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Why I’m Reading Roleplaying Games for Entertainment

Forgive me, Nerds, for I have sinned. I don’t asked to be absolved from my misdeeds, only given a chance to be heard.

“Derro” by MichaelJaecks on

You see, I have read through a D&D adventure and two Pathfinder adventures recently, yet I have no intention of playing through them. I confess, I sometimes read RPGs for fun. My hope is that you won’t judge me too harshly and that I can go on reading RPGs for entertaining in peace.

Granted, not everyone is OK with others reading RPGs like novels. I was at a hoppin’ party the other day and everyone was discussing the books they were reading, but when I bought up the Dungeons and Dragons: Eberron setting book adventure for discussion they muscled me out of the conversation, closed the gap, and left me standing on my own. I had to call a Lyft to get home. Whatever, it’s cool.

OK, I made that story up, but I still would love to make my case that before you pick up a Stephenie Meyer or Dan Brown book to read on vacation, you might want to consider reading a roleplaying adventure or rulebook instead.

Reading Roleplaying Games for Entertainment

Roleplaying games are open, dynamic texts rather than linear narratives. When reading through a RPG your imagination needs to fill in some blanks to generate a literary sequence.

This allows your imagination to roam through the text and create new images for what could be, rather than have the images detailed out for you as a novel would. And this has been around for a while.

Consider fantasy novels like the Lord of the Rings that have the map inside the front cover. As you read, you’d occasionally flip back to that map and wonder what might be over yonder mountains. Indeed, a fantasy book without a map or some world-building notes just isn’t much fun at all. An imagination is inspired by the words and illustrations, and you are drawn into the fictional worlds.

This is the same with choose your own adventure books and even modern story-driven video games, where there is a sense of non-linear discovery to the story. But reading through a RPG handbook pushes this kind of reading to its limit. It’s next level.

RPG texts are open and dynamic. The reader is introduced to characters (NPCs) and given a set of encounters. But in between? Well, that’s up to the imagination. RPGs give readers a sophisticated narrative framework, but it’s up to one’s imagination to fully flesh it out.

By eschewing classic narrative storytelling and replacing it with evocative character and setting descriptions, timelines of major historical events, and descriptors of various groups and factions, RPGs offer a total immersion in an imaginary world that nerds like us can’t get enough of. Why wouldn’t we read RPGs for fun?

For a nerd like me who loves systems and cataloguing items, RPGs are pulpy catalogs of systematization that excel at storytelling and character creation. Just thinking about it makes me want to grab a couple sheets of graph paper and sketch out a cavern to explore.

Reading Roleplaying Games for Entertainment


But roll a d20 if you’ve been wondering why I haven’t owned up to the dryness of RPG rules. Sure, RPGs could be described as ‘technical fiction’ and why would you want to read something technical if you are trying to relax? Is it cool to read the dictionary by the pool? Not hardly.

Plus, many would say that reading RPGs with no intention of ever playing them is having the “wrong kind of fun” and a bunch of BALDERDASH. A harsh word? Perhaps. But harsh times call for a harsh word.

Don’t they? Ahdunno. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I like reading RPGs manuals, and rulebooks, and adventure guides of all types. So should I explode from embarrassment? Or maybe implode from the weight of my shame? Ah, well, maybe the embarrassment and shame, both equal and opposite forces, simply cancel one another out and I’ll just go on reading D&D adventures for fun like the nerd I am.

And perhaps one day I’ll find vindication. Maybe when our civilization bites the dust and the new alien overlords look back over our history, they will judge the collaborative storytelling found in RPGs to be the pinnacle of our culture.

But perhaps not, and what difference does it make when you get down to it? We’re all going to die eventually. And after Stephenie Meyer, death’s sweet embrace doesn’t sound so bad.

In conclusion, maybe you now think I’m a weirdo, or perhaps you’re a little more open to picking up a D&D book for a little imaginative reading. If it’s the latter, then perhaps I can entice you with what I’ve found to be greats reads:

Princes of the Apocalypse: A D&D adventure where evil elemental cults are doing evil. [Our review here.]

Out of the Abyss: A D&D adventure that has adventures that is full of madcap characters and…demons. [Our review here.]

Skull and Shackles: A Pathfinder adventure that kicks off an epic story of swashbuckling pirates!

Giantslayers: A Pathfinder adventure that begins with orcs but the foes just keep getting bigger. [The Glass Cannon Podcast that features this adventure.]

Star Wars: Edge of the Empire: The core rulebook that is also full of new Star Wars characters, planets, and lore.

Volo’s Guide: For the times you simply want to gaze at some great artwork and read up on a deadly monster lore.

Pathfinder 2nd Edition: A fantastic new ruleset rebased this year in a book that is outlined and organized beautifully. Makes for a great read.

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