An Introduction to Dungeons and Dragons

Edited by: Kaavya Azad

Disclaimer:  The views presented in this game do not necessarily reflect the views of Her Campus at Manipal


Most of you have probably heard of the game Dungeons & Dragons. If you’ve watched the Netflix show Stranger Things, then you’ve seen Mike, Lucas, Dustin, and Will play this game enthusiastically in Mike’s basement, or maybe you’ve simply heard the name before and written it off as a game for nerds; perhaps, you just haven’t heard of it at all.


Picture this: 

The half-elf wizard Nuema and the dwarf fighter Gwyn sail down the Neverwinter river in a tiny boat, just enough space for the two of them. The beginning of the forest looms in front of them as they get closer to their destination. Suddenly, a roar is heard nearby, notably closer than they would like. Nuema and Gwyn look up to the sky to see a dragon flying towards them, and they instantly pull their weapons out— Nuema her magic, and Gwyn her crossbow. The half-elf casts a frost spell at the dragon’s head while the dwarf simultaneously shoots a bolt, hitting its wing. The dragon screeches in pain, breathing fire at Nuema; she is almost burnt to a crisp, yet, she is still alive and fighting. She’s a warrior; death doesn’t stop her. She and Gwyn continue to fight this dragon with everything they have until the dragon is too weak to fight anymore and flies away. This time, the two warrior friends have won.


Too dramatic for you? This isn’t a scene from a book or a movie, but one from my Dungeons & Dragons session! Let me break it down for you. Dungeons & Dragons, or D&D as it’s commonly known, is a fantasy tabletop roleplaying game (tabletop isn’t necessary, however— I’ll get to that later). It’s a multiplayer game for two or more players, where players work together as a group (or solo) to get through the quest set by the Dungeon Master. In the example above, I was the Dungeon Master, or DM, who created the setting and narrated the story. I describe what’s happening to the players and present them with situations to decide how to get through. On the other side were my friends as the players. Two of my friends roleplayed as Nuema and Gwyn respectively, and they decided how their characters would react to any presented situation in the game.


Typically, dice is a massive part of this game. When a player takes a particular action— for example, investigating a room or stabbing a monster with a sword, they roll a specific dice. It ranges from 4 to 20 in terms of the number of sides. This roll determines how successful their action was. The higher the roll, the more successful it is. Sounds good so far? Here are some reasons why you should play D&D-


You decide where the story goes.

The most fun part of this game is that it is up to you how you want to play it! As a DM, you are setting the scene for your players, where you choose what the story will be and how you will describe it to them. You decide the encounters, how the monsters fight back and even how the NPCs talk and react to the players. That’s right; there are NPCs (or non-player characters) that you get to enact for the players! Use a weird voice or accent, funny mannerisms; it’s all up to you. You take the characters through an adventure of action, emotion, treasure and more. Maybe the treasure is a cave full of gold and jewels, or perhaps it was the friends you made along the way!


You can choose your character’s story!

On the other hand, as a player, you also get full freedom! You can make your character however you’d like: a charismatic elf bard that talks his way out of sticky situations or a grumpy dwarf that is particularly attached to his family. Again, you can use funny voices or have your character have a specific catchphrase that they always say—it’s up to you. If you’re good at acting, this is your chance to flex your skills! Moreover, every decision your character makes is decided by you and your dice roll. Every reaction to an NPC talking, or an encounter with a monster, is all on you. You get to make up your character’s personality, background, and life story, and you can decide your character’s actions on its basis.


The most flexible game

The beauty of D&D is how adaptable it is. Do you want to stick to the rules as closely as possible? You can do that! The easy-to-understand rulebook is available online for free, along with plenty of other resources, and if you’re still confused, there are hundreds of videos that you can watch. Conversely, do you not want any rules restricting your creative freedom, and you just want to mess around and have fun? No problem— you can set your guidelines (or none at all) accordingly! While video-games have rules that can hamper your freedom, with D&D, it’s all up to you. To take it one step further, you can also decide beforehand whether you want to be serious with your game or whether you want to go crazy with it. These things can be discussed as a group earlier so that the DM knows what kind of adventure to plan. My friends and I decided to have a not-so-serious playthrough, and as the DM, while I did have a general storyline planned, my friends went completely off-the-rails, resulting in some of the funniest moments. 


For example, my friends made their characters— Nuema and Gwyn— seduced a corrupt town master (who I wanted them to help) and stole half the town’s gold! It was hilarious because, as the DM, this was the ultimate plot twist. Gwyn married another city’s king, and the entire team signed a deal with the dragon from before to stop plaguing the city in exchange for goats every week. You don’t expect a dragon to be able to come to such a business deal, but it happened in our adventure! 


Availability of resources online

Of course, some of you may not want to put so much effort into plotting an utterly original storyline or character, and that’s alright. D&D has so many resources online to help beginners, from pre-written adventures to character sheets. If there’s a show, book, or movie series that you love and want to live vicariously in through D&D, then there are “homegrown” adventures that you can use or refer to! There are fan-created D&D universes for series like Stranger Things, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and even Rick and Morty! The world is yours for the taking.


Connecting with friends

Finally, the most enticing aspect that personally made me so fond of this game is that it helped me connect with my friends during the pandemic! This year has been very hard for everyone, but one of the worst parts was not meeting your friends and chill with them. Video call became a lucrative tool to stay in touch with them, and this is precisely why my friends and I used to play D&D from the comfort of our homes. While D&D is traditionally played as a tabletop game, there is no restriction on how you want to play it. We decided to get on a video call and play, and it was easy to tweak the rules a little bit to fit our situation. We found online websites to roll our dice for us because we didn’t have any physical dice. We got to hang out and chill together online, all while pushing our imaginations to their limits. We had the most fun playing this once a week, and it helped take our minds off the stress of everything else.


With college resuming for most of us, we will have a lot of work on our plates. D&D can prove to be a fun stress-reliever at the end of the week and a dedicated time to hang out with your friends. Moreover, if you’re a nerd like me that loves fantasy, then this is the game for you. At the very least, you should give it a try just once! You never know; you might end up liking it just as much as the kids from Stranger Things do.