Gaming Steve

January 25, 2008

From Console to Tabletop: First Steps


While the RPG has been having a very nice year, with the release of Mass Effect for the 360 and Zelda: Phantom Hourglass for the DS, there are still thing to recommend a good tabletop roleplaying game. The main thing is that gaming is a much more social activity even than a MMO or other type of multi-player game.

There’s just something fun about inviting a bunch of friends over to your house for some beer and pizza.

Still, if these are your first steps into the world of offline gaming, it can be a little daunting. This article will cover the basics of what you’ll need and where you can get it. If you have previous experience with gaming on the tabletop this will be stuff you already know but we’re going to begin from the beginning.

What You’ll Need

So you've decided to jump into the world of tabletop RPGs, what game should you pick? Below we'll look at some of the most popular RPG franchises and which game you will most likely be attracted to. Basically, if you liked the console game, then the RPGs I recommend will likely be your cup of tea.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: For me, this is a simple choice. If you like KOTOR, you should check out the new Star Wars Saga Edition from Wizards of the Coast. It's a great game system and one book gives you everything you need for countless adventures in the Star Wars universe.

Baldur's Gate: Another easy one, mostly because Baldur's Gate is actually based on the Dungeons and Dragons tabletop game, though a slightly older edition. So here's the sitch, the latest version of D&D is a great game and provides a tremendous play experience, so you can't go wrong there.

However, if you want to emulate this classic game mechanically, you need to look for 2nd Edition Dungeons and Dragons. While these books are out of print, you can find them used online and at most gaming hobby shops relatively cheaply. You can also download digital PDF copies of these books for a cool $5 a piece from the leading e-book retailer,

Elder Scrolls: Another fantasy game, and again you can't go wrong with Dungeons and Dragons. Another choice I will throw out here is Fantasy Hero. This is an excellent game system, produced by Hero Games, and is one of the best fantasy games out there.

Final Fantasy: This will require a bit more work. There's no game that directly captures the FF experience, and believe me I've looked. Two games that are flexible to handle it, with some elbow grease on your part, would be Fantasy Hero and another great game called True20, which is a simplified version of the system that drives Dungeons and Dragons.

World of Warcraft: Though there are a lot of choices here, I think, again, our old friend Dungeons and Dragons would be the best choice. At its heart, to me anyway, WoW was always something of an "action RPG" in the tradition of Diablo and I think D&D does that tactical RPG combat and dungeon delving better than anyone else.

Mutants and MastermindsCity of Heroes: If you want to get your super-hero on (no capes!) the game I recommend is Green Ronin Publishing's Mutants and Masterminds. It's the best combination of depth (allowing you to make YOUR hero YOUR way) and ease of play. Whether you want something totally wild and new, or just want to rip off your favorite comic universe, this game gives you the tools to do it in one book.

Fallout: Maybe my favorite computer RPG of all time, the best game to replicate the Fallout experience is Darwin's World, produced by the company I work for, RPGObjects (though I've written very little for this particular game myself). This might seem a little self-serving, but it's the best support post-apocalypse game out there.

Pokemon: This is a toughie. Like Final Fantasy, there's really nothing that captures the spirit of the Pokemon games as an RPG, which means again, I'm going to recommend games that are noted for how flexible they are, Fantasy Hero and True20, both linked to above. Again, you'll have to do some prep work, but those two games are flexible enough to let you do your own thing with the least amount of pain.

Mass Effect: Here, I'm going to go with Star Wars Saga again, by Wizards of the Coast. While Mass Effect doesn't have "the force" it does have the next best thing, and I think the force powers with the serial numbers filed off would be the best way to emulate the experience of Mass Effect. Also, no frame rate issues in your imagination when you pretend to be a Spectre, so that's a bonus.

Diablo: As before, I'm going to recommend D&D because Diablo is a hack and slash, dungeon crawling action RPG like no other. While this isn't the ONLY thing you can do with D&D, it is one of the things the game handles very, very well.

Of course, you can't play your game by yourself, you'll need to perform a few more steps to get up running. Next you'll need to get together a group.

A Group: While there are other ways to play traditional RPGs, such as Play by Email and even online services such as Open RPG and Wizards’ upcoming Virtual Tabletop, these experiences won’t give you the different experience you’re looking for to find out if offline gaming is right for you. In short, while there are plenty of ways to game online, if you’re reading this, we’ll assume for now that you’d like to not stare at a glowing, light-bulb-like screen for several hours.

In short, you’re going to need 3-4 real human beings willing to try something out for an evening. If you don’t already know a group of guys and gals that you think would be willing, there are ways to seek them out.

Message Boards: If you go to any tabletop RPG forum, there will usually be a forum for gamers seeking gamers. This is a bit like online dating and the usual caveats apply. Meet the person for the first time in public, etc. etc. The best forum for tabletop RPGs is, the single largest fansite on the net for tabletop rpgs. They have a large and active gamers seeking gamers forum where gamers from all around the world meet and schedule games.

