Tabletop RPGs vs digital RPGs

Are you the sort of person that has an over-active imagination? You’ll be at work, and all of a sudden your brain’s off on wild adventures. You’d wonder what would happen if a group of barbarians came charging into your office. Would you fight them off and be a hero? Or what if it was a horde of zombies? Would you help everyone to safety, or lead the horde away from your colleagues? In video games, these sorts of instances usually have just a few programmed outcomes. For instance, you probably wouldn’t be able to lead that zombie horde away – you’d most likely be forced to eliminate them all, and re-load your save if you died. On most tabletop RPGs, though, the world would be your oyster.

Let’s take Dungeons and Dragons, for example. If I was fighting a large enemy, I would attempt to jump on them and latch on – dealing damage from close range, inside of their reach. In a digital game (unless I was playing Dragon’s Dogma) you could only really attack an enemy in a few ways. Whilst playing Dungeons and Dragons, the only limitation is your imagination (and your character’s stats and the success of your dice roll!).

But it’s also the ability to craft, manipulate and edit the game world that draws me towards tabletop games for my RPGing. You could follow a set campaign, sure. But you could also create your own; your own world, unique characters, custom quests – whatever you fancy. With a digital game, you get what you’re given.

But, you really have to be feeling a tabletop game. And it’s not just dependent on you. Your questing buddies need to be on form, and up for role playing. Your team needs to be balanced and relatively sure of what they’re doing. You also need a dedicated, creative and engaging Game Master (or Dungeon Master). The GM crafts the experience, keeps the story rolling and the adventuring party on their toes. They describe the world and bring it to life – without that, it’s difficult to be fully engaged. With a digital RPG, though, all of that’s done for you. A well crafted story, immersive characters and a beautifully designed world doesn’t need to be imagined, because it’s been created by the developers and unfolds before your eyes.

Tabletop gaming takes a lot of effort, whereas digital gaming is a bit more passive. So I guess both ways to role play have their bonuses and their drawbacks. For me, playing a game with near unlimited possibilities is the most appealing. Sure, games like Fallout, Skyrim, Dragon’s Dogma, even Balder’s Gate, are fantastic to play. But they feel slightly restrictive once you’ve had a fun, engaging and exciting experience playing a tabletop RPG. Call me a nerd, but I think I prefer it. Not that I don’t love digital RPGs, of course!

But what do you think? Have you ever played a tabletop RPG? If so, did you enjoy the experience? Let me know in the comments below!