Using the magic staff you found in the realm of Folvendat, you make your way through the enemies across all dimensions and stand before the door to Avernus. The door is red and heavy, and from within it comes a stinking stench, pure sulfur. Not even Fertrenn’s enhanced eyesight can see beyond it. When you try to open it you find that it is locked tight, protected by Idilssur’s spell, and the magic staff begins to lose strength and power. What do you do?
What you need to play role
Surely more than once, tired of always playing a Catan, a Carcassonne or a Trivial, you have thought about getting started in role-playing games. You’ve seen how they played in ‘E.T’ and ‘Stranger things‘, but you have no idea how to start, what game you should buy, you don’t even know what it is! Don’t worry: keep an eye on your inventory, roll the dice and get ready to maximize your powers, because we’re going to tell you what it is and how to role-play.
When it comes down to it, the most basic things you need are friends, pencil, paper and imagination. After all, a role-playing game is a collaborative story in which one person narrates what happens and the rest of the players act as their characters would, varying the story. But of course, said like that it is not very funny. Therefore, and although there are dozens of variants, it is normal that each character has some associated characteristics.
Whether decided by the player or decided by luck with the dice, the characteristics (strength, intelligence, charisma, etc.), usually added to the result of a die, indicate whether what you want to do is going to work out well or whether you are about to screw up and send everything to hell.
Imagine that you are a powerful warrior with enhanced attack and strength attributes and that, when you want to attack an enemy, you roll the maximum possible: you will not only hit that kobold with a sword, but you will do it better than expected (hitting the henchman next to him, for example). Now, imagine that you are a very intelligent gnome but with a very low attack that wants to hit a guard in the back and, on top of that, the stealth roll is low: it is more likely that instead of hitting him you hit yourself in the foot and, with the scream, you alert the whole castle. Things that happen.
But a lot of numbers have no real interest if your character doesn’t have a life: you must think about where he comes from, what his goal is, his friendships, his enemies, his alignment, his tastes. Come on, create a life out of nothing that you can play and evade reality. You can also create a nine-to-six worker who spends his evenings watching TV and sending WhatsApps, but the role may fall into the “boring” category.
The master’s degree
Okay, you already have your character. You know how he talks, you’ve drawn a picture of him and you’ve even imagined what will be his star phrase (“Eat my sword, knave!”), but he won’t do anything without the master. Call him Game Director, Dungeon Master or Narrator, the system is always the same and what differentiates the role from a regular board game: there is someone who knows what can happen, makes the decisions of the enemies and non-playable characters and holds your destiny in his hands.
There is a rule written in the role that indicates that the final decision of the master is the one that counts: if you have fallen down a ravine and a fire monster has devoured you, don’t try to change its mind while the monster is digesting. It’s time for your companions to mourn the fallen warrior and for you to create a new character. When you arrive ready to play, the master will have already spent several hours preparing the game, so the least you can do is, at least, have a little respect for him and bring the supplies. Keep in mind that an average role-playing game usually lasts about three hours!
Although you, as a player, will have to learn some basic rules (how to investigate, attack, etc.), it is the master who will have to learn most of the manuals to decide in the fairest way possible. He is also the person who will know your secrets and will dose them throughout the games. Note: you can also be a master. The problem is that this is the job to which very few are destined. It is not paid. Literally.
Some games to start with
Get a few sets of dice (4, 6, 10, 10, 12 and 20-sided, although there may be more) and decide which game to start with. Surely your head immediately went to ‘Dungeons & Dragons‘, and no wonder: it was the first role-playing game in history 50 years ago and is still the king (as proof, the great ‘The Legend of Vox Machina’ in prime video). But although 5E is much more narrative and simplified, deep down you don’t want to study two manuals of 300 pages each before rolling a single die, do you?
There are other options for simpler games that are no less fun or deep. In fact, D&D itself knows this and that’s why it has a starter box with the simplified manual and a story with which to start rolling dice almost immediately. But why not try other options? ‘Fiasco’, for example, is special because it has no narrator. In it, with very few rules, you can create great stories in a group. Of course, you need a very creative group.
Imagine that you are attracted to the idea of playing role-playing games but set in your own world, only having some basic rules. For that there is ‘FATE Accelerated’, a game with which you can literally play whatever you want. Or, why not, ‘Call of Cthulhu‘, whose rules, once you know them, are not so complex compared to the Lovecraftian mystery adventure it can give you.
There are even role-playing games that only have two pages of rules – you can even make up your own if you have the time! At this point, you can play a game playing practically anything you want, from slashers to soap operas (watch out for ‘Passion of Passions’). If you thought role-playing was just about axe-wielding medieval adventures, you’re very wrong: there’s a whole world out there to play! Don’t get overwhelmed, choose a manual to start with, get your friends together… And let the fun begin.
Once you have finished your first game, you have a question to solve: Do you intend to end it here or do you want to make a campaign and keep the same characters for years (or days, depending on the expertise and type of game)? If you choose the latter, get ready for adventure, romance, unexpected twists, deaths, friends and battles. Or don’t. You decide, after all, how to spend three hours every week with your friends. Isn’t that the best thing about role-playing?