I decided it was time to jump back into some D&D topics, and I wanted to try something a little bit different, instead of just dispensing advice, I wanted to go through the process of building out a campaign that I may (or may not) […]
Tag: role playing games
I’ll be getting to some heavier strategy games, but those aren’t going to be the games for everyone. Some people want a game that focuses more on the storytelling aspects of the game. I’m not going to say games like Dungeons and Dragons which are inherently more involved role playing storytelling games, because while they are awesome, they are a bit more involved and have a different barrier of entry than board games to getting them to the table.
This is a dark storytelling game where everyone has their own family of misfits and your job is to make your families life the most miserable until they all have perish. You each take turns playing cards on your characters or other peoples characters, but the real fun of this game comes in with the storytelling. When you play a card, you add to the story and the world that you are building where all the families live how the horrible things build up over time until your family eventually has passed away. There is a lot of alliteration on the cards, and the game while having so many horrible things happen feels like the book series, A Series of Unfortunate Events, in a lot of ways. The game plays fast, and because of the storytelling, everyone is involved.
Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger
Now this game you aren’t telling the story yourself, but you’re making the decisions for your character as they traverse the house of danger. With a name like that, what could possibly go wrong. But the game is fun and silly as you make decisions and even when you die, like you would in the choose your own adventure books, you come back where you left off. You can also play with as many people as you want for this game and either have a single person reading the story, or it is more fun to pass the story cards around so everyone has a chance to be the lead of the story.
Near and Far
This is the most gamiest of all the games on the list thus far. Near and Far has you take various characters through the world of Near and Far and interact and unfold a story as they search for a lost city. The game has a couple of really nice story elements to it with a great board that is in a book. So each game, as you progress through, you play a different set of pages in the book, and there are different story elements for the world. Then as you explore the locations, you can start to craft your own characters story and get traits that might help you in future games. I love the artwork in this game, and even though it has a story aspect to it, it’s definitely replayable because of the game mechanics themselves.
Legacy of Dragonholt
Legacy of Dragonholt is the closest thing to a role playing game on the list, and actually could be consider role playing game lite. You do build a character you’re going to play with, and the whole story takes place in certain passages of a book. You have a lot of different scenarios you can read through, as you try and solve the mystery that is taking place at Dragonholt. It’s a very accessible game and gives people a little bit of a feel of a role playing game without the investment that you might have otherwise with Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder.
This is a beast of a game, and you’ve seen how much I write about it and love it. While the combat is actually pretty tactical, Gloomhaven has a bunch of story between things as you progress forward to try and figure out what the gloom is that is coming to the town of Gloomhaven. You also have city and road events that give you a chance to make a lot of different story decisions. The ever changing cast of characters you are playing with keeps the game vibrant as well and a lot of fun. Now, this is by far the heaviest game on the list and won’t be for everyone as it does combine that strategy with storytelling, but if it seems interesting, the number of hours in the game makes it very worth the price tag.
Stuffed Fables is an adorable game where players take on the characters of various stuffed animals who are protecting their little girl from the monsters and things that live in the world under the bed. So while she sleeps you keep them from waking her up. This game has a book with maps in it like Near and Far, but the game play itself is simpler and the story is more tightly written. Each page of the book plays slightly different, but everyone about this game is crafted so well from the weapons that the stuffed animals fight with to the amazing figures in the game. It’s a game that also isn’t too complicated so with a little bit of help, a kid would be able to play this game with adults.
Now, there are a ton more storytelling games out there. Once Upon a Time, T.I.M.E. Stories, 7th Continent, Arkham Horror LCG, Arabian Nights, but there is one more I want to touch on.
Pandemic Legacy is a game that has a lot of strategy and thinking through turns, but the game itself as you play through the various scenarios has a ton of strategy to it. The way the story progresses from month to month works really well. If Gloomhaven is too much of a bear for you with a strategy and story game, Pandemic Legacy is going to fit that niche for a lot of people. And getting it to the table will be something people want to do again and again.
What are some other story games that I’ve missed? Do you have one that is your favorite? Are some of these games too light for you?
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As a follow-up to the post on tabletop games, and with the launch of our actual play Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition podcast, one of the topics that I’ve heard many people say they’re confused about is Role-Playing Games. These games often seem quite intimidating, as they don’t fall under the normal rule sets of many games and seem like they would be difficult to get into. To answer the very first question:
What is a Role-Playing Game?
A role-playing game, at its base, is a cooperative storytelling game. There is one person, usually referred to as the game master or dungeon master (also, GM or DM), who leads the story, but the players develop the characters, as well as the actions that flesh out the story and direct which way it goes. There are certain times where dice are then used to help determine decisions, what the characters know, or how combat is going. But the thing that I find the most fun about role-playing games is the storytelling, and the fact that, with some role-playing games, you don’t even need the dice to tell the story.
Aren’t there a lot of rules? Aren’t they hard to learn?
I’m going to go with the answer to this being no. For the players, there are a relatively small number of rules to learn. And most of the time, they simply involve what numbers to add to a die roll. If players have questions about anything else, they can ask the game master, who will explain what happens or doesn’t happen.
The game master, on the other hand, has more rules to learn, as they are controlling what can and can’t work in the world or in the story itself, but even for them, books like the Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide and the Monster Manual lay out very clearly how things work, and the game master can even roll die to determine what the story is going to be. And since some rules are used very rarely, in such cases it’s okay for the game master to stop the game for a few minutes to give the players a break while the game master looks up a rule in a guidebook.
Isn’t it hard to come up with a story?
Yes and no. Since role-playing games are cooperative, they make it easier to ad-lib a story, as the players are helping to fill in the details that the game master hasn’t come up with. And often, the players will do something that is completely different than the game master expected. So the trickier part for the game master is often adjusting the story on the fly and moving around within their mental map than actually coming up with the story itself.
There are also many pre-made modules for the many different systems that you can play. With these, you just add in more details to the world already presented to you, since the heart of the story is already laid out. This does bring up something called “railroading,” which happens when a decision is taken out of the characters hands and they are forced to go a single way dictated by the pre-made story. More of this with new players isn’t a bad thing, as long as people are having fun and learning. But eventually, you will want more of an open world where there are stories and hooks for the players to latch on to, but within which they can choose to do different things.
These are some of the main questions that I’ve heard when it comes to role-playing games. I’m sure there are many that I’m leaving out, and I really want to answer questions as they come up (and if I don’t know an answer, I’ll know who to ask), so please let me know if there’s something you’d like to know more about. The main thing to remember, which I’ll borrow from The RPG Academy, is that “If you’re having fun, you’re doing it right.”
Now, I’d recommend sticking as close to the rules as you can at first to learn the game, but find a group of people that you can have fun with and play with them, and take yourself as seriously or as goofily as the group wants to within the game, and just run with it that way. And if the first group you play with isn’t the right one for you, go ahead and find another one if you find that role-playing games are something that you really like, and try again, because there are many people who play out there.
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