Gaming has gotten a lot more commercial over the years, and I really don’t enjoy going into stores much any more. A friend of mine and I were chatting about how kids today often have problems starting to game because either game store clerks are trying to oversell or because adult gamers can be scary and inappropriate sometimes. So this is my attempt to help out parents who are trying to figure out how to help their kids get into roleplaying games.
What the Heck is it? There is a lot of information on the web about roelplaying games, so I’m not going to go into detail here. Over the years I’ve played Dungeons and Dragons (D&D, sword and sorcery RPG), Gamma World (Post-Holocaust Mutant RPG), Villains & Vigilantes (Superhero RPG), Call of Cthulhu (Hopeless Lovecraftian RPG), and even Bunnies & Burrows (rabbit RPG). Wizards of the Coast (WOTC) have a great Flash Demonstration of D&D, so start there.
Version What? There are a lot of versions of D&D out these days. Original D&D was put out in the 1970s, and was one step beyond wargaming. D&D then got revised a bit and put out in a blue box. Finally, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) came out and really is the first complete set of rules. 2nd Edition made some small changes and then there was the 3rd edition, and then 3.5 (the d20 system). That became open sources, which led to the development of all sorts of new unofficial derivatives, of which Pathfinder is the most popular. A bunch of folks play retro versions of AD&D 1st edition, like Hackmaster and Labyrinth Lord and those folks. Finally, WOTC is now putting out 4th Edition D&D, which is facing stiff competition from Pathfinder. But all of these are a lot more alike than they are different, so if your kid’s friends are playing one particular version, just look into that one. My daughter plays 3.5 at school in the D&D Club, and we play my homebrew weirdness at home.
Who plays this stuff? My whole family. We started back in 1978 when we decided that the Risk games were getting too competitive. My dad took us down to the game store and we bought the blue box of D&D. We haven’t stopped yet! it is more social than video games, and as limitless as imagination. It can be tailored for anyone. In high school a bunch of my friends were fundamentalist Christians whose parents refused to let them play D&D because it had magic and demons in it. So we played Traveller (Science-fiction RPG) instead. You can still find that one around if you’re interested!
Keeping the cost down: There’s a number of ways to keep down your costs. D&D has not been greatly improved over the years, which is why there are a lot of Old School RPGers out there still. So unless you are going to be competing and need the very latest rules, the old rules will work just fine. There’s a wikibook of the original D&D rules. There’s a downloadable free version of the 1st edition rules at OSRIC. WOTC has made their System Reference Document available for free. That has all the rules for AD&D version 3.5, which is the d20 system. Because of the WOTC decision to open source 3.5, there’s also Pathfinder, which has its own System Reference Document as well. Pathfinder is growing very quickly, and it’s pretty much the same as D&D, so that’s not a bad way to go either. WOTC also has a set of Quick Start Rules available for free for D&D version 4.0. There’s also a bunch of D&D adventures for free at WOTC’s Archives.
Ok, that should get you started! Now go watch Community‘s D&D episode, and you’ll start to understand the weirdness that is table-top roleplaying.