Dungeons & Dragons.
To say Dungeons & Dragons gets a bad rep is more than a simple understatement. It’s a massive shadow hanging over the entire tabletop game industry. As someone who was a nerd growing up, it even took me a while to get into D&D, although to be fair I came in through the side door.
My first experience with D&D was a campaign my friend, a long time player, decided to start with almost all beginners. It didn’t go well. It wasn’t until I played with experienced friends in a sci-fi D&D setting, that of the Mass Effect video games, that I really sunk my teeth into these types of games.
I honestly believe D&D has made me a more capable person. It has given me a great amount of practice in improvisation, something that has made me smarter and faster in conversation. It has improved my writing abilities, making me more aware of what makes a fully formed character and what to do when they behave in an unexpected way. I made my best friends because of D&D and it has in now way diminished my social life. With the right group, anyone can have a great time and not be caught up in a disappointing stereotype.
After spending about a year without playing, I started my own group here in LA. We are seven sessions into our current campaign and I’m coming off a bit of a high from running our best session. With that in mind I have decided to write my own little beginner’s guide to Dungeons & Dragons.
So let’s get started with the basics.
What is Dungeons & Dragons?
Dungeons & Dragons is unequivocally the world’s greatest roleplaying game. For anyone who plays a good amount of video games a roleplaying game, or RPG. is nothing new. However these video games really do come from D&D. At their core you the player take on the role of another character and become more powerful by leveling up.
In D&D you play in a classic fantasy world. You create a character and act through them in this world. You interact with the story via improvisational roleplaying and dice rolls.
Whoa whoa whoa. Dice?
Oh yes. D&D uses seven different dice. You probably know a six sided die intimately, here referred to as a d6. Well D&D also uses a d4, d8, d10, d12, d100, and your new best friend, the d20. What are the rolls (teehee) of each of these dice? Well, your character’s thoughts, decisions, and actions are the only things you control. However whether or not you succeed depend on both the roll of a d20 and the control of the Dungeon Master.
What is a Dungeon Master?
In all D&D games, one player steps up to be, well, god. They create the people, places, and things the other players encounter in the game. It is a Dungeon Master’s job to take the players on a series of adventures that make up a campaign. Whether the plot of the campaign is as simple as one misadventure to the next, or as complex as holding the fate of the world in the balance. A Dungeon Master can be kind, giving away special items and bending rules for the player’s benefit, or they can be cruel, with a rigid grip on the rules as written and a penchant for sending the party up against threats to great for them.
What is a Party?
A party, or D&D group, is made up of you and the other players with characters in the game. Typically a party ranges from three to six players. Groups have been known to have more, but too many players can have a detrimental effect on how much fun everyone has.
That is the most important thing by the way. To have fun. D&D is not a job, it is a game. It is a game with a great emphasis on improv as well. I have asked players to come up with their family history off the top of their head, and they have delivered. As a DM, you cannot write a D&D story like other mediums, because you cannot control the actions your players take. Every time I have encountered railroading, where players are forced onto one specific path, all of the fun is lost like air escaping a balloon.
How do I play?
In any situation, the first thing that happens is that the DM describes the environment. Maybe it’s a bar. (Most campaigns start in a bar). Perhaps it’s an abandoned mine. Could be a nice meadow. Whatever the setting.
Next the players decide what they want to do. Seduce someone in the bar. Search for treasure in the mine. Stop and smell some flowers.
The DM tells you what happens as a result of your actions. You successfully secude the bar patron. You find an angry troll in the mine. You accidentally inhale a bee.
With any action a character takes, the results are not completely random. Yes, most of the time you will have to roll a dice, but the rest comes from the abilities your character has.
Next time: Building Your Character