Tabletop RPGs – Books, Imagination and Friendship at the Library

Tabletop RPGs (think Dungeons and Dragons, the most famous of them) are a natural fit for Library programming, based as they are in books, imagination and socializing.  While it can be intimidating to start a program for those who haven’t played these games before, it’s simply a matter of picking a game, reading up on the rules, and using your imagination!

While Dungeons and Dragons, as mentioned, is the typical example, it is by no means the only one – whether you like noir, hard sci-fi, fantasy, cyberpunk, westerns, Asian- or African- influenced worlds, or want to immerse your players in the world of Star Wars, Pokemon, or other licensed properties there’s something out there for you.  You don’t necessarily even need to pay that much – in a previous post you can find a list of free and low-cost RPG options.  Or you could follow a path on this map to find a ruleset that’s right for you –

The basic needs vary from game to game, but they typically require minimal investment – usually rulebooks, dice, pencils and paper.  Those who want to can really go all-out, with customized figurines, elaborate models of battlefields, maps, custom built props and so forth, but these are absolutely not necessary to have a good time.

Planning an adventure, while fun, is easily the most time-consuming aspect of these programs for busy library staff.  If time is a factor (and it usually is), there are many, many pre-created adventures out there on the Internet, and some are even free!  Regardless of which game you’ve chosen, you should be able to find an adventure that’s all ready for you with a simple search.

While you will likely attract a core of regulars who show up for each session, part of being a public library is never really knowing who will show up for programs on any given day.  The same people may not be there session to session, and that’s something you’ll need to plan for.  There are a few options here:

  • Episodic adventures are arguably preferable in a library setting. You can try to have a self-contained adventure that begins and ends in one sitting each time, but that requires you to speed things along in a way that might not be terribly fun for the participants.
  • One of the most time-consuming aspects of getting started is creating characters. I would suggest having a variety of pre-made characters ready to go to which people can add their own personalities and background details.
  • If you’re using the same characters across multiple sessions, you should be prepared to either play as that character yourself or hand it off to another person if their player fails to show up for some reason.

A few things to remember:

  • You’ll likely never see large numbers for this program, and that’s OK – most games can only accommodate a party of six or so, and if the group gets too large, it becomes unmanageable. If demand grows, you’ll need to break them off into separate groups.  Plan a schedule that can accommodate multiple sessions.
  • Sessions can take a while. Plan for at least two hours, and preferably three.
  • Snacks and drinks are always welcome if you have the budget for it…

Have fun, and if you’re already running these programs (or would like to), add your input to the comments!

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