There are supposedly three pillars that hold up tabletop RPGs: Roleplaying, Exploration, and Combat. These pillars cover almost everything you can think of, but based solely on attempting to materialize this metaphor, I’d wager that, whatever structure “roleplaying games” take on, three pillars aren’t enough. What kind of architecture would only require three pillars anyway? Are RPGs an… abstract triangular colosseum? No, surely they’d form a nice box or rectangular shape in which case there must be a fourth to maintain structural integrity! This of course must mean that the fourth pillar of roleplaying games is Fun.
Plain and simple, the reason we’re even here is because we like to play games: they’re fun, they offer an escape, they allow us to take our imaginations out for a stroll, they let us strategize and simulate. Sure, there are a lot of nuances as to why we might play roleplaying games, but the reason gaming at all is as prevalent as it is now is because everyone needs an escape. There’s an endless array of things that draw us toward RPGs, but at the core, really and truly, it’s just about enjoying ourselves.
RPGs are a completely different medium than books, movies, music, and video games—although they can actually encompass all of those things within themselves. For the same reason other mediums excel at what they do, whether that’s visually telling a story, building characters and a world for you to lose yourself in, or participating in those worlds or the lives of those characters to shape their outcomes, RPGs do all of it, except the way the action unfolds is a lot less isolated. Sure, there are multiplayer video games, but all video games have limitations, and you can go see a movie with a friend or join a book club, but the fun of an RPG is limitless and hinged upon the people you play it with. This is a double-edged blade of course, but it’s an edge that perhaps cuts the deepest into our imaginations and egos. Personally, I have memories of things that happened during game sessions that I’ll remember far longer than any book or movie, simply because RPGs are so personal.
I say they are personal because, no matter how you look at it, you are spending time in the company of several other folks for hours on end. Whether in person or online, you are immersing yourself in your game but also in the people you’re with. I often see attempts to form pickup games in Discord, subreddits, or on LGS corkboards, and I’m always apprehensive. Not because I don’t think it’s possible to play with random people and have a great time or make new friends because I’ve done that at conventions countless times. However, conventions are a different environment than your regular Friday night. Based on anecdotal evidence, these slapdash game groups often don’t work out well.
I feel like anything other than a one-shot should require an application that’s taken into consideration by some sort of highly trained RPG human resources wizard to ensure maximum compatibility for all participants. Gamers need an app, like a dating one, but instead of finding love, it’s just for trying to find other like-minded folks to play elf games with. Think about it! You’d set up a profile and tick the boxes of the systems you enjoy, the metagame elements you like, in-game preferences, a bit of personal background info, and voila—algorithmic magic would aid in pairing you up with a great group!
Tangents aside, the point I’m trying to make is that we play these games to come together, to share some laughs, to tell stories, to imagine “what if.” Telling these stories is one of the most human things possible, and I’d wager storytelling is one the most important practices in the history of all humanity. It’s comforting to do something so human during a time when the world seems to feel increasingly cold and impersonal.
It’s important to remember that throughout all of this series—where I’ve been yelling at you to abandon the rules and make your own and to do things your own way—to know that you can and probably should also take my advice and throw that out the window. Do whatever sounds fun to your group, not what some writer says or what some live streamer implies or what an algorithmically lucrative YouTube guide might tell us. Surely, let others influence you and help add depth and color to your perspective on RPGs, but at the end of the day, it all boils down to being yourself and finding others to play with that you can be yourself around and to having fun. We like to get caught up in worldbuilding, homebrewing, and our bespoke classes and campaign worlds, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as at the table we can just be present and try to have some fun.
We live in strange times and are lucky enough to afford ourselves the leisurely act of playing these games. So after all of this, what I’m really asking of you, dear reader, is to just have some fun. Nothing more, nothing less.
Game excellently with one another.