RPG Evolution: Friends That Slay Together, Stay Together

RPGs aren't just a pastime. They can create lifelong friends for adults.


Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

Creative Bonds​

In an article titled "What Adults Forget About Friendship," Rhiana Cohen elaborates on the importance of friendships and how kids "waste time together" to make memories. But there's nothing unique to friendships we form as children that can't be formed as adults.

The difference? Imaginative play over a long period of time creates intense ties. The key factor being time.

The Adult Difference​

Adult friendships differ from kids in several important ways. Bonds tend to be stronger on cognitive, social, and emotional levels, and can provide better support and empathy. This deepens over time, forming stronger bonds as the friendship evolves.

Not surprisingly, young adults form these friendships during stages of their lives when they have an abundance of free time. These friendships flourish because there's room for them; both university students, military personnel stationed together, and even prisoners can have intense shared experiences and long stretches of down time. Not surprisingly, both of these settings are fertile ground for the launch of tabletop role-playing game campaigns.

When adults take on more responsibility like entering the workforce or raising a family, friendship becomes a luxury. Friendships tend to form in the context of doing something else, e.g., friendships formed between adult parents participating in children's events or fitness activities.

One of the conceits of the popular television series, Friends, was that adults were able to continue their college experience well into middle age, with their friends living right across each other (like a dorm), without ever worrying about how to pay for it.

It's no surprise then that as we grow older, friendships become harder to form and maintain, because friendship is no longer an adult priority. In fact, not having an actual plan to do something once friends get together can make adults uncomfortable. And these sorts of friendship-focused events take time, time that many adults can afford to spare in their busy lives.

The one place this becomes acceptable is with romantic partners. Date nights are a common thing, with only loose guidelines as to what constitutes "fun" for both.

Enter the RPG​

Tabletop role-playing games fill a niche for adult play in a lot of ways that are uniquely tailored to the medium. RPGs require a significant chunk of time, longer than an hour or so, asking for a level of investment few television shows or video games require. RPGs give permission for adults to spend four or more hours of semi-structured time with each other.

RPGs also provide guardrails for gaming. Players are expected to return week after week to play a similar role in the game, picking up where the last game left off. Thus the game doesn't really end, giving the game a freeform quality but some level of accountability.

Speaking of freeform, role-playing by its very nature is its own open play, the kind of "let's pretend" that comes naturally to kids. As Cohen correctly points out, Dungeons & Dragons and other RPGs "foreground play and inefficiency" as part of hanging out.

Although it may not feel like it, role-playing in a game where "anything can be attempted" is a call back to our lives as kids. And while it may not be as glamorous as Friends, it's a really important part of maintaining adult friendships.

Your Turn: How do your adult friends make time for tabletop gaming?
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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

I am fortunate that many of my friends who are gamers are married to others of my friends who are gamers. That cuts down some on dividing couples or one partner misunderstanding this whole gaming thing and why the other partner cares about it.

We have found that every other week tends to make for easier scheduling. People might be able to give up half their Friday evenings but not all of them.

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Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
I'm playing with my high school group the last time we played together was in... high school back in the early 80's. We got back together through the magic of zoom, vtt's and as bad as it was - covid's silver lining

I'm playing with a bunch of guys I met when I worked at a comic/game store here when I first moved to town in 1990. We played a ton of GURPS, then fell apart - then got back together when 4e came out and are still playing

I play with a group of folks I met at church - all of whom are younger than me, which is refreshing

We all make time for the game, and it works

These days, they dont. :( With Jobs, kids, responsibilities etc.. something has to give and its usually RPGs. Many of my friends also work on PCs all day, and do not want to game on one after. So the opportunities afforded by VTT are often wasted too.
A bit similar, but slightly more positive:
If we look at friends from university or PhD times, that's effectively what happened - gaming was usually one of the first things to give and step by step, people dropped out. Certainly didn't help that some of us also moved.
Luckily, though, thanks to the option of online gaming, I was able to find new people, so I at least have regular games again.


My college gaming crew still manages to get together every 1-2 years for a long weekend of gaming, despite the fact that we are scattered from Seattle to Florida to Atlanta and parts beyond. This is the cohort where we were in each others' weddings, around for children being born, divorces, family deaths, and all the other life events. The annual get togethers are a huge benefit for me, and we get back into things as if no time has passed at all. We've managed to have these gatherings for around the last 20 years, and have been friends for over 35 years.

My current in town group has been playing together for about 4 years, and are definitely friends who do stuff together outside gaming frequently.


When I moved to another city for study, I thought I had to say goodbye to my RPG's...
How wrong I was.

RPG's have cemented my friendship with three persons from high school.
I keep seeing a former colleague and a board game friend, because of D&D.
Started playing D&D a few years ago with my niece and her husband after I met them during a reunion, and they told me they were into Risk...
And we have a Tuesday game evening... If we're not playing an RPG, players tend to more easily cancel coming over.

I am a huge fan of the concept of ''inviting people to play a game''.

Has worked for me.

I wonder what would have happened with all these people without the option to invite them for games.

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