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How to find an RPG
January 10, 2012 5:31 PM   Subscribe

You've finally gotten over your geek self-loathing, and you've decided to jump back into playing tabletop, pen-and-paper RPGs. But where to begin?

To find fellow local gamers and games, a good first place to check is your FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store -- those are local to me; others may be local to you). They may have a bulletin board where you can look for gamers, or even scheduled events.

If you don't have a local gaming store, there are lots of online places to buy games old or new, and there are tons of self-published and indie games out there, too. And of course there are lots and lots of wonderful, innovative, just-plain-fun free games out there worth checking out. Not to mention, you could always write your own game.

Finding gamers can be harder. Try local science fiction conventions or student groups. Recruit your friends, or maybe even your family, even if they're not already geeks. Otherwise, try one of the online player registry sites. Try Meet-up or even your local Craigslist.

Once you've got some players together, you might want some cool adventure ideas, inspirational maps or GMing advice to get you started. You might even want to wade into general RPG theory. There are lots and lots of ways to play online if face-to-face won't work. Go play!

(Inspired by.)
posted by jiawen (51 comments total) 109 users marked this as a favorite

 


There sure are a lot of out-of-print RPG books on website like Scribd.
posted by griphus at 5:44 PM on January 10, 2012


If you're looking to dip your toes in and want to try something without needing prep work, Lady Blackbird is really delightful (and is also reference in eyeballkid's list above).
posted by belarius at 5:44 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


The simplest way to find swell, likeminded folks to play games of any kind -- including RPGs -- with is to come on over and hang out at Metafilter-offshoot MefightClub!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:49 PM on January 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


For those who prefer to read about pen-and-paper RPGs rather than play them (at least for now), permit me to once again recommend the wonderful blog Grognardia.
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:55 PM on January 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


I never played RPGs much either pen & paper or online, well they sucked way too much time per sitting, but my impression was that the d20 system screwed em' up royally by importing too much from video games. I've heard this only got worse with alter D&Ds, but perhaps they stopped dragging the whole community down with them.

Call of Cthulhu and the WhiteWolf games were way more entertaining than D&D. There is a Changeling book I bought a decade ago, but never played, looked like a cute game.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:00 PM on January 10, 2012


"Call of Cthulhu and the WhiteWolf games were way more entertaining than D&D."

Still are, if you want them to be.
posted by jiawen at 6:11 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Call of Cthulhu and the WhiteWolf

If the players can't agree which genre they want to be playing in, GURPS is the way to go. In that system, it's easy enough to build characters who are barbarian chieftains, vampires and time traveling astronauts with rocket belts, and to build them in such a way as to form a comparably powerful party (150 starting points can buy all sorts of different skills and abilities).
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:11 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow: OH MY GOD I WANT TO PLAY A CHARACTER IN THAT PARTY.

(some things call for allcaps. this is one of them.)

actually, though, I'd be more jealous of the GM who'd get to make up the world where those characters find themselves together...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 6:27 PM on January 10, 2012


Finding gamers via Craigslist. Perhaps not the finest idea you've had.
posted by BiggerJ at 6:28 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


NO MURDER HOBOS
posted by Artw at 6:36 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'd heard about d20 CoC and WW games. I hadn't realized that was only temporary.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:39 PM on January 10, 2012


When I was a kid, I wanted to find some friends to play D&D with so bad. But I was a feral nerd; I didn't know any other nerds, and I couldn't buy the game myself owing to a parental ban derived from the D&D Panic of the 80s.

But I did play one session of D&D. It was in boy scouts, of all places, and it was every bit as fucking awesome as I'd known it would be. I remember choosing a paladin, and having been explained that such characters tended to like truth, righteousness, and cleanliness, during the game I refused to slide down a slime-covered pole because it wasn't what my character would do.

Then, almost nothing, until college. And then the game (by this time, Legend of the Five Rings, god help me) was the most fun I'd ever had doing anything in my whole life, until the group I was playing with -- my best friends at the time -- had their characters conspire against mine. It broke my heart every bit as thoroughly as a real-life betrayal would have, shaking me to my core in a way I'm still not remotely comfortable with. It was just a goddamn game! Just a game.

