My esteemed colleague may tell you different, but the ultimate gaming location is the table. RPGs draw their roots from tabletop wargaming, and despite the notable lack of scantily clad elven babes chained to dank stone walls, the venerable wargame got at least one thing right: the table. The table has been the gathering place of choice for RPGs since their inception, and rightfully so. No prop, tool, concept, or game aide does as much for your game as the noble table.
There are tables specifically designed to be the ultimate gaming table and tables on the bleeding edge of technology and while we’re all very, very jealous if you have either of the above, any table large enough to seat your group comfortably will add immeasurable value to your gaming experience.
Sitting around a table has the connotation that it’s game time. Groups around a table are more attentive to the GM and less prone to non-game conversation than those in a more casual setting. If you’re sitting at the head of the table (and that’s where you should be), that position will help you confer the proper authority of your position, making dealing with disturbances and handling your group easier.
Tables aid your game by keeping face to face communication easy. Everyone can see each other’s faces without straining, and everyone is within range of everyone else’s voice. There’s none of the craning or straining that can be associated with a less formal seating arrangement. Other forms of communication, such as notes, are also facilitated by sitting around a table.
By virtue of the placement of large tables in most houses, there are usually less distractions around your table than in other areas. The same environment that’s conducive to an intimate dinner party is right for a focused, distraction-free game.
Tables keep the group constrained to a relatively small physical area. Not only does this help with passing notes, seeing the map, and other logistical concerns, it enables the DM to make use of dramatic techniques like standing and walking around the group, something that can be difficult if your players are all over the place.
The table provides a convenient flat surface for rolling dice, placing the battle mat, and keeping your supplies, snacks and beverages handy, all within easy reach and sight of all players. Anyone who’s gamed in an informal setting knows the annoyance of having to get up periodically to see a battle map, or to get to the pizza. Your GM screen, if you’re not one of those heathens that play without one, is likewise much easier placed on a table than any alternative.
Posture and attention are both improved by good seating around a table. Posture is important because: face it, we’re an out-of-shape segment of the general population (show me a gaming group without it’s share of fatties. I know – I’m it in my group) and lounging too long in comfy chairs is what causes that moment at the end of your game where everyone gets up groaning and stumbling on their numb legs. It’s also partially responsible for that guy (you know the one) who falls asleep every game. Wake him up by putting him upright.
Fixed seating order, easiest in a formal table arrangement, can be of great aid to your game. Hopefully, your game doesn’t require this to keep problem players apart, but it’s a useful technique to segregate groups of players or keep assistants or players with whom you’ll need to collaborate during the game at hand.
Tables can even provide extra storage underneath without cluttering or reducing your play and seating areas.
I hope that this short list of the advantages of gaming the classic way, around a table, inspires you to try it for yourself if you’re not already a fan. There’s a reason the first gamers bellied up around a table and reasons that it continues to be the most popular location for games. See you at the table!