If you are reading this, then possibly a friend of yours wants you to join their game of Dungeons & Dragons, and you have heard of it, but not really sure what it is, or if you want to be part of this…cult?
What D&D Isn’t
First off, D&D isn’t a cult. It’s also not a video game, board game, or card game. There are versions of it that are, but D&D proper is something else entirely. Dungeons & Dragons is the granddaddy of all modern Tabletop Roleplaying Games. Basically what that means is you and your friends sit around a table usually, and imagine yourself as a different person in a different world.
You don’t have to dress up though, in fact I have never met someone who does dress in character during a D&D game. Usually its a bunch of people in their everyday clothes, eating pizza and drinking Mountain Dew.
It’s also not a never-ending game that makes you never leave your mom’s basement. The game usually lasts about as long as a long movie, so about 3 hours. But it doesn’t end there, because you get to come back to it regularly, like a TV show. It’s not required, but you can continue creating the story if you really liked it. To get the gist of it, you can ask the friend who invited you to do a “One-Shot.” Basically treating it more like a self-contained story, like a movie, rather than a single chapter in an ongoing story, like a TV show. Its a perfect way to try it out. Because nothing is worse than a friend suggesting a TV show to you, but saying “You have to get through the first season, then it gets good,” because that’s a 12 hour commitment for a short show. If you don’t like D&D, a One-Shot is just like watching a bad movie, it’ll be over much quicker.
What D&D Is
The world of Dungeons & Dragons is what’s known as High-Fantasy. There is magic, elves, and of course Dragons. More like Lord of the Rings than Game of Thrones, because of the Wizards and Dwarves and goblins.
You aren’t in Middle-Earth or Westeros though, you are in your own world. A brand new world with brand new characters that your Dungeon Master is giving to you. And with that new world, you get to tell a new story. This is called Social Storytelling, because everyone gets to decide together what your story is going to be. If you can imagine it, chances are you can do it, within reason. You can’t change from an Elf into a Dragon…yet, but you can talk to whoever you want, and interact with the world however you decide.
When you boil the gameplay down to the bones, it is a conversation between you, The Player, and your friend, The Dungeon Master. The Dungeon Master is in charge of what the world looks like, what the bartender acts like, and how hard the goblins hit you. (S)He takes care of all of that so you only have to think about what you want to do. Say you want to jump over a puddle, the Dungeon Master (DM) asks you to roll a dice, usually 20-sided, which represents luck or things you can’t control, and the DM tells you whether or not you succeed based on the dice. Rolling a 1 on the dice is a critical failure, not only do you trip and fall in the puddle, but you might even break your nose when you smash into the rocks. Rolling a 20 is a critical success, as you are leaping across the puddle you notice a glint in the bushes, and realize there is some treasure hiding behind. If you later become more acquainted with the game, more mechanics will be introduced later for more nuance, but the game can be played using only a 20-sided dice.
But who are you exactly? Well, like I said, you are another person in this Middle-Earth like world. And as such, you get to decide who you are, or what you can do, more or less. If you have played Skyrim or similar games, you know that the beginning of the game is deciding what race (species) you are, and probably what class (type of fighter).
Below are the 5 most basic races, with the 6 most basic classes.
Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling (Hobbit), and Half-Orc, crossed with Fighter, Wizard, Rogue, Cleric, Barbarian, and Ranger.
Human Fighter – King Arthur. Rides in on horseback, covered in armor with a sword in one hand and a shield in the other.
Human Wizard – Merlin / Dumbledore. Has spent years upon years learning magical incantations to bend the magic of the world to their will.
Elf Ranger – Legolas. Elves live for centuries before growing old, and are imbued with natural magical abilities. A Ranger is one with nature, a bow on their back with a quiver full of arrows, has hunted the biggest game, and feels at home when surrounded by the rocks and trees and animals of the forest.
Dwarf Cleric – While dwarves are short and stout, known for their amazing craftsmanship, especially with items of war, a Dwarven Cleric has devoted his life to his God, and seeks to not only spread the truth of their gods word, but also help those in need. In video game terms, a Cleric is a Medic, but with Divine Intervention rather than medicine.
Halfling Rogue – Bilbo. The same height as dwarves, but with more childlike features, often being mistaken for children. Rogues however, will pick locks, avoid traps, steal the treasure, and kill the goblins all without being seen.
Half-Orc Barbarian – Standing at 7 ft tall, with two battle axes and no armor, a Half-Orc Barbarian will do the most amount of damage, as well as take the most amount of damage.
Once you have picked a combo you like, ask your friend if they can find you a PreGen, or pre-generated character. Once you get into the game, you can create all the stats down to their height and speed, but for now, PreGens are your friend.
You might have seen character sheets before, and this is kind of like your characters baseball card, it has all kinds of information and statistics about what you are capable of, or gear you are carrying, but remember, you should still see your character as a fully fleshed out person, far beyond the numbers on your sheet.
So now you know who you can be, but you still don’t know what you can do. One of the most basic games of D&D is called a Dungeon Crawl, which is where you are in a castle/dungeon/cave/etc. and you go room-to-room, killing monsters, and getting treasure. Its a super simple concept, and it is a lot of fun.
Maybe in D&D you want to see just how fantastic this new world is, and you want to run a more exploration campaign. Traveling to the ends of the world, and even away from it. See Dwarven keeps in mountains, Elven tribes in magical forests, Castle Ravenloft home of Strahd the Vampire in another plane, sail ships in the Astral Plane, home of the gods. There is so much to explore, and it can grow and grow until you and your DM can no longer imagine more.
Maybe you just finished binging House of Cards on Netflix, and you want some political intrigue. The Queen of one Kingdom might want you to find dirt on the Governor of a nearby city-state, and find out that he is creating a black-market slave trade, and so the Queen hires you to not only disrupt and dismantle the trade, freeing the slaves, but bringing the Governor in for justice.
Perhaps you start off in a world that is completely run by a tyrannical overlord, and you decide with your party to work from the bottom, and begin freeing the entire world from this evil mastermind, finding weaknesses and other pockets of resistance along the way.
There are so many kinds of campaigns you can play in, and every player in the world has a different story they want to be a part of, so when 4 players and a DM get together, that story will be completely unique and unreplicable.
Once you have an idea for your character, just tell your friend what race/class combo you want a PreGen for, and ask for a one-shot. Show up on gameday ready to use your imagination and roll some dice.
I like this guy, he has a lot of really good views on what Dungeons &Dragons is meant to be, which is FUN!