Saturday, May 2, 2020

Dungeons & Dragons: A guide to exciting world of tabletop RPGs

RPGs have moved beyond their typical audience, to say the least. I’m frequently surprised to learn that a friend I never would have expected to be into D&D is playing in a campaign with other friends, often thanks to the magic of video conferencing software. After all, the game allows players to use a system of rules to tell a story together, rolling dice to resolve conflicts and playing out scenes that take place between their characters. And what’s more fun than telling a story with your friends?.

For four decades, Dungeons & Dragons has been on hobby and specialty shop shelves and played in basements out of sight. However, a shift in the popularity of geek culture, an update of the game itself and the rise of video platforms like Twitch and YouTube has helped the tabletop game grow its revenue for the last six years. “Last year was our 45th anniversary and our biggest year yet,” Nathan Stewart, vice president of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise, said. “So, that’s kind of crazy when you think about a brand of this size continuing to grow.”

But so much of the chatter about Dungeons & Dragons and the tabletop RPG boom has obscured a very real issue that potential players might face: Many RPGs have a steep learning curve, and the medium itself isn’t always the most user-friendly. Dungeons & Dragons is a fun game, but to get the most out of it, you need to have at least a few people at the table who really know what they’re doing and understand the rulebook backwards and forwards. That level of preparation often intimidates newcomers.

So thank goodness that the boom in tabletop RPG fandom has coincided with a boom in terrific, well-designed RPGs that are perfect for beginners, many of which you can play with a handful of dice or a deck of playing cards.

Plus, tabletop RPGs are eminently easy to play over video chat services if you can’t gather with your friends in person — something that RPG fans have known for ages and that many folks are newly discovering in this age of sheltering in place.

Even better, websites like Roll20 and numerous others have sprung up online to support RPG groups by offering digital versions of core rulebooks and virtual dice to roll. That makes it far easier to gather with friends online to tell stories together, whether you’re several time zones apart or just staying at home.

 And even if you’re not on Roll20, the vast majority of RPGs are available as PDFs you can instantly download from sites like DriveThruRPG, and there are plenty of virtual dice simulators out there. Having a printer with which to print out character sheets and other materials is helpful but not strictly necessary.