Story & Photos by Dakota Whitlock/Texan Mosaic Staff
Are tabletop role-playing games on a roll?
They both probably start with a roll of the dice. But is a board game the same
thing as a tabletop role-playing game (TTRPG)?
Chances are the dice look different. Instead of using just two, like in a board game, TTRPGs generally use a lot more. Dungeons & Dragons, a fantasy TRPG, typically has seven. One of the die even has 20 sides on it.
Other than dice, what’s the difference between a board game and a TTRPG? The answer is a little complicated. According to a question-and-answer page from role-playing game site rpgstackexchange.com, board games generally have tight rules and end conditions. Role-playing games (RPGs) have more flexible rules.
RPGs often have game masters who create a world and players create the characters who live in that world. What’s the object of the game? That depends. For instance, sometimes the point of an RPG is to defeat villains. Sometimes the point is to become them.
One post on rpgstackexchange explains, “In RPGs the player actions are only limited by his imagination, and by the logic of the game world. Even in a combat situation a character could play dead, beg for his life, dance, sing, spin, take his pants off and many actions that doesn’t necessarily have to be covered in the manuals, if his player wants to. Also, the objective of the game is what the player wants for his character, that is, they can be infinite…”
Sound intriguing? Lots of people think so. Tabletop role-playing games have been popular for some time. They still are.
According to the summary of a June, 2022 report from newzoo.com, “Role playing games (RPG) are among the most popular game genres in the world and are played heavily across all gaming platforms – PC, Console, and Mobile.” Newzoo.com is a site that describes itself as a “leader’ in video games and gamer data.
But you don’t have to look to reports to see how popular RPGs and immersive games in general are. Just look around pop culture.
In the season one opener of the popular Netflix series “Stranger Things” the main characters play Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). That was back in 2016. D&D is considered a classic TTRPG.
According to horrorobsessive.com, a site that features horror, crime, and paranormal film analysis, D&D has continued to be an “integral element” of “Stranger Things”. Eight months ago, a lengthy article on the site headlined “Representation of Dungeons and Dragons in Stranger Things” analyzes all four seasons of the show and says much of the lore and monsters on “Stranger Things” are heavily influenced by D&D.
Fast forward to November 2022. According to Forbes.com, “Stranger Things 4” was the most-watched Netflix English-language series in its first 28 days on the platform (in that month “Wednesday” took the lead instead).
And you can’t ignore the popularity of other web series related to D&D. “The Legend of Vox Machina”, is an Amazon Prime series that premiered in January 2022. That series is a spinoff of a web series created by Critical Role from 2015, in which a band of professional voice actors play D&D.
There’s also Dimension 20 introduced by CollegeHumor in 2018. For a subscription, people can still watch all 16 seasons of the show that features comedians and pro gamers playing tabletop RPGs on Dropout.tv.
And, of course, the new movie “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” has just opened in theaters.
Will interest in TTRPGs grow? Quite possibly.
D&D may be a classic TTRPG, but there are others. In January 2023, board game site dicebreaker.com published an article entitled “Best tabletop RPGs 2023 (that aren’t Dungeons & Dragons 5E)”. This article claims there is a “smorgasbord” of great RPGs out there besides D&D.
If someone is interested in diving into the TTRPG world, Lubbock has at least two great spots to go to learn more.
Mad Hatter’s House of Games, located at 1507 Texas Ave, Lubbock is a one-stop shop for card games, board games, and TTRPGs. Hatter’s has been a Lubbock staple for gamers since 1994.
Hatter’s has a stacked schedule for events weekly and special events.
Wednesdays is D&D night where local game masters take on the role of creating a cohesive and fun experience for new and old players alike. It costs nothing.
Wednesdays are also for Magic: The Gathering (MTG), a popular trading card game, and a Yu-Gi-Oh tournament with paid entry. Fridays is MTG again, where you can find people to play most anything from Settlers of Catan to Munchkins. And Saturday is more Yu-Gi-Oh and Digimon.
A South Plains College student, who goes by the name “Bear,” attends the Wednesday night’s D&D sessions at Hatter’s. “The guy who is going to be the best man at my wedding,” Bear says, “told me about it and I started coming here.” He says he prefers D&D as you get to pretend to be someone else and get creative.
Another game shop nestled off University and 50th Street in Lubbock is Stormcrow Games. It opened its doors in 2011 and grew so popular it moved from its former spot on 34th Street for more room.
Stormcrow also has a stacked events calendar with similar and different nights. Tuesday is 40k, a miniatures strategy tabletop game, and MTG night. Wednesdays is AoS and Flames of War. Thursdays are Star Wars Legion, Infinity, Blood Bowl and D&D Side Quest night. Fridays are more MTG, Pokémon and Conquest. Saturday kicks off with Universes and Flesh and Blood. And Sunday hosts the most packed evening with Pokémon, Marvel CP, Horus Heresy, and A Song of Ice and Fire.
“It’s mostly pretty casual,” says Jordan Keesee, Stormcrow’s closing manager. “We have some guys who are very passionate about their games, they enjoy them. There is some competitiveness but in general it is very welcoming.”
Both are amazing stores with a vast array of things to do and products to buy. They offer entertainment without the need for a phone or a plug in. They also offer a possible great space to disconnect from the stress of exams and studying, or a hard day at work.
Alex D., a patron of Hatter’s, says he started going there to play D&D. “I would recommend just showing up and just asking what is going on,” he says.
So, relaxation and entertainment could be just a roll of the dice (or seven) away.