It Builds Character: Getting Started
The world of tabletop gaming is in the midst of a Renaissance. Partially thanks to TV appearances like on Stranger Things and a slew of one-off episodes in other series, and to the rise of podcasts like Critical Role and The Adventure Zone, more and more people have been aching to roll some dice.
But then, it’s not as easy as that, is it? There’s the matter of assembling a party, finding a time when everyone can get together, and doing it all in a time when gathering in person isn’t exactly encouraged. And even more than all of that, it’s important to discuss which game you actually want to play, because there are more of them out there than just Dungeons & Dragons. Would you rather play in the world of Star Wars than the classic Forgotten Realms? Or maybe you found Cyberpunk 2077 a lackluster addition to the genre and want to try the tabletop that inspired the video game. When trying to decide which you’re going to play, there are a lot of things to consider.
If you’ve never played any of the contenders, however, it’s not easy to make a decision. That’s where we come in. I and my co-conspirators at Broomstick’s gaming wing, Good Witch Gaming, have taken it upon ourselves to help answer the tough questions. Over the next year, we’re endeavoring to try out one game system every month and break down the strengths and weaknesses of each to score it based on the following criteria.
Is it accessible? This is about more than just the ease of play and how well the game's rules have been described by the designers. It’s also about how easy it is to get your hands on a copy. Is it rare or expensive? Are there resources available online?
Is it more focused on rules and combat, or on story and characterization? There’s no right answer on this front, but it’s still important to know. If you’re putting together a party of theatre geeks who’ve failed most of the math classes in their lives, you may want to tend towards the latter, while a cadre of computer engineers who play video games in their downtime might enjoy the tactics of the former.
Is the setting interesting? Did the writers put in some work to make the game unique as more than just a set of rules you have to follow and did their time actually pay off? Similarly, how woven into the game is the lore? It can be too much for some players to encounter a rulebook with a list of in-universe slang, but others wouldn’t dream of using English profanity when the game provides alternatives.
Is it flexible? Namely, if you want to take the rules of the game and apply them to something you’ve built yourself, how feasible is that? Are you required to play in the universe crafted by the designers, or can you take things off the rails?
So here’s what you can expect. Every month, we’ll pick a new game system to take out for a spin. Because giving every single game system in the world the time it really deserves would take years and years, we’ve limited ourselves to some of the biggest names for now. Every Sunday, we’ll be streaming on our Twitch page, and the week after, you can listen to the finer points of our muckery on the Good Witch Gaming podcast. The first of four sessions dedicated to each system will be dedicated entirely to character creation, with the three that follow being a run-through of a simple campaign, so you have some idea what to expect.
At the end of each month, we’ll gauge each system on the factors above and sum it up as nicely as possible for you. When 2022 rolls around and we - hopefully - feel a lot better about gathering safely, you should know exactly which game system suits your party’s needs. And keep an eye out for other tidbits on how to get started along the way!
To kick things off, we'll be focusing on a playthrough of the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons, the newest version of a timeless classic. It's a game that sets a great baseline going forward because it's familiar for most people, even those that aren't long-time gamers. Look forward to the announcement of our first show in the coming weeks.