D&D has been around a long time. It has also experienced (get it?) a surge in popularity. Mostly from online shows and podcasts showcasing what’s great about the game. Be on the lookout for a future article about the very best of these shows. Anyway, the game can seem a bit intimidating to those not familiar with tabletop gaming. There are tons of fun role playing games, my personal favorites being Fiasco (the game is basically an improv exercise), Dungeon Crawl Classics (their 0-level adventures, where you play “some dude” rather than a hero are a highlight) and of course, Dungeons and Dragons. The newest edition, fifth, has been out for a few years now, with plenty of materials out there to satisfy new and long time gamers alike. It CAN be a bit complex but only if you (or those playing with you) make it. However, beginners shouldn’t have a problem catching on to the basics pretty easily. There’s options for everyone, to play everything. The only limits are your creativity and imagination.
Upcoming articles will help with the actual game, the how-to’s and what you’ll need. This is just an intro, an example of one player/dungeon master and his philosophy on what the game is all about. In a nutshell, D&D is all about stepping out of your skin and being whoever you want. You can be the total opposite of yourself, a ramped up version of yourself, or someone in between. Some players create an intricate backstory before the game begins, some focus on the moment and mold their character based on their reactions to the game’s events. All styles are viable, and there’s NO RULES ON WHO YOU WANT TO BE. Freedom and creativity are not just encouraged, but rewarded. Players at the table benefit from great characterization in several ways. Feeling like you’re shaping the world around you, not just along for the ride creates a vivid, vibrant picture in your mind of the game world. This helps in solving puzzles, gaining favor with NPC’s and maybe even a boon from the gods (DM’s love great players and always reward them). On the flip side, new players tend to overly focus on the rules and mechanics to not feel “lost”, especially if they are in a game with seasoned players. That can be an issue, and I encourage friends to try the game together, and learn as they go. There’s no wrong way to play D&D, and if the whole group learns together, they can grow as a team together. Teamwork, that’s also a big part of the game, but that’s a subject for another time.
I think an example of a reluctant player finding their “niche” and running with it would sum it all up nicely. Not long after the launch of 5th edition, I played in a single session game, referred to as a “one shot”, with some seasoned role players. One of the players brought a friend along who wanted to “just hang out and watch”. With a little encouragement from the group, we talked him into joining us. We threw together a quick character, your basic fighter. He was a bit of an introverted guy, so he played it as the strong, silent type. Because of that, as the game got going and we riffed with each other, making jokes and having a good time, he was a bit left out. I asked if there was anything I could do to help him have a good time and he quickly replied “Are you kidding, this is great!”. As the story progressed, we finally had some bad guys to deal with. One of our more charismatic characters tried to talk our way out, with little success. That’s when our strong, silent fighter suggested trying to intimidate them with JUST A LOOK. You know, classic Eastwood style stink eye. Needless to say, no fight took place. After that, anytime we were in a fight and his turn came up, he always said a little something at the start of his turn. Nothing major, just a short “I got this” or “Time for some light reading” before swinging his sword and laying bad guys down. It got to the point where we all were looking forward to his turns more that our own! When the game session came to an end, we all had a great time and he became a player I’d sit at a table with many times. He even played a bard once!
I told that story, not just because it’s a good one, but to illustrate that there’s nothing to be intimidated by and anyone can find a place at the game table. Get some friends together and give it a try! For what you’ll need to make it happen, keep your eye on Popgeeks for next time, when I’ll go into more detail on that. In the meantime head to your local gaming shop, meetup page or college bulletin board and watch local gamers do their thing.
So, that’s it for now! Be on the lookout for more tidbits, tips and advice on sitting at a table and being foolish!
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