TTRPG in shorthand is DnD – Dungeons and Dragons. That’s the short answer.
The long answer is that it’s a role-playing game (RPG) played on a tabletop (TT) usually involving dice of some sort. DnD is only one form, and it’s not even my favorite as it’s very rules and numbers-heavy. There are many different kinds of table top role-playing games: from hard to easy to learn. And I think everyone should play.
The best thing about TTRPG is that it is collaborative storytelling. A group of people create a story together, each from their own character’s perspective. It’s basically play, which we’ve lost as adults but desperately need. We need to be able to use our imagination in a safe space where we can be silly. It’s a necessary act of giving our brains room to breathe. This action, this play, makes you more open and sparks creativity that can then be carried over to the rest of your life.
It teaches negotiation and strategy. You have to negotiate with characters you meet along your adventure, you have to think about how to overcome obstacles and how to best use the various skills spread out between you and your friends. You’d be surprised how creative people can be in problem-solving and how many times I’ve learned from them! Further, you have to negotiate with your GM (game master – the person who runs the game and helps direct the story). It’s a playfully antagonistic relationship and you’re always trying to get the GM to let you do things that they don’t want you to do. Be creative and you can convince them. Oh and don’t get me started on negotiating with your own friends about who gets the good loot! Can be a real learning experience.
That leads me to conflict resolution. Conflicts do occur, especially if you play regularly with the same people. So you’ll have to learn how to talk it out, solve it, or let it go. It’s a good skill to have for anything you do. You are a team after all, and you have to be with these people for the next boss, trouble spot, or adventure. You may need these people to help rescue you from a kidnapping! (Though I got out of that mostly on my own – thank you dice – my team tipped the scales!!)
TTRPGs help get you out of the trap of perfection. You may do all the right things, have all the right skills, and have the perfect plan, but you roll the dice and fail. Then you have to adjust, pivot, or make do. It definitely gets you out of the idea that you can ever get anything perfectly right.
Finally, you’re playing someone else, someone with another life, history, and set of experiences. So you’re constantly thinking about what that person would do. It’s not really about you in that respect. The other people at the table are doing the same. And sometimes I find myself asking why they did something. Then they explain their motivations and their perspective. Therefore, it helps you think about others’ views and motivations. In plain English: it teaches you empathy.
These are all the reasons I think everyone should play a TTRPG, but of course, there’s the last one: it’s just plain fun to play pretend! You get to be a kid again being the heroic dragonslayer, or the princess with knife skills, or a gnome who can cook magic – whatever you want. It gives us a break from adulting, from being serious, and gets your brain thinking in totally different ways.