Then I married a LARPer who ultimately decided she liked pretending to be a vampire more than she liked me.

This is a good post.

I doubt I'll ever play again. My poor soul is all used up.

Which is a shame, because about every eight months or so I get the urge to get a 7th Sea game, and I suppose I should count myself lucky that it'll never actually happen.
posted by pts at 6:41 PM on January 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


eyeballkid, thanks for that link. Dread sounds amazing.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:44 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


There sure are a lot of out-of-print RPG books on website like Scribd.


Links? I am simultaneously too busy to hunt them down, and yet clearly prepared to lose eight hours reading every Paranoia sourcebook ever written. Hill Sector Blues, anyone?
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:52 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Although I´d been hanging out in nerdy circles for a while by the time I met my now-ex, I´d never played a tabletop RPG. Everyone I knew who did that played D&D or World of Darkness, and neither of those particularly appealed to me.

When I told the ex this, he asked me ¨Well, what kind of fiction do you like to read?¨

I told him that I like the kind of sci-fi that just narrowly misses being anthropology, urban fantasy (in the loving-descriptions-of-fictional-cities sense, not the paranormal romance sense), some realistic contemporary stuff..

And he said ¨Well there´s the problem. You don´t like the kind of fiction that D&D is designed to produce.¨

He was right. I don´t like fantasy of the dwarves-and-elves-in-faux-medieval-Europe-fight-epic-battles variety at all. (Not even Tolkien.) Nor am I particularly into vampires or werewolves. But give me a game with morally ambiguous Mormon moral enforcers in the American west, or teenage rebels fighting the man, or academics selling out to Cthulhu for tenure and, as it turns out, I´m totally down. Three years or so later, and I´ve played upwards of 25 different systems. (Including some that I learned post-breakup. It´s really annoying when people assume that women who play RPGs are only in it because of a boyfriend.)
posted by ActionPopulated at 7:20 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


If the players can't agree which genre they want to be playing in, GURPS is the way to go. In that system, it's easy enough to build characters who are barbarian chieftains, vampires and time traveling astronauts with rocket belts, and to build them in such a way as to form a comparably powerful party (150 starting points can buy all sorts of different skills and abilities).

That being said -- and I say this as someone who bangs the drum regularly for GURPS on the blue -- that kind of mix 'n' match seems pretty unstable. I know of no one who uses the nominal GURPS setting, Infinite Worlds, where this sort of thing happens as a matter of course. Then again, in small doses it can work fine: I am currently running a GURPS Dungeon Fantasy game where one player wanted to play an Iron-Man-esque superhero who had been thrown into the ancient past by his nemesis. No one else in the party knows he is 'Not From 'Round These Parts, they just think he is a weirdo mage with some kick-ass magical armour.

What GURPS does excel at is finding one system to rule them all. I play in a group where all of the other players are younger than I am. I started playing D&D as a pre-teen in the seventies and those who are near to me in age started later in life, while the younger ones did not start playing until the nineties or the new millennium. Consequently, I believe, we shift game systems every three or four sessions as someone finds some new game they want to try out. It reminds me too much of the bad old days of the early eighties when everyone had to learn a new set of rules every time they wanted a change of pace. Tired of D&D? Let's play some Boot Hill. Here are a hundred new rules to learn and remember. Maybe some deep space adventure with Traveller? Okay, that is totally different again. Maybe some swashbuckling adventure? Off to play Flashing Blades and everyone starts from scratch again. So with this group, just like thirty years ago, play grinds to as halt while the GM looks up 'recovering from unconsciousness' or 'critical failure on a dodge roll.' GURPS keeps the same sensible engine for everything.

As well, combat is dangerous. GURPS players, except in the most cinematic of games, tend to think twice about fighting. Just as in real life, a cudgel to the skull or a bullet to the chest tends to ruin your whole day. Some players of RPGs, just like some audiences of TV and movies, like situations where the hero is never ever in any peril. I am not one of these people.

