What is Therapy-Assisted Tabletop RPG?

A tabletop role playing game (TTRPG) as defined by Wikipedia is: “a form of role-playing game (RPG) in which the participants describe their characters’ actions through speech. Participants determine the actions of their characters based on their characterization, and the actions succeed or fail according to a set formal system of rules and guidelines. Within the rules, players have the freedom to improvise; their choices shape the direction and outcome of the game.

Players ‘act’ out their character’s actions by saying what they would like to do, and, through a series of formal rules, the actions are carried out. This is usually by rolling a set of dice to determine how successful the outcome is.

Players create characters based on literary, movies or someone they would like to be. The idea of a character, who can act out situations and deal with the outcomes means that players can experience emotional reactions in a safe environment. Players have creative control and can opt to push their character out of the player’s comfort zone to judge a reaction.

Tabletop RPGs can assist with the following therapy:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Emotional Regulation
  • Communication
  • Social Interaction
  • Self Identity
  • Behavioral Modification

TTRPG are played in a group setting and players are encouraged to work together over any problems or events that occur at the table. This collaboration builds on problem-solving and social interaction skills. It also gives players the opportunity to be inventive and creative in their solutions.

Through their characters, players are given the opportunity to explore their own selves in a safe environment. With the players always being asked to explore their own reactions and thoughts when looking at a situation.

Each session is usually 2 hours long and broken up into the following parts:

  • 15min – Intro and check in question
  • 90min – Play session
  • 15min – Wind down and check out session

The first session is always what is called a Session Zero. Usually the 90mins is taken with introducing players to the table, creating their character and going over some of the themes for the adventure. Players are asked to fill out a form which indicate which topics are off-limits. There is also the discussion of the safety tools that are used at the table. Any player can use these safety tools to indicate they do not wish the topic to go any further. At the use of a safety tool, play is immediately stopped. A discussion is encouraged around the table, inviting players to share why the tool was used and their reflections.