We (James here) make no bones of it. We love TTRPG and you’re going to get some content relating to it on our podcast and associated blog but here’s the deal. No matter your disposition toward it, whether totally unfamiliar or deeply engrossed with it, you’re going to get something out of that content. Over the course of these next two blogs I hope to make that clear to you while interspersing some quotes from the rest of the crew about our own experiences with it.
My first exposure to TTRPGs was listening to my older brother’s stories of swords and sorcery in D&D 3.0. It was years later that I found a group of my own and began running games when the other DMs were tired of trying to herd the group. Seeing how a well built world could shape countless nights of fun really cemented my love of worldbuilding.Seth
What is TTRPG?
Most of us, Seth, Jon, Marcos and I got our start telling stories in this format, it’s this hobby that got our teeth all nice and cut. We learned to make worlds that our friends would – one step closer to – literally walk in. But I’m getting ahead of myself here let’s kick it off with a brief explanation for the uninitiated.
Here’s the acronym, TableTop RolePlaying Game, TTRPG, and it’s a bit like improv theater with a randomizer (like a die or deck of cards). Oh, so like Dungeons and Dragons on Stranger Things? Exactly. That’s a TTRPG. They’re wicked fun.
We at The Club don’t generally use the term D&D even though it is by far the most popular system and is often used as short hand for TTRPG. This is because, though you might be unfamiliar with them, there are hundreds of different TTRPGs floating around the Nerdosphere to fill nearly any niche. Not a fan of sword and sorcery? Not a problem, we got Gumshoe, an RPG built around solving mysteries. Like sci fi? How about Traveller? Want to be an anthropomorphized bird pirate man with a shoulder mounted ray gun? Savage Worlds or GURPS could definitely cook that up for you. Like a dark steam punk setting? Why not Through the Breach or Blades in the Dark? And these are just to name a few great offerings, I know that some of my fellow readers will be chomping at the bit to name their favorites that I missed here. The point is, we say TTRPGs because there’s a ton of them and they’re not all wizards and warriors.
Essentially the way it works is a Game Master (in D&D it’s a dungeon master) creates a world and story for the players (as few as 2 usually more like 3-5) to interact with. But remember, this is a game, so there have to be boundaries and rules otherwise it would just pandemonium (eh, it’s usually bananas but for the sake of argument…).
How do we decide what your players are capable of? What limits your players interactions with the world? With D&D the limiter is usually the players’ stats and it’s to these that you turn when a player says ‘I want to run up that wall like Neo from the Matrix‘. A good GM says, ‘sure thing, but we need to know how fast and coordinated you are, what’s your dexterity?’. Then, because chance always plays a role, we use a randomizer, in the case of D&D it’s a 20 sided die, add that to your dexterity the higher the better. A good roll or very high dexterity and you pull off the maneuver, if not you fall on your face and must now deal with the consequences. A good GM then complicates the story and imbues your failure with meaning.
I jumped straight into planning and running TTRPG games in college as a way to marry my creative energies and desire to share stories with my friends. I haven’t stopped since, and continue to play TTRPGs to have fun and expand my communication skills.Jon
The players are not just static objects in your world but living breathing artifacts within it. If you played RPGs with your friends in the early 2000s almost everyone was gonna try wall running at some point. This meant that on some level your world now had to have a disposition on wall running. Their very presence in your world moves and shifts your boundaries. Thus, your players may only touch one small part of your world but that interaction changes all of the world.
Stay tuned, on Friday I’m going to dive into why TTRPG content is creative gold for anyone creating fictional settings.
Stay tuned for more writing from the WorldCraft Club as we explore worldbuilding and the crafting of fictional settings to inspire your creativity.
James wrote this! James is a host on the Worldcraft Club Podcast. He loves tabletop rpgs, running and drinking too much coffee. He lives with his wife and young son somewhere in Central Pennsylvania.
We’re happy to host guest blogs on here whenever we can, it gives James a break and let’s other people contribute their ideas. Let us know if you have a worldbuilding concept or strategy to get off your chest, we’d love to hear it.