The criticism I often hear thrown at the system is there is 'too much math.' There is indeed some addition and subtraction involved in character creation, but unless '120 plus 15 minus 45' taxes your math skills to the utmost, it is not difficult. And then in play it is clear sailing: roll three dice. If your roll (plus or minus any situational modifiers) is equal to or lower than your skill, you succeed. If not, you fail.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:42 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


about every eight months or so I get the urge to get a 7th Sea game

There is no Dark Secret: Not Gay.

Well, there is. But you don't get any disavd points for it. Because, not that there's anything wrong with that...
posted by sourcequench at 7:47 PM on January 10, 2012


I miss gaming so much but my erratic schedule doesn't allow for attending a regular session like I did back in the old days. If I were a part of a group now and could run any type of game I wanted, I would use a modified version of Mutant Future with some tweaks from Labyrinth Lord to run a campaign which would be a tribute to Jack Kirby's later work. It would be a post-apocalyptic dystopian future with bio-engineered super humans defending the last bastian of humanity against mutants and giant monsters. Picture Kamandi crossed with OMAC and a little bit of Devil Dinosaur thrown in. It would totally rule!!!
posted by GavinR at 8:15 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


We never really actually played that much back when I was in high school. More planning for it that got sidetracked by playing Magic: The Gathering. At this point I'm happy if I can play Munchkin with folks a few times a year.
posted by ericales at 8:24 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


http://www.storygamesseattle.com/

is a great drop-in situation for people in Seattle who want to check out new-school games like Fiasco or Dogs in the Vineyard. They meet on Thursdays at Gamma Ray Games.
posted by Sauce Trough at 8:26 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


there is only one thing worse than a self-loathing nerd

it is a nerd who loathes other nerds
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:57 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I miss old-school RPG. Traveler (although GURPS has a Traveler set, it's just not the same...), Rolemaster, and Gamma World made me ever so happy...
posted by FormlessOne at 9:26 PM on January 10, 2012


I'm in the same boat as pts, having played few actual games but hovering around the hobby seemingly forever. I've long been content to just think about RPGs (or the settings at least, I haven't learned any new rules since Millennium's End). I find myself still sketching out characters and locales, which then foment plots and stories which I'll probably never take the effort to record. For some reason honing it all down to be written as fiction has always sapped the joy out of the process, and I'm not sure how I'd feel about letting other people into my special philosophical playpen of epicry where they might besmirch my wondrous construct with their stupid free will.

No, safer just to read, and ruminate.

*rolls d20* Yay! I... win.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 9:27 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


If the players can't agree which genre they want to be playing in, GURPS is the way to go. In that system, it's easy enough to build characters who are barbarian chieftains, vampires and time traveling astronauts with rocket belts, and to build them in such a way as to form a comparably powerful party (150 starting points can buy all sorts of different skills and abilities).

It's definitely a fun GMing challenge to play no-limit GURPS. Games like that feel much like superhero games to me. You've got all these different hyper-defined characters with crazy diverse backstories, niches, and abilities, and you've got to somehow drive a coherent and compelling experience that'll involve all of them and give them all opportunities to strut their stuff.

Astronaut / vampire / barbarian love triangle!
posted by Sauce Trough at 9:42 PM on January 10, 2012


For those of you who are curious about tabletop RPGs but aren't sure how they work in practice, there are podcasts that document tabletop game sessions. The most famous/popular are the Penny Arcade D&D podcast and Critical Hit but there are quite a few others to pick from - offering a variety of genres, systems and play styles. Many fans of these podcasts listen to them at work or during commutes and don't even play tabletop games.

(self promo note: I run a tabletop RPG podcast called Role Playing Public Radio and an Actual Play podcast called RPPR Actual Play. We play everything from 1930s Depression-era Call of Cthulhu to Lady Gaga style Cyberpunk.)
posted by clockworkjoe at 10:11 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Call of Cthulhu and the WhiteWolf games were way more entertaining than D&D. There is a Changeling book I bought a decade ago, but never played, looked like a cute game.

Heh. "Cute game." Heh.

I play mostly D&D but my favorite games are always White Wolf. The two are completely different animals, though. Equally fun depending on what one is looking for, but...

