Every Sunday, my friends and I play a game in an ongoing adventure of Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, a dice-based roleplaying game (RPG) set in the Star Wars universe.

Before this, it was a weekly game of Dungeons and Dragons. Or it has been GURPS, or D20 Modern, or Shadowrun. I’ve played pencil-and-paper RPGs for the last 13 years or so. 🤓

WTF?

You’re probably thinking to yourself right now, “Sam, why on earth are you talking about this stuff?”. And it’s a good question.

In thirteen years of playing RPGs, I’ve learnt a couple of things. Things I’d like to share with you today. If you let me.

Chance plays a role in everything

In every roleplaying game there is an element of chance. For most, this is a series of dice, but it could be a deck of cards. No matter which form it takes, chance is ever-present and has a say on nearly every action you take.

This means that no matter how long you spend refining your character’s statistics and abilities, there’s always the chance that something could go as you never expected.

Rolling a 1 could mean that your wild, muscular barbarian suddenly hurls her club across the room, completely missing your opponent.

Or a 20 could mean that a feeble wizard, one that would normally get knocked over by a breeze, is able to kill a troll with a well-placed knife attack.

This is just the same in real life, though likely less violent. No matter how much time and effort you put into minimising your disadvantages and maximising your advantages (we call it “min-maxing” in the trade), the winds of chance could always blow you down or lift you up. And the actions of decisions of others will always have an effect on you. Remember this!

It’s about the people in your party

Most RPGs are played with a party of people. People who create their characters at the same time and work through the adventure together. Each of their skills and abilities playing a role in the success of the party, and their eventual victory.

In RPGs, as in life, the best parties are made up of a variety of people with different skills and focuses. Whilst a horde of Wizards will probably skip through every puzzle encounter, they’re likely to fall down once they come up against a dragon with spell resistance. Inversely, the Warriors would be able to slay the dragon, but may not make it through the puzzles.

When working to develop your real-lift party, those people who surround you, become friends with those who have skills which complement and contrast your own, giving a well-rounded group. It’ll help you survive through the challenges, knowing there’s someone you can depend on in that scenario.

Ask everyone how you can help

The majority of time playing an RPG is spent going on quests. Sometimes you and your party are trying to find untold treasures, but most of the time you’re helping someone out for a fee. How do you find these jobs? You ask.

You’ll only find out if you can help a person if you ask them. Sometimes you’ll need to be a bit more charismatic or negotiate a little to get the job, but you always have to start by asking.

If you’re wondering if you can help someone, ask them. And if you’re trying to find your next job, ask. The worst they can say is “No!”.

“To the tavern!”

The beginning and end of nearly every adventure, especially in fantasy RPGs, happens in the bar. Downtime is super important. It gives you time to take stock of your situation, plan what you’re going to do next, manage your possessions and more.

So, if you’re feeling burnt out, head with your friends to “the tavern” (it may not be an actual tavern) and work things out. You’ll be surprised what a little bit of downtime can do for you.

Have you rolled the dice?

If you haven’t tried playing a pencil-and-paper RPG and you’re even a little tempted, do so. There are stores all over the world who stock the products and are willing or able to host games or point you in the direction of people who can get you started. You’ll step into a fantasy world, and you’ll problem learn a lesson or two on the way.

Here’s to your first Critical Success!