Tabletop role-playing games can seem daunting to get into. They require someone who knows what they’re doing, a group of friends willing to play and a storyline to jump off from. St. Michael resident and first-time author Alex Zubarev published his book “War and Aether: The Roleplaying Game” in December. The book is designed to help first-time players and pros alike jump into this world of games.

Reminiscent of Dungeons and Dragons, War and Aether’s introduction in the book refers to the guide as a “Fantasy tabletop RPG set in a brutal world of monsters and magic. It is both a difficult game that will prove a challenge to even veteran tabletop players and a simple game that is friendly to newcomers.”

The guide will take readers through the basics of the game, character creation, equipment, combat, aether, how to become the Game Master, The World of Zale created by Zubarev, the creatures of the world and the adventure summary that questers will go on.

“The whole thing is basically a glorified Uno manual,” Zubarev said. “It’s a rule book. Tabletops are games that are built largely dependent on the person who’s running and plays them. This has all of the rules and the information you need to know to run your own game. It does have its own story, world and games built in to help get new people to get introduced, and it also has all the things for advanced people who know exactly what they’re doing to pick up the book and start playing.”

Zubarev self published the book, which took around two years to complete. The process of writing the guide was all about testing the drafts of the game and going through it again and again. Zubarev ran test games with a variety of groups, from newbies to pros, and also included to those who liked the theatrics of role-playing games versus those who liked the numbers and stats of the games. Zubarev took a year to test out the guide before finalizing it.

He has a background in acting, which he did as a child. He and his family even moved to California for a while for him to pursue acting. He found that acting and running tabletop games go hand in hand and has been keeping up with tabletop gaming for many years.

Before the pandemic, Zubarev had planned on being a video game designer. He left his part-time job in 2020 a month before the pandemic to pursue video game design, but the video game industry had shut down. With the support system of his family, Zubarev decided he was going to work on the book full time and create a game through being an author.

“For me, I already had tabletop games I was interested in,” he said. “And I believed in this enough I wanted to dive fully into this.”

What Zubarev thinks makes his work stand out compared to other guides out there is, “One part ease of access and one part the brutal realism,” he said. “For me, I like realism in my stuff. With this game, I wanted to hit that level of realism that inherently makes things more difficult while sticking in this fantasy world. I didn’t want heroes or classes or anything like that. I wanted heroes to start out as basic peasants then have them work up to the point of being a hero.”

When Zubarev says “brutal realism,” he means everything in his game will have a cost. His potions are also poisonous, there is no way for resurrection, and dying in the game, according to Zubarev, is a lot easier in his game than others due to his research in realistic swordplay and medieval armor. He does not think for new players going in that the brutal realism will affect the enjoyment of the game.

To help people who are new to the tabletop role-playing game world, Zubarev made sure that his guide had the world-building that he already set up for them. The storyline that he sets up for players to use is set in a low fantasy world with its own history, countries, religions and factions. The entire gameplay within the guide can take around one day to play the one adventure. Zubarev hopes that in the future he can create more books and more adventures to expand on the guide.

“I went into this completely blind,” he said. “I did this from scratch figuring it out as I go and so far it’s gone pretty well.”

Past the book, Zubarev suggests maybe getting a square-tile-based playmate and a solid group of people to play with. “The War and Aether: The Roleplaying Game” can be purchased at and on Amazon.

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