For the novice: D&D is very rules-heavy. The many different systems strive for a way to have basically every action a character can take involve a weighted amount of luck. The game evolved out of Warhammer, and is a sort of progenitor of all which came after it, the way that Mario is the progenitor of almost everything which came after it. Neither were first, but they were important in ways that none before or since have been.

But what this means in D&D is that what you do in any given situation involves looking up a bunch of stats and then rolling a twenty-sided die (D20) in order to see if you succeed based upon the numerous different factors which apply. So if you want to hit some enemy with your axe, say, well first off (going by 3.5 rules) your enemy is going to have an Armor Class (AC) which you won't be privy to but can probably figure out with some trial and error. Let's say the AC is 20.

That means that you need to roll greater than 20 in order to hit him for damage. But wait! your die only goes up to 20! dammit all! Hold, for there's more! You get a Base Attack Bonus (BAB) which levels with you at a certain rate depending on your class. One each of your weapons, you will have a "to hit" bonus, based on the weapon and on your stats. Your strength might be applied, or maybe your dexterity. Then enchantment bonuses come in. So with a STR of 18 (quite high) you'd have a +4 bonus, and as a Level 3 Barbarian you'd have a full BAB which means another +3, plus your weapon might have a +1 enchantment on it. 4+3+1 equals 8. So in this case, you need only a 13 or higher to hit the 20 AC, as your total bonus gets applied to your die roll.

Want to increase your odds more? Well try flanking your enemy with another team member. That adds +2. Maybe your Cleric can spend a turn casting Prayer. That adds a +1. That brings you up to an even 50/50 odds! Want to call your shot on the opponent? Sorry, that decreases your odds. Etc!

Stealth, Diplomacy, they all work the same way (though with far fewer complications than with combat.) The point is that the system is designed to take as many things into account for as much "realism" as possible within a highly fantastical environment.

White Wolf, on the other hand, is very very different.

In White Wolf, you roll ten-sided-dice (d10s, which aren't perfect polyhedrons but it really doesn't matter.) White Wolf is "Rules Lite" in this case meaning there's not a lot to consider with the dice rolls. Instead of rolling a D20 against an Armor Class or what have you, you roll a number of D10s. Rolling above a certain number (usually seven) is a success. The more successes you roll means a greater degree of success. The number you have to meet or beat is determined by the difficulty of what you are trying to achieve, and the number of dice you roll is generally tied to how well-thought-out your approach is. It seems more complicated at first, but it's the only rule for dice rolls that there is, so it's much simpler in the long run.

Moreover, what you can do is determined largely by your own creativity. In Mage, for instance, your magical abilities are based on degrees of skill within nine spheres (Mind, Body, Time, Material, Correspondence, etc.) So maybe you want to implant a message in someone's head. If you have appropriate points in mind and correspondence, this is a simple enough matter. Mind lets you get inside their head, and correspondence lets you transmit those thoughts. But what if you don't have any points in Mind? Well, if you have points in Body, maybe you get the hairs in the subject's inner ear to vibrate at the frequency of your essage. There's a lot more involved, but these are the basics.

What it all comes down to, for me, is what my group calls "stunt dice." Basically, in White Wolf, if you come up with something particularly creative or ingenious, the GM will grant you extra dice on the roll, for a chance of greater success. In D&D, similar moves would result in HIGHER difficulty.

This is by design. D&D is a tactical game, requiring teamwork. AN individual can't justify his ideas by going crazy. In White Wolf games, teamwork isn't necessarily encouraged at all, and in fact PCs may have good reasons for going against one another, and the story thrives on creativity. Both have their fun and uses, but are very, very different experiences.

Oh, and as to my opening sentence there, in my experience "Changeling" is darker than Vampire is. It claims to be about fairies and is big among the Otherkin community apparently, but the world involves tortured souls trying to maintain their sense of wonder while the entire universe they live in is denying them their identity until it inevitably dies out and they become like anyone else. It is "cute" on the surface and somewhat horrifying in practice. But I adore it.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:15 PM on January 10, 2012


If you like traditional tabletop rpgs, you might like theRPGsite, though we tend to be more focused on actual gaming than the consumer element.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 10:48 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Navelgazer, I was a big fan of WW games. I really only played it a couple times, as it was the last game my group picked up before we all went off to college and stopped playing. I was so taken with the game that I ended up buying source books and expansions just to follow the story as it developed. There was a great deal of lore and backstory going on, and with Vampire and Werewolf, it was pretty interesting to see the ways they'd twist real history to fit it into the game world.

