Photo from Flickr user Greg Turner.
These days, when people talk about role-playing games, they’re often referring to massively multiplayer online roleplaying games (MMORPGs) such as World of Warcraft. But the old tabletop fantasy-based RPGs are still kicking all over the United States.
This week, Boston.com sat in with a group of thirtysomethings who play. Their game of choice is quintessential tabletop, with painted miniature dwarves who are living out — and creating — the history of the fictional land of Laratoa. While these gamers are beyond the age where their parents are (probably) worrying about their hobbies, their motivations for playing are essentially the same as they were when they started. Fun. Escape. Community. Building something together with friends. Imagining a world beyond our own.
In the mind’s eye, a light gray stone arch frames pale blue sky. Disgruntled peasants in burlap-colored clothes throng an open court floor. You glimpse them in your peripheral vision as you turn all your focus on protecting the red-brocade-clad king.
Near midnight, Barrett and Dew pack it in. They’ll figure out the specifics of the telepath’s ascendance to level 5 next time.
Next time … In olden days a much bigger group of players immersed themselves in Laratoa for eight hours at a clip. But life takes people away. Dew himself can only keep going because his wife runs her own, entirely different game Tuesdays, and they swap off watching the kids.
Humans role-play all the time, though it’s usually more subtle than this. We play moms and dads with our kids, employees at work, party animals at parties, and so on. We shift personas subtly throughout the day. But RPGs like this one allow people to really explore alternate identities — something we don’t get to do as often in reality. Doing so helps players understand people who are unlike themselves. Some always play characters that are different from their true personalities — others don’t like to stray too far from their own psyches. Either way, it’s educational.