It’s easy to see why tabletop role-playing games (TTRPGs) are growing in popularity. The games — often ongoing for weeks, months or even years at a time — involve creative, interactive and adventurous collaborative storytelling. According to MarketWatch.com, the TTRPG market is headed to become a multimillion dollar merchandise category in the U.S. by 2029.
If you’ve always wanted to try to facilitate your own TTRPG experience or kickoff event, TTRPG pros Aaron Rollins, host of the comedy Dungeons & Dragons podcast “Break Battle & Roll,” and Mary Holocher, director of Mox Boarding House, have tips to get you started.
Consulting the game master
Those new to the TTRPG game — pun intended — may be curious about where to begin. Which is best to host for a newbie to the RPG world?
“There’s lots of different systems depending on what people like,” Rollins says. “Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) [is] one of the most popular that people know about and one of the most that people can really jump on board with.”
As far as the ideal number of players to invite over for a D&D campaign, Rollins suggests six.
Once the core group of attendees has been deciphered, most role-playing games — D&D included — incorporate a “game master.” This person serves as the facilitator and keeper of rules, and they act as the referee and guide of the overall “story.” The other players assume individual roles, acting out different scenarios based on the fictional world and details the game master has created.
Holocher, who helps coordinate for Mox’s Washington, Oregon and upcoming Arizona locations, explains how their tabletop gaming/restaurant concepts help people determine which type of game is best, depending on the players’ goals. The restaurant has a selection of both tabletop/board games along with TTRPGs.
“We’re there to help pick out the game that is right for the skill level, experience and the kind of interest and gameplay they’re looking for,” she says.
If you’re nervous that a longer-term game may not appeal to friends or family, Rollins says he has actually experienced the opposite. “When you get a group of friends to play in a continuous role-playing game with a story that’s continually going, they’re not going to want to miss it,” he says. “So they will come over each week, one weekly night, biweekly night, whatever it may be.”
And, you can always offer to host the game’s campaign kickoff and arrange for others in the group to take a turn in subsequent game sessions.
Preparing the heroes’ feast
Once a specific game is selected, a host can start thinking about munchies needed to sustain creativity and strategy, and energy for what many gamers call “theater of the mind.”
“There are a lot of role-players who will tell you their favorite snacks,” Rollins says. “The joke is Mountain Dew, pizza rolls and Doritos are often found at the table.”
Other gaming community snack food favorites tend to be those that aren’t greasy or too messy, including dried fruits, grapes, marshmallows, gummies, pretzels and popcorn.
Avoiding sticky, handheld foods may be helpful when TTRPGs have tangible components such as game pieces and/or a board.
“Some people really like to bring physical things to the game,” Rollins says, “Say your group of adventurers find a map and the game master pulls out something they made themselves and they roll it out on the table, and everyone goes, ‘Oh my gosh, let’s find out where we need to go next!”
In Rollins’ scenario, having french fries, mozzarella sticks or fully loaded nachos is probably not the way to go.
Other times, however, games are more focused on storytelling — theater of the mind — rather than physical elements, in which case the menu can be somewhat more creative.
“A good example of [food to serve] would be the small bites that we typically do in our restaurants,” Holocher says. “We do a lot of shareable plates, and a good example of this is the calamari we currently have on the Portland menu. It’s very lightly fried. It’s not super, super greasy. It’s got full flavor still and it’s hardy enough that it’s a good snack to keep you going while you’re gaming.”
Assessing adventure time
As for how much time to set aside for a TTRPG session, it can certainly vary depending on schedule preferences and other factors.
“When I was in high school, we used to play role-playing games into the night on weekends,” Rollins recalls. “We would all stay over at one of our friend’s houses and we could have a session that was like eight hours long. I’m in my 40s now and will run a game for about three to four hours.”