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Normally this question would be highly subjective. But it cuts to heart of the current state of the hobby. When Dungeons & Dragons and RPGs developed in the 70's there was nothing else like it in gaming or entertainment. Since then things evolved until we had a variety of options for roleplaying with varying levels of grays between them as people develop various hybrid forms.

For example with Virtual Tabletop Software you can move your games onto the Internet and have regular sessions with geographically separated players. People have used Bioware's Neverwinter Nights as a virtual battleboard projected onto a table.

I believe that traditional Tabletop Roleplaying has some enduring advantages over it's alternatives. And while it will never cause it become the fad it was in the late 70's/80's they are significant to allow the hobby to substained on a continuing basis.

So pretend (or roleplay) that you are talking to somebody today and trying to convince them why they should play a tabletop game versus a MMORPG, CRPG, or other alternatives. Hopefully the answers will help others in recruiting and finding players for our games.

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locked by Brian Ballsun-Stanton Aug 19 at 7:41

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closed as not constructive by Jeremiah Genest, Adam Dray, aramis, SevenSidedDie, C. Ross Sep 18 '10 at 12:32

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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When you start by saying this question is subjective at a bare minimum it should be community wiki. –  anon186 Sep 15 '10 at 15:42
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Also if the only tag that can be thought of is roleplaying (a meta useless tag) than its not a question that belongs here. –  anon186 Sep 15 '10 at 15:45
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When you say, "hopefully the answers will…", plural, it definitely should be a CW. –  SevenSidedDie Sep 15 '10 at 16:01
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I favor reopening this question because I believe understanding the strengths of the RPG format vs. other gaming formats can help us design games to those strengths as opposed to trying to horn in on the areas where other formats (e.g. CRPGs) are stronger. As a mod I'm not going to unilaterally reopen it but if someone votes to reopen I'll confirm it. –  mxyzplk Sep 18 '10 at 17:17
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@mxyzplk I favour keeping this closed and being open to a different question along similar lines. Perhaps "What are the exclusive advantages of roleplaying games?" or "How is roleplaying unique as a medium?" as a CW would be productive yet non-argumentative? –  SevenSidedDie Sep 21 '10 at 5:28

8 Answers 8

up vote 17 down vote accepted
  1. More social interaction.
  2. Good excuse to get together with friends.
  3. Tabletop RPGs are generally more "open-ended" than MMOs; meaning there's more freedom of action for your character, and you're (hopefully) not stuck fighting the very same encounters over and over again.
  4. More reliance on your own imagination, which leads to a more satisfying gaming experience.
  5. NO MONTHLY FEES!!
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Not to mention you can play when the power goes out. –  user366 Sep 15 '10 at 14:20
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No monthly fees, unless you're a D&D Insider. –  C. Ross Sep 15 '10 at 15:23
    
No monthly fees, unless you get addicted to having every product released, every month. –  MadMAxJr Sep 15 '10 at 19:17
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+1 for #4. This alone makes table top more fun than anything computer based. There are no limits when the "processor" is your mind. –  BBlake Sep 17 '10 at 2:31
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Hm. This is part of why I don't like this question. If you talk to a WoW player on an RP server, they get all of #s 1-4 out of it. This is like asking NASCAR fans why NASCAR is better than F1: you're not going to get a good answer, because nobody has equal-enough understanding of both options to truly tease apart the differences. –  SevenSidedDie Sep 17 '10 at 16:14

Flexibility: On the table top, the game is entirely in your head. There are no graphics to look at or fixed conditions imposed by the limitations of the software. The adventure is wide open to morph into anything you want it to be.

Creativity: Same arguments as above. Not having a pre-rendered graphic to look at demands (and produces) far more creativity from both the GM and the players. Countless times in my professional life I have been thankful for my experience as a GM and being able to improvise on the go and come up with new scenarios on the fly.

Initiative: On the table top, if you want to truly enjoy yourself and have a great game, you have to take the initiative and really become involved.

There is nothing wrong with MMORPGs for a diverting few hours of entertainment, but if you want to have fun and train your brain at the same time, table top is the way to go.

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The big points have already been addressed by the answers above. My personal favorite point in favor of table-top gaming is that there aren't artificial boundaries. That mild slope you want to walk down and explore, hey, you can do it. No invisible MMO wall preventing you. –  Katniss Sep 15 '10 at 14:52

In a computer-driven game you have choices: you can select from the options stated in the programming.

In a tabletop game your choices are not limited to a given list. You can do anything you imagine.

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In a tabletop RPG, you really are the only one who can save the town.

In a tabletop RPG, that dragon isn't being killed every ten minutes by different heroes.

In a tabletop RPG, you're not limited to a choice of six bland faces and ten idiotic hairstyles.

In a tabletop RPG, female characters can wear armor that covers their midriff.

In a tabletop RPG, there are actually reasons for your battles.

In a tabletop RPG, you can pretty much do anything you and your friends think is cool.

In a tabletop RPG, you are never too low level to drink milk.

