December 6, 2019

Jumping In Heads-First to Tabletop RPGs

Last week, we talked about how new players can best jump right into playing tabletop RPGs. This week’s #newbieTuesday post digs deeper into one of those main points of emphasis: making choices.

Like we’ve said in this space numerous times in weeks’ past, making choices is the core part of playing stories. And everyone, no matter who you are or what walk of life you’re from, is familiar with making choices. Of course, some are more difficult and/or important than others. “What should my major be in college?” – for example – is a bit harder and more important (for most anyway) than “What brand of peanut butter should I buy in the grocery store?”

But regardless of how easy/difficult or banal/important the choice, we all know what that process is like of weighing our options, of going back and forth in our mind. That “skill” – or really, just experience in being able to do – is really all that’s required of new players when they first join the tabletop RPG table. Like any sport, hobby, or activity, there is more nuance to playing stories than that sure, but, honestly, if you can be comfortable making a choice in front of a group of friends, you’re going to fit in at the table just fine and have a great time.

Now admittedly, the choices you’re making when you play stories will likely not be about college majors or peanut butter brands. Perhaps you’ll need to decide whether you’ll fight, talk, or flee your way out of a sticky situation. Or perhaps two roads diverge in a yellow wood and you may only travel one of them. Or maybe a genie is summoned from a golden lamp you’ve just rubbed and gives you three wishes…

And new players: it’s not like you have to prompt yourself with these scenarios. The GM (“Game Master”) or DM (“Dungeon Master”) is responsible for being the story guide, for maintaining the flow, plot, and focus on the story you and your fellow players, are playing. Most oftentimes, being present as the GM sets up situations, describes the context, what’s said, who is doing what etc. will better empower you, the player, to make the choices you’ll be prompted to make.

So in the scenario where you’ve rubbed a lamp and a magical genie pops out, offering you three wishes, the GM would likely have also said if any of the wishes come with any caveats or consequences (i.e. can’t kill anyone, can’t make someone fall in love with you etc.). Listening to those details is akin to putting together the border of a puzzle prior to getting started on the middle (the choice itself).

And of course, there are likely going to be other players, who have their own thoughts and feelings on what to do next. Some may advise you to wish to “Become a prince!” or “You don’t need wishes – just be honest with the princess!” or “Ditch Agrabah – we can find our own land!” Oftentimes the player takes the GM’s prompt, their surrounding context/details, and fellow players’ feedback into account, to the extent they want it, when they make their choice(s).

So new tabletop RPG players: not only will you not be “thrown to the wolves” when you sit down at the table for the first time, you’ll have all the setup & support you’ll need to get comfortable with playing stories with your friends. If you’re feeling nervous, just dive right in – you won’t regret it!