It's Halloween. Is It Time For You To Try D&D?

What is D&D?

D&D, otherwise known as Dungeons and Dragons, is a tabletop roleplaying game. What does that mean? To break it down simply it means that Dungeons and Dragons has elements like board games where there can be physical maps and figurines that move around the map, statistics you keep track of like a video game and roleplaying. Roleplaying is a lot like playing pretend, you pretend to be a character the same way you pretended to play doctor or school when you were little. The game can be structured differently based on what edition you are playing and your Dungeon Master's (the person who creates and runs the game) preferences. 

Every Dungeons and Dragons game has a few terms that you should know. The game as a whole is called the campaign. Within a campaign, there can be different story arcs. Every time you meet and play in the campaign is called a session. Sessions can range from 1-8 hours with most lasting probably around 2-4 hours. Dungeon Master is the head of the game. They create the world, the storyline, and goals for the players to achieve. They know where the story began and where it is going to end, but how the story reaches that point is up to the players, otherwise known as party members. Each party is different and so are the members that make up the party. Some parties are as small as three players, and some are as large as ten. It, like most other things in D&D, depends on who the Dungeon Master is and the group that makes up the party. 

This is where it gets a little confusing. You are the player, but you are not necessarily the character that you are playing. This is best explained by using video games. When you play Skyrim or the Sims, you create a character based on what characteristics you feel would be the most fun. So while you in real life are not a vampire, alien, or tiger person, maybe your character in the game is. D&D is a lot like that. There are different races/species, classes (where you get combat abilities from), and sub-classes. There are even opportunities to mix and match these classes. So while you are the player, your character does not have to be you or even remotely like you.

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Getting Started

First, you need imagination. If you don’t have an imagination, you will get bored very quickly. Imagination is a large part of the choices you make. Dungeon Masters usually don’t lay the solution down at your feet unless you have been trying to find the answer for literally hours. You as a player need to be able to imagine your character's actions and motivations. In the campaign I am currently playing with friends, I play a character who is from a noble family and dreams of being a princess and bring equality to a currently warring continent. She is not very skilled in battle and tries to find a way out rather than fight a lot of times. I, personally, am not the kind of person who would back down from a fight or even be rational enough to find a way out of battle if I were in one. So, instead of the first thought that comes to mind, I really have to picture whether or not Lady Jace would do the same. Your Dungeon Master might also have you rely on your imagination for the scenery and the non-playable characters that surround you. Some Dungeon Masters have pictures while others describe in very vivid detail the world around you. Every Dungeon Master is different.

The second skill you need is the ability to do some simple math. You need to be able to count to 20, and you have to be able to add to a number ranging from 1-20. You can also use a calculator. Which is what I do most times. You need to have the access or ability to do this simple math because D&D has a character sheet with several skills that have been given a numerical value depending on how well your character can perform that skill. These numbers and skills are all based on six main skills. Most of your actions will be impacted by these numbers as a way to determine how successful the action was. If your Dungeon Master asks you to make a perception check on your surroundings, you would roll a D20, and then add your perception modifier of 3. Some math is also needed in combat to determine how much damage you have done or received.

The third skill you need is patience and compromise. D&D is by no means an individual game. It is something you play with friends where you as a team will have to make decisions. For example, in my current campaign, we are being plagued with a major decision right now. We either have to convince a feudal lord to give this village of refugees freedom, or we have to murder him, or we have to find a way to resolve the conflict without any bloodshed or convince the refugees to become apart of the dwarven kingdom. It’s a lot, there are a lot of opinions, and if I'm being honest we have spent at least two sessions trying to find the best one. There has been a lot of compromise and debate and if I were a lot less patient and I weren’t playing with my friend, I would have gone crazy. Since I am playing with my friends it becomes a lot more fun with a lot more jokes. If I ever start getting tired of the debate or the tension gets a little too heavy I do something chaotic, or I start chanting “End the Bloodline.” As a joke and to remind my friends that it's just a game.

You need friends. You need people that you like to hang out with. You may not have fun playing with people you don't like too much. You don’t want a bully in the group or someone who clashes with the vibe too much because then you won’t want to play as a team and D&D is all about playing as a team. 

This next one is arguably the most important. You need time. D&D is a big-time commitment and if you don’t put the time into playing, it won’t be fun and the story that your Dungeon Master has created probably won’t be as fun. Taking breaks from sessions is totally okay, but if you start missing multiple sessions in a row, things are going to be different when you get back. If your D&D group makes an agreement on what the schedule is, do your best to follow it. Things happen. Depression, weddings, last-minute dates, or work meetings. Just do your best to let everyone know in advance, and try to stick to the schedule. If you have a good Dungeon Master they will understand and work with you. It is just a game, but sometimes games have more meaning than we realize.

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There are a few things to remember when starting D&D. First, not every Dungeon Master is the same. Everyone has a different play style and goals for different campaigns, and if you don’t like the style of the Dungeon Master you can always try a different one. Second, it's okay to find a new group as long as you bow out of the old one with notice. Third, if you don't feel safe in the environment or feel like there are things occurring that trigger you, please talk to your Dungeon Master or find a safe way to bow out of the campaign. D&D is about fun. Not about making anyone uncomfortable. Fourth, have fun. Make the game fun for yourself and others. If something happens that you don’t like, talk to your Dungeon Master in private. The issue could be fixable. Remember, have fun and D&D is for everyone.