You’ve all heard about Dungeons and Dragons before. Maybe it was that 1983 cartoon where an amusement park toller coaster teleported a pack of kids to the titular realm. Maybe it was the series of video games. Perhaps you’ve just played some video game since that was inspired by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson’s masterpiece of tabletop entertainment.
No! I know where you’ve heard of it before! All the other articles of mine where I talk about it like I live and breathe it. You’ve totally read those, right? I knew you had. Thanks. You’re a real pal. <3
“But what exactly is Dungeons and Dragons?”
NecronPariah on Reddit described it like this: “It’s like if a weekly improv-acting group had a recurring Lord-of-the-Rings-themed sketch where everyone made up their own characters, and then used rules based on dice-based probability to work out the epic battles.”
On Twitter, @Beth described it as “collaborative storytelling with dice.”
Ronin (totally not me – different Ronin) called it, “Storytelling, collective problem solving and a bit of improvisational theater in a set of rules.”
These are all accurate descriptions for the sort of thing you can expect sitting down to play D&D. My personal elevator pitch is this: Have you ever watched a scary movie and yelled at the character to not go in the door you think the zombie’s behind? In D&D, YOU are that character and YOU decide whether or not to open that door. I won’t go into the history of what the game is about. That’s pasted all over the Internet. I want to focus on what you can expect from Dungeons and Dragons and tabletop RPGs like it, but I’m going to do as terrible a job at actually explaining it as I can. Deal? Cool. Let’s roll.
“But D&D is for basement-dwelling nerds.”
First of all, ouch. Good burn, bro. May need some aloe now. Maybe that was true back in the ’70s when basements were the go-to places to hang out, but we’re in 2016 now. Vin Diesel plays D&D. He even released a movie recently entitled “The Last Witch Hunter” that based off his old D&D character. He’s not the only one either. Hundreds of celebrities play. Thousands upon thousands of people play.
“I don’t care about fantasy games.”
There’s other options! Want to be a ship’s captain in the Star Wars universe? Done. How about Firefly? There’s a system for that. Want to be a robot samurai roaming the Wild West? There’s even a system in place for that. It doesn’t have to be D&D and it doesn’t have to be fantasy. There’s a game for everyone and if there isn’t an official system then fans have already created one for themselves.
“I’m just not sure, Robert.”
Not sure still? That’s fine. Here’s something for you to try out if you have an open mind. Every Thursday at 7PM on the video game streaming service, Twitch, there’s a group of voice actors that get together and play via the Geek and Sundry channel. The series is called Critical Role. These are professional voice actors and they are some of the most phenomenal people I’ve ever watched. If you just want to see what the game entails, check it out. You don’t have to communicate. You can simply lurk. On a good night the number of people watching at any one time can crest well beyond the thousands.
Dungeons and Dragons is a great way to get together with your friends on a consistent basis and have something fun to do each time. One person acts as Game Master and sets up an adventure for everyone else to go through. This could be as simple as exploring a haunted mansion or saving the kingdom from a rampaging dragon. The GM is basically playing everyone that the players aren’t. He gathers his notes on game day after preparing and, alongside the players, helps tell a collaborative story. I highly recommend checking the game out, checking out the wonderful voice actors and adventures that Matthew Mercer puts on for his players on Critical Role, or simply checking out local gaming groups in your area to take yourself to the next level.
You can even look for online groups so you can play without ever needing to leave your basement, my fellow hermit.