why there is a second party involved when playing TTRPG’s and that is the game master. The players can interact with the world and each other in a multitude of ways but, the game master is what brings the world to life. The role of the game master is to provide context for the players by, describing the world and the activity within it. In addition to providing context, the game master also serves as the judge who determines the outcomes of player action through the formal rule system and at times personal discretion.
A typical session of any TTRPG involves the participants meeting up in person and playing together. However, with the advent of many online Virtual Tabletop programs and video/voice chat apps the need to gather isn’t necessary. The internet has made the prospect of connecting people across the globe a trivial matter which allows for simultaneous play from whatever part of the world they're from. The only major downside is that you lose a piece of the intimacy of gathering in person, which is a large appeal for many people. Many groups use TTRPG’s not only as a fun experience but as a planned get together to reconnect friends. TTRPG’s are innately social due to the nature of the systems built around them. One cannot generally play a TTRPG by themselves because it requires at minimum one other person to fulfill the role of player while another arbitrates as the game master. The magic cannot happen alone.
Without going into specific detail on how a session of gameplay would play out, the last and one of the more important aspects of playing TTRPG’s is figuring out how long and how often you’re going to play. As mentioned previously, TTRPG’s are social, they require the participants to agree on a time, place, system and multiple other aspects before any roleplaying can begin. There is so much to be said about what is necessary to get a game going, but that’s a topic for a different time. What matters is that the group decides when to play again. At this step, is where most games live or die. A game’s longevity is mostly determined by the schedules of the players as well as the game master. Time permitted you can play a TTRPG indefinitely. The driving force being the stories built by the players and game master. So many memorable moments are possible through role-play that cannot be done compared to other interactive mediums. Which is why TTRPG’s stand out and draw so many devoted fans to the hobby. One story can be be told over a span of years while another can be a singular one time event where you get to achieve something over a span of an evening. The only limiting factor is a player or game master’s creativity to push the boundaries of the story to new places.