Tabletop role-playing games have made a comeback into the popular mainstream. They gained rapid popularity around the 1980s, despite negative coverage about ‘witchcraft’ and ‘devil worship’. Following the boom in popularity, they began to die off and were considered a staple of nerd culture.
Dungeons and Dragons, or otherwise known as DND, is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game originally designed and created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson in 1974. It is fairly straightforward and is currently on the fifth edition of rules. When someone mentions “tabletop role-playing game,” most people think of DND. DND is also commonly associated with medieval fantasy, similar in style to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, with many things from dragons to trolls.
A group of players, known as a party, go through a campaign created by another player called a Dungeon Master, Game master, or another similar title. The Dungeon Master helps direct the players through the campaign and controls the enemies that the party may encounter. Both the party and Dungeon Master roll sets of dice to determine the success of actions that will be taken. For example, a knight is trying to hit a goblin with his sword. The person that plays the knight will take a twenty-sided die, and roll to see if they hit. If the die shows a value higher than armor value of the goblin, the hit will connect. If the die shows a value lower than the armor value of the goblin, the hit will not connect. Most tabletop role-playing games use a system like this or a system based on similar rules.
Despite the wealth of information present on the internet, it seems that the awareness of DND and tabletop role-playing games like it spread via word-of-mouth. Brandon West, a junior, Angel Diaz, a senior and Zach Spencer, all talked about how they heard of DND. It could be summed up for all of them as ‘I heard about it from a friend.’
Both Diaz and Spencer had similar views as to why they play.
“A lot of entertainment nowadays are just cash grabs. And they don’t have the experiences that will stick with you. Tabletop games give you those experiences,” Spencer said.
“I needed something to do, and it was there, so I started playing. It gives people something to do with each other,” Diaz said.
West had a different take. A want for less constraint and more imagination.
“The unique aspect of being able to play a character that’s not humanly possible [inspired me to play],” West said.
Pathfinder is another tabletop role-playing game, released in 2009. Pathfinder is similar to DND, yet has more in-depth and complicated assets, values, and rules. Pathfinder is also commonly played in the medieval fantasy setting, although it does have a far-future sci-fi sequel called Starfinder.
Cyberpunk is another tabletop role-playing game, set in an unchecked dystopian society, similar in style to Blade Runner. Corporations nearly own the world, and everything has a price. While smaller and more niche, Cyberpunk 2020 is either famous or infamous for the combat system, known as Friday Night FireFight. The combat systems in DND and Pathfinder can be easy on the player at times, Friday Night FireFight is a simple and extremely deadly combat system that can easily kill a players character. The setting of Cyberpunk has sprung back up due to video game developer CD Projekt Red picking up the ip to create a role-playing video game set in the said universe called ‘Cyberpunk 2077’. ‘Cyberpunk 2077’ is set to release in April 16, 2020, although setbacks could occur that could push the release date back further.
Dark Heresy is by far the darkest tabletop role-playing game on this brief list. Published in 2008 and set in the hopeless Warhammer 40,000 universe. Warhammer 40k was originally and to an extent still is a tabletop war game with massive armies of painted models. This setting has been co-opted into a tabletop role-playing game. The players are dropped into the grimdark, gothic horror/ science fantasy. The game takes place as the players either join or are forced into service of the Imperial Inquisition, who sends them on a variety of missions. This allows for the Dungeon Master to quickly and easily tailor the campaign to their wants and needs, as well as easily sending the players to a variety of places for a variety of reasons.
Let it be known that there are very many different tabletop role-playing games and that the ones placed on this list are not the only ones, simply the first ones to come to mind.