Dungeons and Dragons – An Introduction

Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is the original Role Playing Game. Oh, people played role playing games before, kids pretended to be knights and fight dragons, but D&D was the first game to create a set of rules and a world in which to play.

D&D began as a pen and paper RPG: in other words players wrote all of their information on paper, without the assistance of computers to calculate damage or graphics cards to render the action – the action itself was in your mind.

First Published in 1974 by TSR and created by Gary Gygaz and Dave Arneson, it was derived from miniature war-games, and used the miniatures to represent players and monsters within the game.

To play D&D, first you create a character. Characters follow the classes and races with which most people are familiar. Players can be a dwarf, an elf, a hafling (hobbit), a human, or some other more obscure races. Classes follow what most gamers will be familiar with: Fighter, Rogue, Ranger, Wizard, Cleric.

All of this is done on paper. Players will fill out a character sheet describing their attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Wisdom, etc) then choose from a list of available abilities based on their class, fill out a few other attributes for their character and eventually you will have all you need to play a game of D&D.

For anyone who’s reading this and has never played D&D you might be thinking to yourselves well that doesn’t sound very fun. And it’s not, if that’s all you do in order to play. The other thing that you need is a Dungeonmaster, or DM, who is willing to put forth a lot of effort in order to build your world. And I mean a lot of effort. For every minute that you spend working on your character and your characters skills, abilities, and backstory, a good DM is probably spending about 15 minutes. I’m going to be writing other post about being a Dungeonmaster later on, but suffice it to say that once you find a good Dungeonmaster you really want to keep him going. Because the amount of effort and time and energy it takes to design and build a really engaging in counter is exhausting.
The key to D&D is role-playing. For some of us, that might be a bit too much. Those of us who play World of Warcraft may have logged onto one or two role-playing servers, as I have, and only lasted about 10 or 15 minutes. Some people do take the role playing way too seriously, but Dungeons & Dragons is a game that’s essentially played on graph paper, and the only tools that you really have at your disposal are a few die, a pencil, and your imagination. The amount of role-playing in a Dungeons & Dragons game really depends on who is playing. With my group, most of us will speak in the third person about about our characters, although we do try to stay in character, by that I mean only making actions that are logical for our character even if we may not necessarily feel that they are the correct or best action. However, we don’t take it to extremes as some people do – we don’t show up to our games dressed as our characters, we don’t speak in the first person when describing our characters moves, although sometimes we will get a little bit deeper into character when we are having conversations with nonplayer characters, who are voiced by our DM.
Other people take it a bit more seriously, and that’s fine. The whole point, the whole magic of D&D is the fact that a player can do pretty much everything with their character, so long as the DM allows it. Want to try to seduce that ogre over there, sure that’s fine. Might not be the best idea, but you can try it. If the rest of the party wants to go right but you want to go left, well if the DM allows it then you can. As a general rule you don’t want to split the party but…Dungeons & Dragons is about as fun as your group allows it to be. In the past I played with some people where it wasn’t very fun, but then again the current group that I play with have made it the most fun that I’ve had in years. It really depends on the group of friends that you have, and the amount of energy that everybody brings to the table
I’m going to end this post by listing a few things that you really mean in order to play D&D session, as well as a few things that you don’t need to but I highly recommend.

1 – a Dungeon Master

First off you need a good Dungeon Master. He or she is the person that runs the game, builds the maps, writes the nonplayer characters, and basically decides what will and will not happen for your session. This person should know the rules of D&D, as well as be interested enough in the game in order to write a very well thought out and enticing campaign. On a sidenote, the Dungeonmaster doesn’t necessarily have to write his own campaigns, as Wizards of the Coast, the current makers of Dungeons & Dragons, have written a series of prebuilt campaigns for Dungeons & Dragons games. If you’re new to Dungeons & Dragons, and you’re trying to organize a group on your own with other players who have not played in a while, I highly recommend that you go this route for at least the first few sessions just to get your feet wet.

2 – Players

The next thing you’ll need quite obviously is players. The best groups have about 4 to 6 players, any less than four players and it just is too hard to kill anything, any more than six players and you end up having to wait about 15 or 20 minutes in order to play your character each turn.

