Getting Back to the Basics
In the age of better graphics and faster computers, the gaming scene is experiencing a shift and not necessarily in the direction many would expect. More and more people are putting away the controller and bringing out their dice. This is the time of the Geek; a battle-tested and ready for action gamer is coming out of the basement and into the light. We are a different type of gamer. Games don’t have to be about reflexes. These require personal instincts and a damn bit of luck.
Pen and paper style gaming is nothing new. They’ve been around for centuries. Even the big stores carry a variety of games that sprawl across the table instead of the screen, but why?
We are a community. We still get information to play the game from all around us. The difference is that the information comes in the form of friendly faces and a prop or 20. Our environment isn’t extrapolated from code and pixels but of the imaginations and creativity of those we hang out with. I have literally walked into a restaurant with my favorite book and made a friend that I have 2 years later. We still have our regular game going.
Arguably, the most popular of these games is Dungeons and Dragons, which is in its 5th edition now. Even so, there are many others such as Doctor Who the RPG that offer a library of books to keep gamers busy. These games can weave and grow into what you need them to be. We don’t even need to be playing to get into the game. It has become popular to listen to the story unfold on the latest episode of our favorite podcast. We root for the hero and feel the devastation of that critical miss.
We’ve even figured out how to mix technology with our pen and paper games with virtual tabletops like Roll20, which will host GWW’s game Oh, Crit! Even with virtual dice and tabletop, we are communicating based on our wits instead of our thumbs. I am able to play with friends all over the world.
So, where to start? The options are everywhere, and the endless sea of games can be overwhelming. The most important thing is to choose something that interests you! From fantasy to science fiction, you won’t be able to get into books of rules if you don’t enjoy the central theme. If you want something simple, look for “The Box!” Almost every big game has a Starter Set to get you going.
Walking into a store like Books A Million will offer a few shelves devoted to the most popular current games. If you live in an area without a local store like I do, there are always the online options. Start with Amazon. They have the reviews, the games, and the accessories. Searching “RPG games” in the “toys & Games” department yields over 6000 results. From the Dresden Files to a pound of dice, you can pretty much choose what you want that has been manufactured on a mass scale. Ebay is good for picking up gaming sets that others didn’t prefer, collector’s items, and even items of gaming past. You can find deals and pieces not found anywhere else. The items aren’t always what you want, but if you can find them, it is worth it to look on Ebay.
If you can find one, and that is becoming easier every day, go local! The resurgence of small gaming/hobby stores means that there has been a return of a place to find like-minded people and games once forgotten. People are gathering and eager to talk about their favorite games. A gaming store almost always yields at least one conversation. There are boards listing local games looking for members, and some stores even host games. With the smell of paper and every inch crammed full of treasures waiting to be discovered, I can get lost in a gaming store for hours. There are dice with flecks of gold and cards that look ancient. The walls are lined with items you didn’t even know you needed. If they don’t have what you want, they’ll get it for you. Dealing with someone that loves gaming as much as you do is intoxicating.
The absolute most important part of a pen and paper game is people to share it with. This is not Solitaire. This is a chance for amazing people to come together and have a great time. Finding a great group may not happen on the first try. Also, the guys you hang out with may get along out of game. However, hand them a great-axe, and they might not play well together for whatever reason. Don’t be discouraged. Great groups are out there. Put your name on the board at your local shop. Join online groups devoted to your game of choice. It’s crucial to keep trying and happy rolling!