Of course, you could readily tell which novels they ripped off for their worlds. At least in Vampire, they credited books (mostly Queen of the Damned, it seemed), but by Changeling I think they'd stopped, even though it was clear it was all Charles De Lint and Borderlands. (And, hilariously, they tried to sue the makers of Underworld for ripping off White Wolf?!)

I never played Changeling, mostly because it came out when collectible cards were big, and they tried to force a card system into the game. It seemed to have the best, and as you said, absolutely creepiest, most depressing story going.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:12 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


tumid dahlia: "For those who prefer to read about pen-and-paper RPGs rather than play them (at least for now)..."

Sorry if I gave the impression that playing games is the only way to enjoy them. Yes, reading RPGs is also totally legitimate, in my book. So's dreaming up adventures and campaigns that you don't use in actual play. Heck, even just collecting RPGs is okay, I think. But if you want to play...
posted by jiawen at 11:27 PM on January 10, 2012


Now that I think of it, essentially the whole concept of Changeling could be summed up by the episode of Buffy where she's in a mental hospital, and being told that the vampire hunting is a delusion. Imagine that, as a role-playing game about faeries and trolls. Absolutely awesome.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:40 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


OTHERKIN 4 LIFE!

/not otherkinist
posted by Artw at 1:49 AM on January 11, 2012


I'm 32 and am playing in my very first table-top RPG campaign. The rest of my group had played in high school but we're all new to AD&D 4th edition. We're having a blast. It's a good excuse to get together, none of us are taking it too serious or treating it like a joke and I had a great time shopping for dice!

I'm happy that we're starting with AD&D. I'm a gamer and having both the ruleset and the tropes there as a guideline definitely gives us some direction. We're a pretty eclectic group and I have a feeling that once we good handle on the gameplay stuff is going to get weird. I'm really looking forward to it.

One of the resources I used to "learn" how to play was the Penny Arcade podcasts where they played the new 4th edition of AD&D with what I think was a GM from WotC. It helped me get a feel for the flow of the game and mechanics and since one of them was a beginner too a lot of stuff that I needed to know was getting spelled out.

As a gamer, I'd always regretted not getting into RPG' or even Magic cards growing up. Frankly I was so shy that I couldn't even muster that sort of focused social interaction with other nerds. I would even get sourcebooks and roll up my own characters. I spent a look of time with the player's guide for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness.

I'm glad I found some nerdy friends (through a sports league - well, kickball is a sport! - of all places) to finally get to roll some crits and saving throws and all that good stuff.
posted by thecjm at 2:53 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I miss old-school RPG. Traveler (although GURPS has a Traveler set, it's just not the same...), Rolemaster, and Gamma World made me ever so happy...

Mongoose Traveller is more or less a reprint with a few tweaks, and Wizards did a version of Gamma World a couple of years back.

Re: GURPS, I love the source books more than the system. Although really want to rip off someone else's idea for a GURPS game - tell the players they are playing a cops game and instead drop them into Call of Cthulu on the second adventure.
posted by Francis at 3:12 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Being a person of an aging stature I have found the best way to find local gamers is to make them yourself. I run a Swords & Wizardry campaign for my boys (10 and 12) and we play regularly.
posted by datter at 3:41 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Woah, clockworkjoe! Big fan of RPPR here - the show and the Actual plays. :D Even though I've never managed to get my ass in gear and actually play an RPG so far! D:

But yeah, I was totally coming here to link to RPPR, so getchasses over there, people!
posted by Drexen at 5:43 AM on January 11, 2012


Oh yeah, and while I'm at it:

Fear The Boot has lots of nice discussion about all aspects of RPG's, and they crank them out on a crazy-regular schedule.

Thursday Knights broadcast their long-running D&D game every week. It's mostly pretty vanilla, but it's a nice example of standard D&D played very well.

