Intro To: Tabletop Roleplaying Games

With our epic scale Dungeons & Dragons campaign on the horizon, now is the perfect time to introduce you to tabletop roleplaying in general, and some of the different systems that you can use to create any adventure that you can imagine. What is tabletop roleplaying? It’s a type of interactive storytelling experience in which a set of rules lets you answer any question about how actions and objects interact; or it’s a framework for rolling dice and fighting monsters! We’ll do a series of future articles explaining the different systems in more depth, but this article will give you a basic understanding of how some of the most popular systems differ.

The most popular and widely recognized roleplaying systems are D20 systems. These include Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, and any supplements created for either of these roleplaying systems. In these systems, players create scenarios through conversation, and resolve any conflicts or challenges by rolling a 20 sided die, and adding any appropriate modifiers or bonuses granted by their current circumstances and their character abilities. D20 systems tend to have a strong focus on tabletop miniatures combat, and include a robust rules set to cover all of the variables that can come up when, for example, a Dwarven barbarian fights a dragon on a rope bridge above a chasm.

The Storytelling System, used for Vampire: The Masquerade, Changeling: The Dreaming, etc… is a simple framework in which players assign “dots” to various attributes and skills. These tell you how many 10 sided dice to roll when making any given challenge, and in general, make this system much less numbers-heavy than a d20 system. The Storytelling system isn’t really used outside of Whitewolf settings but it’s worth mentioning as your go-to system for anything vampire or werewolf related.

Dice Pool systems, such as the d6 system used in Shadowrun are similar to The Storytelling system in the sense that players roll lots of dice instead of the singular 20 sided die used in d20 systems. In Shadowrun in particular, players have different pools of dice that can be divided to serve specific purposes. For example, the dice in your “combat pool” can be spent to improve attacks or defense.

The Fudge system is used in freeform, story driven roleplaying games like FATE, Dresden Files RPG, etc. In this system, players have base success rates modified by fudge dice that either improve your attempt or make it less successful. FATE is the most popular Fudge system, and most of the others that are gaining in popularity are FATE derivatives. In these systems, story-telling comes first, and improving your rolls comes down to finding justifiable reasons to use your best skills rather than finding ways to min-max your stats as much as possible.

If you want to try out some hardcore roleplaying, join up with our epic scale Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Or, if you’ve got a long running gaming group that plays any of these roleplaying games regularly, come out to The Round Table where you can enjoy our atmosphere, fine foods, and specialty cocktails while you game!