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    • I'm an avid tabletop roleplayer, and have been for, er, decades. It started with the well-known Dungeons and Dragons (aka D&D), but for the past 5 years I've been focused primarily on the so-called indie games (independent publishers) and narrative games. What's the difference, and why the interest?

      I'll lay it out for me: D&D scratches one particular itch. It's a game that developed out of tactical miniature wargames, so that's one thing it does really well. Roleplaying, especially social encounters, in many ways feels like something that was added on later to flesh out the game, but not the focus. Again, I mean no disrespect -- D&D does what it set out to do very well. It's just one flavor of Tabletop Roleplaying Games, however. While D&D is the most famous and beloved, that doesn't mean you can't find some other great games out there that focus on different kinds of stories.

      One of the most popular alternatives to D&D are the games from the Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) family. These include the progenitor, Apocalypse World and its progeny, such as Dungeon World and Monsterhearts. These games take what is called a 'fiction-first' approach to play: characters describe what they want to do, and then based on the intent and the description they have provided, it's decided if dice need to be rolled and which of the player moves is activated. Sound simple, eh? It does indeed. Then you play it the first time and you realize that it is a radically different game than D&D. This type of game is about telling a dramatic story with a group of your friends. There may be epic battles, or there may not.

      For instance, Monsterhearts is a game where you play teenage monsters. Literally, monsters. You can be a Witch, an Infernal, a Ghost, or many others. You are also a teenager, brimming with emotions and hormones. That is indeed a recipe for disaster, and it quickly results in hot romance, screaming arguments (in character), and perhaps violence. What makes this game so unusual is that you, as a player, may not get to choose who you fall in love with or who falls in love with you. The collaboratively created story and the dice will. Yes, you're having a conversation with your friends and the story is being built, spiced up with the dice as a randomizer. Note that a game like this definitely needs to be played with safety tools in order to keep the story on track and fun for all, which is something the designer is very clear about.

      If you're interested in checking out Monsterhearts, you can find it here:

      Anyway, that's enough for my first post on Cake.

      Enjoy, or not. It's a free world, after all.

    • Believe it or not, I never before participated in a round of tabletop RPG. When I was a teenager, some of my friends regularly played Das Schwarze Auge, a german RPG:

      They invited me over to one of their sessions to lurk and see if I was interested, but I couldn't quite make sense of what they were doing. In hindsight, it probably didn't help much that one of them was just reading off a premade script, and neither the game master nor the other players were really good at narrating the story that was supposedly happening.

      Much later, being the big Star Trek nerd that I am, I bought a manual for the Star Trek Role Playing Game, which was fun to read but hard to really get into. I tried out some of the mechanics for myself, but never got far enough to invite friends. I still have that book somewhere in the basement. :D

    • In hindsight, it probably didn't help much that one of them was just reading off a premade script

      The first time I played an RPG, it was a non-D&D scenario where you were an elite fighting squad trying to find a bomb planted by terrorists. We ended up going down into this sewer and spent the next twenty minutes dealing with terrorists until we fought our way to the surface. A couple hours later, we had to cut the game short and were talking to the script master (DM) as we cleaned up. It turned out that going into the sewers wasn’t included in the scripts. But because someone suggested we go down there, our DM went with it and improvised so flawlessly that we thought it was part of the official game play.