Get some Family to Role-Play (Tabletop Role-Playing)!

Hey there! It’s me, Thomas Novosel and I am writing today’s article for Game Creators’ Social Forum. This time around I am going to talk about how to bring the family into Role-Playing.

As a Role-Playing Game designer, it has always been hard to get family interested in what I do. It is just not easily understood, and they generally have no interest in it. So here are a few things I have learned trying to get my family into a fantasy world.

Eclipse Phase (by Posthuman Studios) is a complex game that requires quite a bit of prep time and can be fairly difficult to teach. However Fiasco (by Jason Morningstar) is a fast game that does not require any prep time, and is “n00b” friendly!

First, they have to be motivated, if they have no excitement or even the energy to get up and going; none of this will work. It will be like trying to eat a soft pretzel using your elbows. So I cannot emphasize it enough, do not plan this stuff! I have found that most family games, are spur of the moment and are not planned for a specific day or time. But that doesn’t mean you (the gamer/designer person) shouldn’t plan! Actually, you should have a game at the ready, and planned, easy to pull out at the right moment. If you are all ready, that means no waiting for the Players, which means you can “strike” without delay, so if there is ever a moment open and you can get the groove going, any time wasted is another reason for people to not play.

But what should you play? Honestly, do what you are most comfortable with (within reason). More likely than not, if you are jumping into a game your Players have not played a Tabletop RPG. So go simple, without insulting anyone’s intelligence. So nothing too complicated or abstract, but with enough structure to that you can teach a person how to play. In fact, if at all possible, make it a rules-lite game, that can be taught as you go and doesn’t require huge calculations; it also helps when starting to have a pool of Characters for your Players to choose from, but leave enough openness that they can be customized. This is generally done because Character Creation can be a time suck, and for new Players it can be way too much to do just to start playing!

So yes, if you haven’t noticed just yet; it is all about how to get the game going as fast as possible! Once you have it started, keep the Players interested in what is going on. That means combining a person’s interests with the plot of the game session. So invent some Characters that draw the Player into the game and make some awesome set pieces (walking away from a cool explosion?). However above all else, make sure that the Players have some guidance, but are not being led down a one way road.

This short comic I made should get the point across (also note the graph paper, it is pretty cool).

But is that all it takes?

No, as a Game-Master you may have to pull some punches, and not make the world explode. Remember, keep it fun for yourself, but make sure everyone else is having even more fun.

Tabletop Role-Playing isn’t for everyone, so if it isn’t working well as a family activity; find something everyone will enjoy. Because it is family time, that means everyone enjoying each others company and making the most out of every second of every moment that we have with each other. If it can be done casting magical spells or crawling through dungeons, that is awesome! But just don’t be disappointed if they don’t enjoy it, shrug it off and bring out “UNO” (that’s what most people play right?)  In the end however it will be all worth it once you get them hooked. If everything goes well, you just may be asked to “play another one of those awesome games” again.

Thomas Novosel has been designing games for the last six years, at an incredible pace that perplexes even himself at times. He is always at work designing and writing games, some of his friends say it is like a second full time job for him. He is also the founder of a small game design group called Orbit Above Games (, they specialize in Role-Playing Games but are always working on new and exciting projects.


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