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+1 on the hairstyles comment. :) –  Stewbob Sep 15 '10 at 18:52

Take away the trappings of orcs and dragons and such, and you can see that the big difference is that they are two completely seperate things. Tabletop RPGs, even if played via a virtual tabletop, are a social and creative excercise. You are gathering around a table with friends and creating a shared experience. Computer games arent. There's some comraderie, as there would be in bowling or paintball, but you're basically sitting back and living someone else's creative experience.

I think thats why online games have never appealed to me.

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As much as I would like to say they have almost nothing in common, there are some common elements between MMORPGs and tabletop RPGs; however those elements, such as pre-generated images, background soundtracks and movable visual elements are entirely peripheral to the tabletop experience.

With tabletop RPGs, not only is the world (via the GM) entirely customizable at any moment, but the background story can also adjust - this is what Matt mentions ("you really are the only one who can save the town") as character action, but also the adjustments a GM may make from having an immediate feedback experience from the players, aka player action.

The lack of player anonymity to each other in tabletop RPGs means adventures really are first person social interactions. You can backstab another PC, but you are also inflicting a negative upon someone who is sitting close to or within your personal space, as GrandmasterB suggests, but Id like to also reiterate that the GM is also a player as well, as well as a kind of host - and as a host, he has to decide what kind of host he will be.

MMORPG play types include PvE (player vs enviroment) vs PvP (player vs player). But MMORPGs have definite limits on all interactions, and PvP is usually discouraged in most tabletop rule sets.

For me, MMORPGs are "play side by side" games, which you play in social proximity with other players. Tabletop RPGs are entirely social interactions, played with other players. For that reason, I think anyone who has stereotyped tabletop RPG players as anti-social don't get that tabletop RPG games are entirely social.

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Rob, I was trying to stay clear of this question, but many of the major advantages have not been mentioned. Some of these have been touched on in broad strokes, but deserve more attention. I will mention a few that have been mentioned for the sake of completeness.

1) Actual Roleplaying Potential. The term roleplay existed before it was coopted by the hobby, and the idea of getting into the skin of a character, the 1st person narrative mode, is nearly impossible when done through the translation of the keyboard. A player can write or respond in the first person, but this is a mental approximation. Most good GMs with talented roleplayers experience the phenomenon of players falling into character to some degree; and indeed, this could be called one of the major goals in playing a "RolePlaying Game'. CRPGs are always going to have a huge disadvantage in this.

Similarly, many facets of the game are made enjoyable live that are very difficult to replicate through the keyboard. Buying goods, interacting with town folk, etc, is something a good GM includes in the Roleplaying, and this is much more 2-dimensional in a CRPG.

Acting is, by the way, a skill. People who are good at it excel in live Roleplay, as they often have that ability to get into character, at least to some degree.

For all of these real 'roleplaying' effects, CRPGs are a mere pale approximation.

2) Variable, Customizable Interface. The continual feedback loop of players and GMs creates better games for both, short-term and long-term.

Houserules, player style preference, and direction of the campaign are all trailmarkers watched closely by the experienced GM. A good GM can see when a rule needs to be tweaked to work better with that particular group. Similarly, when the Players spend more time working with the politics in a setting or get in-depth with the local mercantile situation, the experienced GM automatically mirrors this and includes more of this in the game, probably adding hooks and possibly whole backgrounds to enhance the part of the game the players enjoy.

Long-term, this feedback loop becomes more critical and personal. Campaign style games are what most rulesets are actually written expressly for, with the idea of character growth, personally and within that setting, as design goals. The experienced GM can shift and alter the games and campaigns to personalize the long-term campaign, the adventures, their goals, the trials, and creating a culmination point based on the game needs of those players and that group. Despite the improvements in online gametables, etc, they still cannot match up to responding to the body language and exact needs of the players.

3) Synergistic Social Interaction. A few people have glossed over the social dimension. But I add the synergistic part as real social interaction often involves increasing real friendships, adding to the real social lives of the people involved. This is nice in a gaming community, but it is once again one of those places that the long-term, live campaign outstrips any online approximation.
Gaming with other gamers is fun; being around people that you only see gaming. But as with many real-life social interactions, the synergistic effect comes into play when a person builds real, long-lasting friendships through their groups. I've kept some players since 5th grade, and a number from high school. We all see each other socially a little bit, but it is our gaming that keeps us able to see each other every three weeks. And these relationships are 25-30+ years long.

And as one gets older, the social aspects grow. Most of my sessions include people making dinner, spouses coming along and sharing dinner (and advising...always funny), live props (they suited me up in Lamellar a few months ago over an adjudication), and not to mention the characterizational comment, "At one of our WineTastings, a gaming session broke out', as we normally go through a fair amount during every session.

I do run some games online, but they don't really match up to the social interaction level here...

OK, back to work. Darn you for pulling me away with a question that needed some cogitation.

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No "fetch" quests. I've never once had an NPC tell me to bring him 20 rat tails. Though I did have to retrieve the head of Jhon Tsaran once.

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