Whether you’re on the search for the next big hit for your gaming group, or you’re the resident keen-bean who is nervously spearheading a group of budding roleplayers, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we’re breaking down the most important factors you’ll need to consider when deciding your next RPG, as well as some tips and tricks to make the process as smooth as possible.
The trick to picking the right game for any group comes down to two things: gathering enough information about the needs and interest of the group, and matching these up correctly with a game. It can be useful to discuss the expectation, needs and wants of the group together so that you won’t need to guess at them yourself. It can also be a good opportunity for everyone to get on the same page about what to expect from the upcoming game, and for everyone to start getting excited.
Factors to Consider
Game Length and Player Count
How many sessions are you planning to run? A single session? Three to five? Or are your ready to dive into a full length campaign? How many people will be playing? Is there someone who will take on the Facilitator or Game Master (GM) role? Or would you rather play a GM-less game?
Understanding these basics will help you identify what games may be appropriate for your group. The first thing most game blurbs will tell you is how many players the game supports and whether it requires a GM, or is GM-less. Pro-tip: when starting out, don’t be afraid of GM-less games! It can result in a more even distribution of responsibility and avoids the problem of one person having to bring “all the fun”.
If you’ve got only one session planned, it is often better to pick a game that is designed for a “one-shot” experience, rather than play an introductory scenario of a much longer game. The former will deliver a more satisfying experience than the latter.
Setting, Genre, and Touchstones
If you’re a veteran roleplayer trying to get new players into the hobby, this factor is probably going to be the most important of them all:
Pick a setting or genre that the group is interested and excited about.
Do they like cyberpunk? Run through The Sprawl. Are they Austen superfans? Good Society is there with quill in hand. Are they just really, really into wrestling? I mean, there’s literally a World Wide Wrestling RPG for that. The great thing about the indie RPG scene is that more and more niche products are being made every year, so you can really target the things your friends are interested in.
Ultimately, roleplaying is the act of a group telling a story together. So make sure the group has an interest in telling that story. Ask yourselves, “What stories am I interested in?”, “What movies or books have I enjoyed lately?” and “What genres do I enjoy?”
Relevant to the above, but slightly different, is the tone that your game group is comfortable playing in and would be willing to adopt for the game. Really think about this—not everyone enjoys the same tone. Do you want a game that is serious? Gonzo? Action-oriented? Humourous?
Even games within a genre or setting can be played with wildly different tones. So it’s important to make this distinction. After all, both Star Wars and Alien are set in space, but strike very different tones. Understanding the tone will help you narrow down the experience you’re looking for.
We will say this: most games are designed to accommodate a range of tones. But having an understanding of how your group might like to play will still help you pick a game that fits.
Great! But how do I actually find a game that fits?
Once you’ve gathered all the relevant information about your game group, it’s time to find the right game! It can feel overwhelming to start out the search, but do not fear, you’re now armed with the specifications you need to narrow the search. After all, you can research much more effectively if you’re searching for “tabletop roleplaying game about XYZ” rather than “best tabletop game”.
In this hobby, you’ll also find there are plenty of friendly people who will jump at the opportunity to share their experiences with you. So don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations on online forums or twitter. Just remember to share details about the factors we’ve mentioned above, and you’ll soon be swimming with great recommendations.
Be confident in your decision!
Ultimately, the choice you make is the right one. After all, the game session you play is going to be better than the game session you planned but never went ahead with. Play more games. Get more experienced. You’ll naturally find what sorts of games you enjoy, and what kind of stories you want to tell.
Comment below or tweet at us @rpgbookshelf and we’d be glad to recommend something especially for you!