There are several different ways to build your character, and of course you can always download some free character sheets, but for new players I would go ahead and recommend using the official Dungeons & Dragons character builder. Unfortunately this will cost you some money, $9.99 a month, but it does open you up to a lot of toolsfirst off, the character builder won’t really let you build illegal characters (by that I mean characters that don’t conform to D&D rules that describe how to build a character). It won’t really allow you to build a level one character with 25 strengths, and the rest of his attributes at say five. You can go below the minimum level of attributes, but this is really the only illegal thing that you can do in the character builder. This is nice because it saves the Dungeon Master time by not having to read through your character sheet and make sure that everything is in order. For one thing I don’t know if divine shield is really a paladin power or not, but if it’s from the DND official character builder then I’m just going to go ahead and saying that he is allowed. Not a lot of dungeon Masters will know everything about every single class, so this will save you some time and some headaches.

In addition, the online character builder has every single possible option for building the character that is allowed in D&D. This means that you are able to use some of the builds that are in D&D supplements, that were written about dragon magazine, or that have come out in an update to D&D. The price is a little expensive, and there are other online character builders out there, but I highly recommend it for one last reason: once you build your character to character builder will generate a player sheet that is very easy to read, as well as create spell cards for your character. Most of the character builders will just have a list of your skills and abilities, the official D&D character builder will create cards that show all of the information you need for your spells.some people will leave them in printed out sheets, I myself prefer to print them on card stock and put them into playing cards so that I can have them at shuffle them as needed. This is especially useful if you’re starting off with a new character that you’re not particularly familiar with, and you need to actually read the ability text to make sure that you’re playing it right.

3 – The Dungeon

The last thing that you really truly need is a map. When I played in high school we basically ran our games off of graph paper, which is fine if you don’t have a budget,  but there are some other pretty nice options out there if your’e willing to spend some money. Currently our group uses 3-D maps, from prebuilt dungeon tiles that are made by Dwarven Forge. They’re a little pricey, but after you’ve made the initialinvestment you don’t really have to spend anymore money off of it. Wizards of the Coast also makes their own dungeon tiles, which are two-dimensional but printed on high-quality paper and they look really good, but if you really want to up your game I do recommend three-dimensional tiles, if you have the money to spend.

4 – Miniatures

You don’t necessarily need this in order to play the game, but these do you help out a little bit. Miniatures, both of your player character as well as NPCs and monsters really help you visualize your game. Another option is you can print off monster tokens, or player tokens, off of card stock or regular paper cut them out and use those to position your character. All in all, with the amount of free tools that are out there you could basically playing Dungeons & Dragons game with each individual only having to spend about $20, and that would be for the player died or for the Dungeonmaster guide.
With this post out of the way I’m going to be posting a little bit more about Dungeons & Dragons in the coming weeks. First off, I’ll be posting a few characters that I’ve built, as level ones and as higher levels.

Second I’m going to be writing a review of the first to pre-built campaigns made by Wizards of the Coast: The Keep on the Shadowfell, and The Thunderspire. Lastly I’m going to try to describe some of the custom games that my group has been playing, as well as posting photos of the various maps and minis that we’ve been using. I should warn everybody however that in the early days of us playing most of the photos were taken off of cell phones. I have since started taking photos using my DSLR, so the quality will start getting better as I continue to post images. In addition I will be plugging our podcast, The deadly Dungeoneers, which is an audio recording of all of our sessions.

A bit of warning about this podcast, first of all it is definitely adult language, in addition we don’t always play in a linear order. We take turns DM’ing – I DM’d for about the first year and a half, and after that we’ve basically let one person DM per month. As a result, some sessions get split in half and other sessions get inserted in, so it doesn’t necessarily go in the linear order. Once we get the stream up I’m hoping that we can put all of the podcasts in a linear order, rather than the order that they were recorded on, but this will get a bit confusing because we added a few new characters along the way, and removed a few other characters. Basically about the first 10 episodes are going to be a bit of a mess, but we have since upped our production quality and paid a little bit more attention to continuity.

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Christopher James

Christopher James

The Founder of TPK Media.

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