Tabletop RPG

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Synonyms: RPG
See also: Dungeons and Dragons
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Tabletop RPGs evolved from tabletop miniature wargames; Dungeons and Dragons, first published in 1974, was the one of the first widely-known tabletop RPGs. The genre continued to evolve and change since that time, expanding to different settings such as sci-fi and horror. Today, many games and systems are on the market, and software exists to enable people to play games virtually. Indie titles have also taken off during the late 2010s, some of which bend and break the rules of the medium in interesting ways (such as using a card deck instead of dice, or being created for only one player).

Tabletop games generally include a game master ("GM") who works as both a narrator and referee to interpret the rules, and players who take the part of player characters ("PCs") with various skills and abilities, who go on an adventure or accomplish some task together. Most games involve some level of character creation, and an introduced element of randomness.

There are three common choices for adventure content:

  • Canon content: the adventure modules and gameworld details sold with the game itself; examples include Greyhawk in D&D and the Camarilla in World of Darkness.
  • Original content: Likely the most common for fantasy games; less common for other genres - the GM, sometimes with input from the players, creates a world-setting and Non-player Characters ("NPCs") for the players to explore.
  • Crossover content: the GM creates a world based on some other form of canon; examples would be an Game of Thrones D&D game, or a Firefly game in GURPS.


Tabletop RPGs are famous for using various kinds of dice. With the rise in popularity of actual play fandoms which has led people to discover tabletop RPGs, they are frequently featured on fan merch like pins and t-shirts. Beyond the variety in shape, a wide array of colors, textures, and materials are used to make dice (with price points to match). Some players like to put together themed "dice sets" that they feel represents a specific character

Standard Dice

Example of dice shaming
  • D20 - aka twenty-sider; a regular icosohedron. They are available in both "randomized" form, which was standard for many years, and "spin-down" form, which became popular because of games like Magic: the Gathering; spin-down dice are used to measure "life points" and consecutive numbers are next to each other instead of being randomly placed.
  • D12 - Twelve-sider, a regular dodecahedron. Used in the fan-made Pokethulhu, but otherwise neglected in most games not directly inspired by D&D.
  • D10 - Ten-sider, or percentage dice. Two common forms exist: one numbered 1-0 (with the "0" standing in for "10"), and a "percentage" version numbered 10, 20, 30, etc. with the 0's being much smaller than the other digits. Used in many games; White Wolf's World of Darkness uses large numbers of D10s to measure success or failure.
  • D8 - Eight-siders, originally mainly used for hit points of monsters in D&D.
  • D6 - The one that non-gamers know about. Gaming d6's are often numbered 1-6 instead of using pips.
  • d4 - AKA "gamer caltrops."

Unusual Dice

  • D30
  • D100 aka "zocchihedron", aka "the curse dice of forever rolling around the table;" early D100s were not internally weighted, and the tiny sides and large mass meant they'd keep rolling for quite a while, and would start rolling again if the table was bumped.
  • Others: D14, D16, D18
  • D3 - many games require 1-3 rolls; common use is to roll a D6 and define 1-2=1, 3-4=3, 5-6=3, but some companies sell D6's numbered 1-3 twice, and there are some unusual dice that have three "sides."

Dice Lore

Because the dice introduce an element of randomness that can counteract a well-planned strategy or completely turn the tide of play, players sometimes develop a level of superstition around the rolls they get.

  • Dice lice (invisible creatures that rested in the pips or numbers, and "weighted" the dice so they didn't roll what you wanted)
  • Rolling dice repeatedly to "use up the bad numbers" and stopping when they got to a good roll
  • Threatening dice with a trip to the microwave for bad rolls/Putting the dice in "dice jail"
  • Dice Shaming tag on tumblr



During the 1980s, Dungeons & Dragons specifically was at the centre of a moral panic in the US, due to the belief among some religious groups that the game was associated with satanic rituals and witchcraft.


Gaming cons often have tournaments, some of which are sponsored by the publishing company or official fan clubs; others are run by the convention itself with house rules for points and whatever prizes are available.


Company Interactions with Fans

Fans Going Pro

Web Presence

DriveThruRPG, Critical Role,, SurpriseRoundRPG, Stories Told, etc.

Tabletop Gaming in Fanworks

Tabletop games are sometimes featured in fanworks for non-RPG fandoms. Examples:


Additional Reading