How Tabletop RPGS Broke Away From The Table And Brought People Together
Playing video games online has been an escape for many in 2020, but one hobby had to drastically change in order to stick around during the pandemic. Tabletop gaming usually involves people meeting up in order to play, but fans had to take their sessions online throughout the year so that groups could keep going.
Tabletop gaming has been on the rise in terms of mainstream popularity over the past few years, to the point where D&D had its best-ever year of sales in 2019. There is a mixture of reasons for this. The popularity of streaming shows has allowed people to see tabletop RPGs played by professionals, showing prospective fans how great the experience can be. There has been a lot of exposure for games like D&D in popular media, such as in shows like Stranger Things. It’s now easier than ever to find groups online and to find advice and support to ensure that everyone had a good time, without overstepping any boundaries.
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The lockdowns that were enforced throughout the year prevented tabletop groups from meeting. As such, groups had to move their games online, in order to continue playing. There are a number of different ways this can be accomplished. At the most basic level, people can use chat programs like Discord or Zoom to communicate with each other. It’s possible to roll dice on camera, but there are websites like Roll Dice With Friends that allow players to determine and witness random rolls. There are a number of specialized options for playing D&D online, but some of these are paid services.
The main benefit of playing streaming tabletop games is that it’s easier to bring busy schedules together, as there are no travel times involved. It also makes it possible to play with friends in different countries. This element was crucial in 2020, as it would have been impossible to play at all without the Internet.
The issue with playing games like D&D or Pathfinder online is that they often rely on outside elements, like maps and minis. There are programs that can make things easier for the DM and player to act out battles on a grid, but it’s never quite as satisfying as the real thing. Not all RPGs are set in dungeons and are based around fighting monsters and evading traps. Vampire: The Masquerade is far easier to play online than its contemporaries, as it rarely involves dice at all, let alone maps.
Vampire: The Masquerade is a game of personal horror and political maneuvering, on both a grand and personal scale. It has a heavy focus on the roleplaying side of things, and combat is usually resolved within a few dice rolls. The streaming format also makes it easier for players to contact each other in secret, and for the Storyteller to submit hidden notes. Vampire: The Masquerade is a harder sell on the elevator pitch stage, but it’s easier to play with minimal mechanical elements.
One of the reasons why Animal Crossing: New Horizons has done so well in 2020 is that it provided a framework for friends to hang out with each other in a digital space. Tabletop games provided the same function, and moving to online play was the only option for many people to stay in touch with their RPG buddies throughout the year. If it weren’t for these platforms, then many campaigns and stories would likely have ended back in April, never to be resumed. There are doubtless many players who can’t wait to return to the table, but the games can continue online until the day arrives when it’s safe to meet in person.
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Scott has been writing for The Gamer since it launched in 2017 and also regularly contributes to Screen Rant. He has previously written gaming articles for websites like Cracked, Dorkly, Topless Robot, and TopTenz. He has been gaming since the days of the ZX Spectrum, when it used to take 40 minutes to load a game from a tape cassette player to a black and white TV set.
Scott thinks Chrono Trigger is the best video game of all time, followed closely by Final Fantasy Tactics and Baldur’s Gate 2. He pretends that sorcerer is his favorite Dungeons & Dragons class in public but he secretly loves bards.
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