One of the toughest parts about playing tabletop RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons is getting the whole group together to actually play. But there’s a way to avoid that stress, and it comes in the shape of a video game! Actually, two games! Who knew?
But if you’re itching to play a TTRPG and don’t have a group, or tired of not being able to pull the whole party together, you might just want to hear what I have to say about the Knights of Pen and Paper games!
The original Knights of Pen and Paper is from 2012, developed by Behold Studios, and published for mobile by Paradox Interactive. Since then, it’s been released for other platforms in its +1 Deluxier Edition, and for a game from 2012, it holds up well!
Best of all, though, it’s very straightforward. Learning to play is as simple as picking it up, choosing a character and their class (with stat boosts visible on screen, so you can balance those to your liking), and going to town on the monsters you encounter. The plot takes you all over a charming little pixel map, with hosts of fun side quests, and scattered here and there are pop culture references, moments where your characters break character and speak as players instead, and chances to fall into unexpected combat and roll the dice some more!
Possibly my favorite part was just how silly the game was, plus its pixel style (pixels have a special place in my heart, after all). It never really takes itself too seriously, and it’s not so difficult that you end up more frustrated than entertained. There are a couple late game quests for diehard players that present an impressive challenge to overcome, but even someone playing casually is likely to find a lot to love in the game.
I also played it on the Nintendo Switch as part of a double-pack sale (bundled with Knights of Pen and Paper 2, of course!), so it paired extremely well with the touch screen. It’s built for casual tapping and not too much brainpower. You’re not going to be slogging through heavy puzzles or conversations with NPCs that are difficult to navigate in the best way. It moves smoothly and quickly with a heavy dose of fantasy nonsense, and it’s hard to get bored when there’s always something else to do!
That said, some of the features are a little lackluster, like the travel system taking a long time, or the way the game table and its items work, but most of the issues I personally had with Knights of Pen and Paper +1 were neatly resolved in…
Knights of Pen and Paper II: Deluxiest Edition! Also published by Paradox Interactive, it essentially improves on everything the +1 edition of KoPaP had to offer. The pixel art is more detailed but still vibrant and clearly in the realm of fantasy, and the character classes and boosts have new options that make them more interesting and more useful. There’s still a great pixel map and cute music, and the corny pop culture jokes just keep on coming, sometimes in shapes you don’t expect.
Admittedly, I haven’t finished KoPaP II just yet, since I’ve been a little pressed for time, but the beauty of it is that it’s easy to pick up for twenty minutes a pop and set down again. You don’t have to scramble through the whole thing in a ten-hour sitting because you don’t want to forget that complicated part of the plot you’re stuck in. Instead, you can pick it up and drop it again on a whim, easy as that, and you’ll probably never lose your place. It’s friendly to gaming in those little blocks of time you don’t know what to do with, without getting so engrossed you can’t put it down.
In my opinion, it also improves a lot on the combat system, namely the amount of grinding that goes into raising your levels. Early game grinding happens (it’s really not fun to keep getting party members knocked out), but it isn’t as tedious as I found it to be in +1. The Deluxiest Edition also comes with extra missions that would have to be purchased otherwise as DLC, for prolonging your dice-based adventure when you most need it!
Overall, I’d absolutely recommend the Knights of Pen and Paper series to TTRPG fans. It’s silly, it’s fantasy, and it’s not terribly difficult to get into. Plus, there’s no waiting on anyone else to join in, no coordinating everyone’s schedules so the whole party can participate. It’s just you and your console of choice, having a good time rolling dice and slaying dragons. And other beasties, of course.
If KoPaP has your attention, I know it’s possible to buy the bundle of both games on the Nintendo Switch for roughly $20 USD. Steam also has both games available together in a bundle with DLC for about $25 USD or separately for $19 USD and $14 USD respectively (sans DLC), or you can purchase the games from Paradox Interactive for $10 USD and $8 USD, not including the DLC for KoPaP II.
Regardless of the path you choose, may your adventuring go well, and your dice turn up better numbers all the time! Hail and well met, but also, bye! (And on your way out the door, tell me: was that a natural 20 on persuasion? Are you convinced you should give these games a try? Totally let me know…😉)