The Gutter Sypes are more fun and casual, and they play all sorts of different systems and settings, some one-shots, some running over a few episodes.
posted by Drexen at 5:50 AM on January 11, 2012


Savage Worlds (previously) is the game I'd recommend to people who are new to role-playing. It seems to strike the right balance between rules-heavy and rules-light, while being a really functional, cinematic, universal system.

My group (yay! I've got a group!) just finished up a ten-month World War I/fantasy campaign in SW, and our two newbie gamers are now digging into Pathfinder enthusiastically; I can't imagine them enjoying the huge rule-set without having been primed first, though.
posted by MrVisible at 6:18 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


For the novice: D&D is very rules-heavy. The many different systems strive for a way to have basically every action a character can take involve a weighted amount of luck. The game evolved out of Warhammer, and is a sort of progenitor of all which came after it, the way that Mario is the progenitor of almost everything which came after it. Neither were first, but they were important in ways that none before or since have been.

D&D (1974) evolved out of Chainmail (1971).

Warhammer came later (1983) than both, I think. Otherwise, good explanation. :)
posted by edguardo at 7:00 AM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


So. Are any of the programs in the "are lots and lots of ways to play online" links intuitive to use? For the record, I own a Fantasy Grounds license and have yet to use it in actual play, because I don't find the software easy to use at all. I'm sure I can figure it out, but it seems like a hassle, so I haven't really tried yet.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:18 AM on January 11, 2012


Well, shoot, if we're gonna promote:

I co-host All Games Considered, an audio podcast that discusses tabletop games. We emphasize RPGs, although we also cover board and card games. If you're looking for a review of an RPG, chances are we've done it!

One of our show's regular segments is the RPG Buffet. This is my gaming group, and we get together once a month to play a different RPG, and then immediately review it after the session. We've been going for several years, and have quite a few reviews up on the AGC website, plus in 2010 we devoted our gaming calendar to playing through as many editions of D&D as we could get our hands on--from Red Box to 4th ed.

We also did an episode specifically for people who'd been out of the RPG hobby for twenty years or so, where we gave an overview of the changes that had taken place in that time; I encourage anyone who's been out if gaming for a while to give it a listen.


As for an RPG to get back into the swing of things, I second belarius's recommendation of Lady Blackbird. There are many awesome hacks of the Lady Blackbird system out there as well, so if the steam-punky feel of the original is not to your taste, you can try something else, like Jedi Blackbird or Operation: BLACKBIRD.
posted by magstheaxe at 8:18 AM on January 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


I just wanted to second the love for Misspent Youth. Awesome game, and it takes the prize for Rulebook most Resembling "Maximum Rock and Roll."

At the risk of repeating myself from the other thread, I'll...well, repeat my mention of D&D's Encounters program. It's a casual, beginner-level program designed to introduce first-time gamers to D&D (as well as providing a venue for more experienced ones). I can't link it now, but if you search it and enter your ZIP code, you may find one or more game stores close to you that host it. And if you can borrow some dice and a pencil from someone else, you don't need to bring or buy anything at all.
posted by Gelatin at 8:49 AM on January 11, 2012


right on edguardo. I got my history wrong (probably by assuming things from in between the lines in Order of the Stick.)
posted by Navelgazer at 9:52 AM on January 11, 2012


adamdschneider, if you find the dedicated apps too cumbersome, you might have better luck with chat-based (Skype or IRC) RPGs. At its most basic, everyone just logs onto a chat channel and you start playing. A dice server (here's one; there are many more) can be helpful. The state-of-the-art these days seems to be Skype + MapTool; again, I don't have experience setting up MapTool, but it looks like it'd be about as convenient as Fantasy Grounds (so if the latter is too much trouble, MapTool might be as well).

Play-by-post ("ways") and play-by-email ("online") are also very easy to set up, but are asynchronous.
posted by jiawen at 10:02 AM on January 11, 2012


I <3 GURPS and have an humungous collection of 3e and 4e books in both hardback, softback and pdf format and have been using it for a while now. I love how you can tailor the complexity and have so many "campaign switches" available that you can switch on or off as the background and circumstances dictate. With these switches you can add or subtract detail as required and cover any genre from high fantasy to Sci-Fi and every base in between.

