D&D for Dummies

Let’s get one thing straight. Reading this post does NOT mean that you are a dummy…or even that you have no knowledge of Dungeons and Dragons. I just have a thing for alliteration and witty titles. Even if you aren’t a geek per say, odds are you have heard of D&D in some way, shape, or form. At over 40 years old and played by over 20 million people worldwide according to Entertainment.Time.com, D&D is one of the most successful and popular games of all time. Period. However, despite its popularity, many still have little understanding of  D&D and its massive subculture. So, as this blog is going to be centering entirely around this tabletop RPG, let’s have a little crash course in D&D, shall we?

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The first concepts for D&D were inspired by fantasy wargames of the 1960’s as told by D&D manufacturer, Wizards of the Coast. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, two wargame enthusiasts, decided to add a new level of storytelling and customization to these wargames by making the generic adventurers more individual and unique through personalized backstories and abilities. Thus the fantasy role playing game was born. Over the years as it was ever expanded upon and updated, D&D only continued to soar in popularity, hitting its highest craze around the 1980’s.

So, what exactly is D&D? In simplest terms, D&D is an ongoing, interactive fantasy story. Players are the characters of these stories. Every story, formally referred to as a campaign, is run by one person dubbed the “Dungeon Master” or DM for short. The DM is the “god” of the campaign, in charge of managing the world, enemies, NPCs (Non-Player Characters), and all the PCs (Player Characters) and their respective plot lines. The DM is the ultimate judge with unlimited power within the campaign, though a good DM knows to not abuse this power and be fair to their players. With great power comes great responsibility, you might say (just couldn’t help myself).

D&D comes in many different editions, each with its own sets of rules, monsters, classes, races, worlds, etc. The most recent is 5th edition which is the one I will be focusing on in this blog as it is the edition I am most familiar with. While there are many supplements for every edition, the one must-have for any new player is the Player’s Handbook which details how to make an adventurer as well as the basic rules of game play. The player must choose a race which can include anything from the more common Human or Elf to the more exotic half-devil Tiefling or reptilian Dragonborn. In addition to their species, players choose a particular classification of adventurer or class which specialize in any number of unique playstyles ranging from the spell-slinging Wizard to the devious but lethal Rogue to the battle-maniac Barbarian to the healing Cleric. From there, players outfit their characters with weapons and roll up their stats.

Speaking of rolling, now would be a good time to mention another of the most recognizable and essential tools of any D&D player. Dice.

D&D (as well as near every other tabletop RPG) use various multi-sided dice in order to determine whether any course of action a PC may take is a success or failure. A basic set of dice includes four, six, eight, ten, twelve, and the ever popular (and game-changing) twenty sided dice. Shorthand for dice is “d” plus the number of sides such as a “d20” while rolling a certain kind of dice multiple times such as an eight sided dice three time would be written “3d8.”

So, a player has a race, class, items, and stats for their character. Last but most certainly not least, the player creates a story for their character to bring them to life, things like why said character became an adventurer or any secrets from their past that may affect them during the campaign. Once all PCs are assembled, the DM sets the stage and sends them out on their adventure. A D&D campaign is played in sessions that can take any number of hours (at the very least 2 or 3, in my opinion) and a single story arc could carry across weeks or even months. Game play is split between role playing or interacting with other PCs and NPCs as your character (the story-heavy half of the game) and encounters or battles in which the PCs fight against all sorts of monsters and villains (the action heavy half of the game). The direction and outcome of any campaign is influenced by how the players interact with the world and each other, the mercy or malice of the DM, and the roll of the dice determining critical success or failure.

D&D is an absolutely MASSIVE game. Here I am trying to hold back and give the barest, simplest yet adequate explanation for this game…and look how long I’ve rambled on already! Even all this is just the tip of the iceberg for this king of tabletop RPGs. However, I do hope that those poor, unfortunate souls who knew nothing of D&D will walk away from this with a bit more understanding of just what the game is. If I’ve aroused your interest about this game, I encourage you to look up more online (Wizards of the Coast is a great place to start). If you don’t want to go through all that effort, don’t worry. I’ll be providing plenty of D&D goodness in the weeks to come!