At The Table: The Three Tiers Of Gamers In Tabletop RPGs

Last week we had our first game of the Dragon Age RPG by Green Ronin Games. We’d been planning the game for a few weeks, intending to run through their free Quickstart adventure to decide whether or not we wanted to start a regular game, and finally managed to get our players around the table to venture forth into the realm of Ferelden. It was only while sitting around the table that I realised we had essentially gathered representatives of what I like to think are the three core groups of gamers found in your standard RP group.

Numbers of these particular members can vary from group to group, and their exact experience with the game can fluctuate. But having a grasp on the kind of gamers you can expect in your groups will help any prospective new GM in planning and preparing their game sessions.

So, grab a coffee and get comfy, while I introduce you to The Three Tiers Of Gamers In RPGs.

The Old Hand:

The Dragon Age RPG is, obviously, based on the Dragon Age video game franchise from Bioware/EA, which means that there’s already a large amount of lore and mythology in place within the game’s canon. Which can make for a serious roleplaying advantage for someone who knows the canon well.

In our group, Sa is our resident Dragon Age aficionado, being the first of us to play through all of the video games, as well as having a strong grasp of the franchise’s fluff and canon. On to of this, she’s a keen RPer, having played numerous regular games over the last few years. This makes her Tier 1 in my spectrum of gaming experience: she’s familiar with the canon and setting of the game, plus has experience in RPing.

Having an Old Hand in your party is pretty useful for a number of reasons. Having someone who is familiar with RP mechanics will likely speed up proceedings where dice rolling and adding modifiers. She’ll also, no doubt, assist less experienced players with RP elements, coaxing them towards making actions which move the narrative forwards, and helping newer players build confidence in their engagement with the story. These aside, Sa’s knowledge of the game’s canon will help my players feel at home in the setting, with her roleplaying actions being more in step with the game’s culture.

The Journeyman:

Their are two folk in our group, M and B, who I feel represent the middle tier of the RP spectrum. M and I used to play in a Dungeons & Dragons game back in our teens, whereas B is a keen video gamer, and knows a fair bit about the setting of the game, having completed both the core games in the series.

The Journeyman gamers are great to have on side in your group, as they act as a middle ground between your experienced players and your newcomers. One group will be more likely to pick up the game mechanics quicker, being able to apply information they’ve learned from other systems to the new game. The other will b able to bring in the cultural and canonical information from the setting, helping to bring a sense of authenticity to the roleplaying experience.

The Newbie:

Our group has only one total newcomer to the RPing world: Su. She’s not only never played any tabletop games (her only board game experience comes from family Monopoly nights), but has never really been exposed to the Dragon Age canon, either. This puts her firmly in the third tier: The Newbie.

Total newcomers can present a challenge to even the most seasoned GM. Not knowing the rules, not understanding all the dice rolls and mechanics, even the little things like their confidence in actually engaging in the storytelling aspects of the game… all of these and more can present a big obstacle when it comes to planning and running a game. However, newbies in your game can present many opportunities to flex your GMing muscles and provide a great gaming experience for the entire party.

Newcomers to the game are less likely to care too much for the intricacies of canon and setting, meaning that a GM can throw out many of the minute details in the mythos and focus on presenting a Grade A story for the players to chew on. On top of that, their lack of experience with the game mechanic can lead to your party picking out rules in the core game that are superfluous or clunky, leading to the incorporation of new house rules especially made for your group.


The tiers of gamers presented here shouldn’t be taken as a hierarchy of players. Each member of your group, regardless of what tier they fit into, has the potential to add greatly to your game, if you can approach their play style in the appropriate fashion.

But each group can provide its own challenges and opportunities for a GM. And for figuring out how best to plan and run your games, nothing beats getting to know your players. Running adventures straight out the box will probably benefit you greatly in the long run, helping you figure out what strategies will best benefit your specific group of players. And don’t forget the benefits of talking OOC. Ask your players how they’re feeling about the progress of the game, and, if possible, make tweaks to your adventures to make them more enjoyable for your entire party.

This is the first in a serious of posts I’m hoping to write called At The Table, chronicling the beginnings of my newest RP group as we play through Dragon Age RPG. Keep your eyes peeled for more posts, and possibly even some stories of our exploits, in the coming weeks.



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