As an example - I have used GURPS Tactical Shooting when running a recent short campaign set in Laos/Cambodia during the Vietnam war ("SOG vs. YOG-SOTHOTH") and GURPS Martial Arts during my epic ongoing Elizabethan-era game. I could have run either with just the basic set but the additional rules and options add realism, detail and are great fun. The release of Social Engineering has been a boon as well as one of the players is playing a character obsessed with the Book of the Courtier.

One other good thing about GURPS are the "worked-examples" settings. Action!, Dungeon Fantasy, Monster Hunters and the forthcoming "After The End" fallout style post-apocalypse setting are all brilliant and subscribers to Pyramid will often have additional suggestions for mixing and matching campaigns - my next plan is to run a Cliffhangers/Monster Hunters game set in the 1930s - it'll only be a short-run game with maybe a half dozen sessions but I am looking forward to it and have been forcing myself to read a ton of pulp-era books to get in the mood.

My only problem is the age old curse of the GM in that I end up running games that I'd love to play in.
posted by longbaugh at 11:09 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


if you find the dedicated apps too cumbersome, you might have better luck with chat-based (Skype or IRC) RPGs

Whoops, I should have mentioned I play 4e, so I'd need something with a grid. Thanks for the response, though. Maptools doesn't look any easier than FG (downloaded it a couple times and found it very unintuitive even for making maps. GOd, I wish there was a simple, drag and drop, tile-based mapmaker program out there.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:29 AM on January 11, 2012


"Whoops, I should have mentioned I play 4e, so I'd need something with a grid."

Ah, okay. It's possible that WotC's own D&D Adventure Tools do what you need, but if that doesn't work, I'm kinda out of my depth. (I don't play or know much about D&D.) If the folks here don't have other suggestions, the Enworld forums might help.
posted by jiawen at 3:21 PM on January 11, 2012


As a child I was expressly forbidden from playing pen and paper RPGs. The "satan worshipper" stigma of th 80s combined with a family friend who had apparently almost gotten a divorce over D&D sessions were enough to convince my mom that it was pure evil.

Dutifully I never played any tabletop RPGs until I was an adult. This is one of those examples too where the oldest child gets the strictest treatment-- when I was in college my little brother was actually hosting D&D sessions on the basement of our parents' home (Mom did ask me to sit in on a session just to be sure they weren't summoning demons or drinking blood or what have you).

I love tabletop RPGs. They are just so much fun. I've only limited experience: mostly D&D 3rd Edition, Savage Worlds and Hidden Earth Expedition. Savage Worlds has been the most enjoyable system for me so far, but they may have had more to do with the GM and the custom campaign we did.

And if you ever find yourself wanting/needing to explain the appeal of RPGs to someone who just doesn't get it, this is how I explain it:

An RPG system is a grown-up way of playing make believe.* Or to put it in a more high-falutin way: it's structured group storytelling, a human activity older than written human history. It's fun because not only does it make you use your imagination, but you get to share in a creative imagining process with your friends. It makes your brain happy.

*At this point you may see eyes glaze over. Hey, the simple fact is that role play gaming isn't "cool." But you know what else? "Cool" is boring and tiresome. Very few things that are "cool" end up being actually worthwhile or enjoyable. Being lame and goofy, on the other hand, is loads more fun!
posted by Doleful Creature at 4:04 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


The D&D scare of the 80s played an important role in forming my current disgust with all things fundamentalism. In that way at least I should be grateful for it, but it did mean I didn't get to play anything RPGs until a few short years ago.
posted by JHarris at 6:30 PM on January 11, 2012


Sorry if I gave the impression that playing games is the only way to enjoy them.

No, you didn't give that impression at all. The fault was mine. I should have said "those who like reading about RPGs" rather than "prefer"!
posted by tumid dahlia at 6:51 PM on January 11, 2012


To gelatin,

Misspent Youth designer Rob Bohl says thanks for the compliment and:

¨You´re spot-on on the Maximum Rocknroll shout-out; I have a box full of the 'zines and several of the layouts (especially on the ashcan) are lifted more-or-less directly.¨
posted by ActionPopulated at 8:55 AM on January 13, 2012


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