Star Wars Saga EditionThe Local Gaming Store: Many Friendly Local Game Stores (FLGS) have tables where people can play. This might be the single best way to get into tabletop gaming if you’re new to it, or have been away for awhile and want to get back in. You could just watch a game to get a feel for it, buy the books and materials you need (dice, lots and lots of dice) and just hang out and meet some folks who might share your desire to get their game on.

Game tables are also handy for that first game, where you can game with new people, ensure that they aren’t jerks, before moving the game to someone’s house.

Even if they don’t have tables (but really, this is what I recommend and you can probably find at least one store near you that has game tables) most stores will let you post a seeking gamers flier as well. One advantage this can have over posting to an internet forum is that you can always meet prospective gamers at the game shop, then go to a neutral diner for coffee to make sure they aren’t crazy.

College/High School Club: If you are a student, especially if you’re a college student, there is a really good chance that your school has a gaming club. While the quality of gaming at such clubs varies wildly, it’s usually a good first step and a great place to meet fellow gamers. In fact, even if you don’t attend the local college, posting fliers there is also a good way to meet gamers.

Materials: Once you have your stout posse together, you’re going to need some gaming materials. At a minimum you’ll need game books, dice, paper and pencil. You can get these things in a variety of places. is a good place to find the books, and for dice there are places like which is a great place to pick up dice online.

Many games will only have one core game book that you’ll need, while other games will require you to buy as many as three. In both cases, your total startup costs will usually be less than the price of a single console game (60-75 bucks is typical).

When you consider that these game books will allow you to play for decades, this startup price is very modest.

Finally, you’ll need one more material, covered below.

Adventures: One of the biggest differences between console games and tabletop games is that the game ends when you want it to, not when the dev team runs out of time and is told to ship the game. Once you’re familiar with the game, you’ll be making up your own adventures in no time, which is one of the real joys of a tabletop game. In the meantime however, especially if you’re new to the game, finding adventures is going to be key. There are lots of adventures online and in stores, with some of the online adventures being free but many are pay products.

Since these adventures vary wildly depending on what game you pick, I’ll cover those in future installments where we get into the nitty gritty of picking just the right game for you based on your console interests.

Until next time.

Posted by cwrice at 9:30 AM | Comments (6) | Posted to Culture | Feature |  Add this story to  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

Really, just a couple of comments. First, if you want to play D&D and have never played before, I suggest waiting for the new edition coming out this summer. It's supposed to be a lot more newbie-friendly, and you'll be on an even playing field even if you get veterans in your group.

Secondly, WoW has an RPG. World of Warcraft RPG. It's based on the current edition of D&D, but modified and is pretty good in its' own right.

Also, for Knights of the Old Republic, there'll be an era-specific sourcebook coming out sometime late this year I think that can be helpful there. The core book and Starships of the Galaxy are fantastic, though, and the latter even has stats for the Ebon Hawk's class of ship and the rules for modifying modern ship stats into 'ancient' to fit the Knights of the Old Republic era (though of course you'll want to call the modified ships something different).

Posted by Fobok at January 25, 2008 10:24 PM

I am not sure about waiting for the 4th edition of DnD. The 3.0 and 3.5 stuff will be much cheaper now to start. Also there is a lot of free stuff that comes form WotC. Check out if you new to it. All the basic rules are there. It works even better then the books if you ask me. That being said i am not a big fan of DnD to tell the truth. People think i am but there are a lot better RPG system out there. I my self have a weak heart for WoD stuff (Both new and especially the old)

Posted by Yokto at January 26, 2008 8:38 AM

Me and a few housemates recently had quite a bit of fun with a recently released game called Dark Heresy. Its set in the Warhammer 40k universe so the backstory is probably a little obscure for most people, but even the one guy who didn't know jack about the 40k universe managed to pick it up very quickly.
I would have to say it was more fun to play than DnD, with a much more satisfying combat system (land a hit on someone's arm with a sword and more likely than not the guy on the recieving end is going to find themselves limbless) and a much more comprehensive skill and leveling system.
Anyway, my point being I would definitely recommend it to anyone interest in playing a tabletop RPG.

Posted by Krakow Sam at January 26, 2008 10:38 AM

Cool Krakow Sam. Got any link?

Posted by Yokto at January 26, 2008 7:58 PM

Here ya go:

Ah, looks like its sold out for the time being. Oh well, if you see a copy in the bookstore somewhere then I would definitely recommend giving it a look.

Posted by Krakow Sam at January 27, 2008 9:06 AM

You could have added Vampire!! It even got a PC game called Vampire Bloodlines!

I'm currently playing Vampire with a few friends each weekend. Great fun!!

Posted by Doubleclick at January 28, 2008 7:04 PM
Post a comment

Please keep your comments relevant to this entry: inappropriate or purely promotional comments may be removed. Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. Line breaks and paragraphs are automatically converted — no need to use <p> or <br> tags.

Do you want us to remember your information for next time?