If you know a roleplayer, it can be hard to decide what to get them come gift giving time. Below is a relatively simple decision tree to help you figure out what to get them. (No, this article isn’t just veiled hinting, family and friends!) Stack of presents

If you already game with the recipient: This article won’t do you much good– you know them in a way that an article never can. Go with your instinct and lean towards something they would enjoy but can’t justify. Alternately, lean toward something they’ve talked themselves out of buying, but that they debated before resisting. (Examples include splat-books like “Ultimate Combat” for the player of a martial character in Pathfinder, “Daeva: Kiss of the Succubus” for your Daeva playing friend, etc. Or get them the cool dice they’ve been drooling over, but won’t buy because they already have plenty of dice. We all know that having too many dice isn’t possible!)

If you’re inviting them to join your game group: Hopefully they’ve expressed some interest in gaming with you–if not, this type of gift might seem more like a gift for yourself. If they have any desire to game, there are lots of great things you can do to make gaming welcoming. Figure out what game you’ll be playing when they open your gift, and pick things that go with that game. Examples include:

  • Dice! You can borrow books for a while, but it’s important to develop a special relationship with the instruments of our characters’ fate. Start the obsession early!
  • Miniature: Having a mini is a nice way to feel “real”, like the other characters–you don’t want them to have to raid spot from Monopoly while everyone else uses great looking, evocative minis. You might want to discuss their character first, so you don’t buy a chainmail bikini clad barbarian for your new wizard.
  • Player’s Book (or Core Book): Nothing says “welcome to gaming” like a 500 page tome. Seriously, having the rules to read at their own pace is a welcoming choice. Trying to learn in brief snatches, or while they’re also trying to roleplay their first character, is much trickier.
  • Custom character sheet: For the creative gift-giver, this is a one of a kind gift. You can include player aids particular to the character, art the player loves, and hearts. Aren’t all character sheets better with hearts?
  • Small gift card: If you give a $10 gift card, that’s perfect for picking out a mini that matches the character they make after their first session. Plus, you have a positive reason for them to visit them the local game store.

If you’re all new to roleplaying: Starter sets are great! If you want to try roleplaying, gifts can encourage friends and family to try it out, since there’s no risk or expense to them.

  • Pathfinder Beginner Box is ready to teach you the game, with cool markers, maps, and premade characters to get you into the action fast.
  • Fate: Accelerated is a streamlined system that’s a brief 44 pages, and supports a number of cool settings. Plus it’s only $5.
  • Star Wars RPG: Edge of the Empire Beginner Game is ready to teach you how to play, and put the dice and decisions in your hand. Plus, it’s Star Wars! You already know how to howl like a wookie, right? Though, for a counterpoint…
  • Psi*Run is a straightforward game with solid advice for new GMs and a bounded play time. And it works with dice you can raid from Yahtzee and Risk.

For Kids: If you’re looking to introduce kids to roleplaying, being their first GM lets you skip past the boring reading rules part! For older kids, the games above work great. For younger, you might investigate games like the following:

  • If you can find it, Happy Birthday Robot is a fun game suitable for even the youngest kids, with adjustable rules complexity. An adult leading kids works well.
  • Shadows is also great for young kids, and can follow amazing twists of logic with its incredibly simple system. Plus it’s a free PDF… what do you have to lose?
  • The Princes’ Kingdom is based on Dogs in the Vineyards’ great rules and is about kids changing the world. (PDF for purchase)

How about games without GMs? Sometimes the hardest part of roleplaying is to find someone willing to prepare the game in advance. With these games, everyone can just show up and play.

  • In Fiasco you engineer and play out stupid, disastrous situations. People show up ready to invent a movie about people with poor impulse control… and a weirdly compelling story emerges.
  • A penny for my thoughts is my go to GMless game. The structure and guidance allow you to play out of the book without anyone reading the rules in advance.
  • To try with one special person: Breaking the Ice is a two player game where the characters go on their first three dates… and you see if they can make it through setbacks and wacky twists.
  • Universalis is so flexible that you can even change its rules during the game. By the third or fourth tenet, a setting emerges from the group’s vision. It can be trickier for experienced gamers than new players!
  • Mars Colony is another game for two; it has plenty of structure to help even beginning roleplayers explore an interesting setting and conundrums.

How about a more trustworthy gnome’s opinion?

Sure thing! Martin’s advice from 2005 has a number of still great games.

Telas has been great about keeping an eye out for Black Friday sales the last five years. The most recent sale was Part V.

What’s missing are your recommendations. Do you have a go to game for kids? Is there something awesome that needs to be ordered this week if it’s to arrive in time for Christmas? What gifts do you recommend for people shopping who aren’t familiar with roleplaying? The best advice will probably manifest in comments.