Hail and well met, weary traveler from the lackluster world of Reality! I’m your Dungeon Master, EB, and I will be your guide into the realms of Dungeons & Dragons.
Translation: So you want to know about D&D? You’ve come to the right nerd.
Dungeons & Dragons
Dungeons & Dragons is a role-playing game (or “RPG”) that has been taking nerds on quests through fantastical and ridiculous stories since the 1960s. Throughout the decades, the game has morphed into not only a standard of nerdiness, but also a giant in the role-playing world. Dungeons & Dragons was the catalyst for all “Tabletop” role-playing games, and it has been a leader in changing those games in both gameplay and method. Now that you are sufficiently in awe of the beauty and imagination D&D has brought into reality, let’s discuss the game itself and how it’s played.
D&D was split into two “branches” of game play in the early 70’s: the standard D&D that you will be playing, and the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D) for the super nerds. The standard D&D has lighter rules and allows for a bit more freedom in creativity and silliness, while AD&D has a more complex set of rules that control the game. Within the branch of standard D&D, there have been five “editions,” with the most recent being, obviously, 5th Edition. There are many opinions and debates on which edition is the best, but it is almost universally agreed that 5e is the most user-friendly for new players. But the best way to understand how D&D works is to work from big picture to small detail, so we will start from there (and with a diagram!)
Imagine you are sitting at a round table with your nerdy buddies. In front of you will be a couple of character sheets, a handful of oddly shaped dice, one Dungeon Master (DM), or friend that will be telling the story, and maybe a board (like you would find in a board game) that shows maps or settings. For the sake of the illustration, let’s pretend you’re playing the D&D campaign “Lost Mine of Phandelver.” Your DM will use the campaign book to paint a word picture of the setting for you and your party. It might be a dimly-lit tavern that reeks of stale beer, or maybe a forest trapped in the midst of autumn that sits on the edge of town. Next comes the scenario: the young Barmaiden is crying as she runs a dirty rag over a mug, and behind you a big thug is walking out of the bar looking strangely satisfied. Now, the best part: what do you do?
Your character, let’s say a Half-Elf Bard named Bumbletip, is called to action by the sight of a crying girl! Do you interrogate her or calmly comfort her? Or do you chase after that smug thug and jump to a series of conclusions? The possibilities are endless, including the option to ignore this entire scenario, buy an ale, and walk out of the tavern and search for other adventure. This seems like a pretty simple adventure, but what if the barmaiden was crying because that thug, who works for an evil sorcerer that you don’t know about yet, has captured her family and is holding them for ransom in a dungeon swarming with bugbears? This adventure is no longer very simple.
Of course, there are pages and pages of rules to playing this game, but the majority of them are very simple. Sure there’s magic and combat which doesn’t exactly happen in the natural world, but most of the rules consist of knowing when you can use an action or a spell, how far you can move in one turn, or what kind of “checks” you need to make to see if your action succeeds or fails. All of the rules, how-to’s, and guides can be found in the D&D Player’s Handbook (which you can find by clicking on this link!)
This explanation is very basic, for it is nearly impossible to fully describe in words the nature of this game. But fear not, if your interest has been peaked and you are craving more information I have a few resources for you. The best way to understand D&D, second to diving in headfirst, is watching/listening to other people play, and these are my recommendations:
A group of voice actors travel through ridiculous and comedic circumstances simply to bring you knowledge of the game and bellyaches from laughing too much. They record both voice and video of their games, which you can watch here!
The Adventure Zone:
The McElroy Brothers of the hit comedy podcast “My Brother, My Brother, and Me” recruited their dad to play in a comedy D&D campaign with them. You can listen to their adventure from start to current here, or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. Fair warning: I have almost been in a few car accidents from laughing too much at their shenanigans.
There are plenty of live D&D games to be watched on Twitch throughout each day, so if you struggle with long-term commitment, maybe hopping on to watch on of those games is for you. Perhaps search for “Wizards of the Coast,” who are the producers/developers of modern D&D.
Next week we will discuss the mechanics of creating a D&D character, so don’t get lost too deep in those dungeons. Until the next adventure!