Five Things to Know Before You Role Play
Over the years, role-playing has always been a niche hobby. However, while its total numbers may be small, most of the people involved get genuine fun and entertainment out of it. If you’ve ever considered joining them, here are the five things you need to know.
#1: There Are Many Kinds of Role Playing Games
When many people think of role-playing, what comes to mind is people in period costumes acting out a story… but that’s far from the only way to play these games. Let’s take a quick look at the major categories of games.
- Casual: A casual role-playing game is one where the participants are doing it almost entirely for fun. It may be a one-shot game, or perhaps it’s a regular hobby of the group. In these games, the ‘story’ is ultimately secondary to people having fun, and they may veer wildly away from their original plans.
- Acting: Acting games focus on a script that the members are following. This is arguably more of a performance where everyone’s participating than a game they’re playing, but everyone involved is expected to know – and follow – their part.
- Adventures: Adventures are the easiest to join because many of them are run as businesses, rather than something done entirely as a hobby. In these games, each ‘customer’ is assigned a role in something like a train-based murder mystery and given specific information to reveal to others. If someone figures out the mystery by the end, the group wins. (This is similar to Acting games, with the win/loss condition being the main difference, and winning is by no means guaranteed.)
- Reenactment: A reenactment roleplay focuses on recreating a particular period, such as the middle ages or Victorian-era England. These tend to be idealized versions of the period, with members who have specific characters that are broadly allowed to do their own thing. They may or may not have a referee or game master who keeps things on track.
- Games: Games are role plays that involve an explicit set of rules for a small group of people. Additional tools like dice and scorecards are standard, and the acting elements may or may not have an impact on the final result of the game.
The main point here is that you have options. If you’ve never experienced role-playing games before, you may want to start off with an Adventure. These are played in a single session, so there’s no long-term commitment if you decide it’s not for you after all.
#2: Different Groups Have Their Own Styles
Some role-playing groups are very casual, using simple cardboard props for their game. Other groups may be more elaborate, going as far as wearing full period outfits (up to, and including, heavy armor) and carrying real weapons that they’ve trained to be safe when using.
There’s no right or wrong here. Ultimately, the decision on what’s most fun for them is left to an individual group… but if you’re going to join them, you’ll also be expected to fit in with their existing style. You don’t want to be the one person who’s taking everything seriously when everyone else is casual or vice versa. Instead, just find (or start) a group that plays the way you want to play.
#3: Role Playing Is a Big Commitment
When you ask to join a role play, everyone else is expecting you to commit to showing up on a regular basis. Life happens, and nobody’s going to hassle you if there’s a medical emergency in your family or you had to attend a wedding – but you shouldn’t treat role-playing as something where you decide each week if you’re going or not.
If you can’t commit to being with your group for at least 90% of its roleplaying sessions, it may be best to find a group that’s better for your schedule. Otherwise, you run the risk of being left out of things, and that defeats the point of role playing in the first place.
#4: Expect to Pay for Something
If you decide to join adventure games, you can expect to pay a fair price for each game. On the other hand, if you’re enjoying private games with friends, you may end up investing in outfits, props, or other kinds of game accessories.
As far as hobby costs go, most role-playing games are on the inexpensive side, with items that are likely to be used over and over for years. Just don’t go into things expecting everyone else to pay for what you’ll be using.
#5: It’s Okay to Watch
Many role-playing groups are accommodating to newcomers and will allow you to sit on the sidelines and watch them for a session or two. (Adventures are a little iffier about this because they’re a business, but you may be able to talk them into it.)
You should always watch a group for at least one session before you ask to join in on a permanent basis. This will help you get a better sense for the way they play their games – and if you’re still excited about joining them a few days later, you’re likely to keep enjoying it.
How Can I Find Games?
With the spread of the internet, there are more ways than ever before to locate role-playing groups. Note that many groups don’t advertise themselves very much, so you may need to do some work to find them. If in doubt, check with your local game and hobby shops – they may be able to connect you with some of their other customers.
You can also check the following websites:
Finally, there’s always the option of starting a group. This is more work than joining an existing group, but it does allow you to set up the exact role play you’d like to enjoy.