Tabletop roleplaying games are the answer to pandemic social gatherings

Tabletop roleplaying games can provide great, cheap fun for players of all ages. Photo by Carson Lewis | Assistant Digital Managing Editor

By Carson Lewis | Assistant Digital Managing Editor

The pandemic has ruined social lives as many used to know them.

Parties and get-togethers have been canceled, and many are practicing the rituals of the past — watching sporting events or attending religious services — from the comfort of their homes. It can be hard to get a large group of friends together today, with some people unable to due to their schedules and some feeling uncomfortable gathering with other people.

Many have turned to video games, utilizing consoles like the Xbox One or Playstation 4 to connect with their acquaintances. However, these consoles may cost a pretty penny, especially for the less techy members of a friend group. Games that can be played on computers are an easier solution, but not all computers are created equal. A cheaper or older computer may not be able to keep up with the current generation’s required specifications, leaving prospective gamers out of the fun.

A great solution to solving the problem of having fun with friends during this time can be overcome with tabletop role playing games, a genre of boardgames that might look different from the familiar family games that many may be used to seeing and playing. Role playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder and Call of Cthulhu emphasize players to use their imagination to play as a specific character in a fantasy setting. From Tolkien-esque elves and dwarves to sci-fi alien races, a variety of games can fill almost any niche that a friend group could desire.

The games are similar to board games in that they have a series of rules, but there is no “win condition” like in traditional games. Players work together to go on imagined adventures led by a “Game Master” player, who describes everything the other players encounter. It’s then up to the players to decide what they wish to do. Most game systems allow a great variety of freedom, and give a great sense of control that other games — even video games — can’t provide.

The games usually don’t require much monetary investment on the front end, with many systems including a free set of rules through their websites to be printed by any would-be players.

While these games are typically played in-person, the advent of the internet brings a variety of other means of playing. Roll20 is a great tool for this, allowing for a variety of different games to be played and providing great tools for aspiring Game Masters. Voice chat can occur over Zoom or Discord, giving everyone a fair chance to participate in the game.

For starters, I would recommend the one-page role playing game “Honey Heist” in which players play as criminally-minded bears looking to raid the annual Honey Convention in heist-movie style. The game is painfully simple and is easy to play with little to no preparation on the side of the Game Master. It is available for a name-your-price model on its website.

For a bigger challenge and more opportunity for roleplaying, Dungeons and Dragons is a classic. A fantasy magical setting allows fans of Tolkien or C.S. Lewis the freedom to quest and adventure in a world of sorcery and beasts. Basic rules are available for free on its website, and the expanded rulebook is available for under $30 on Amazon.

During this time of social distancing, it can feel hard to connect with friends and loved ones, but with a bit of imagination and guidance from game rules, it’s easy to discover that incredible worlds are waiting to be explored in the realm of tabletop roleplaying games.