Dungeons & Dragons Quick-Play Recipe:
- D&D Basic Rules
- A set, or multiple sets, of D&D Dice (app or real; it doesn’t matter)
- 4-6 players (one being Dungeon Master)
- 2-4 hours
- Pencils & paper
Here it is, the inevitable Dungeons & Dragons post.
It can’t be denied how wildly successful the table-top RPG, Dungeons & Dragons, is. It’s been around for decades, gone through countless revisions and updates, spawned movies, games, and books, and has connected millions of players. Yet, I still think it’s severely underrated in mainstream pop-culture.
There’s still so many people who haven’t played it, are confused by it, or simply shun it. For many, it’s confined to the basements of 1980s characters on Stranger Things, and is seen as a game for the uber-nerdy.
Well, maybe it’s time to try something new.
D&D is a table-top RPG of at least 4 or more players, where you go on wacky, fantastical adventures. Your actions in-game are controlled in various ways by the rolling of dice – mostly a d20. Players create characters that mostly resemble those straight out of Tolkien or R.R. Martin’s brain: giants, elves, wizards and warriors, that sort of thing. The game is controlled by a DM (or Dungeon Master), whose role it is to guide players on their journeys and quests, providing obstacles, dangers, and rewards throughout.
Essentially, if the apocalypse happened tomorrow and your now-obsolete copy of Skyrim had to be pawned off for bottle-caps and canned food, D&D is the pencil-and-paper alternative.
What’s great about D&D today is that it’s simpler to play than previous incarnations. It’s creative, chaotic and provides so many opportunities for comedy and improvisation. It’s also more accessible, thanks to the Internet. The makers of the game provide the basic rules and instructions on how to play on the Dungeons & Dragon’s website. They provide guidance on how to create characters (or download pre-made ones), create a story, and play together with friends at the click of a button. There’s free dice-rolling apps on iOS and Android, or you can spend as little as £5 for a bunch on eBay/Amazon. All-in-all, including snacks and maybe a couple of drinks (alcoholic ones can influence the game substantially), hours of game-time with your hearty adventurers can cost as little as £10-£15.
From my personal experience, I’d recommend a few things before you really jump right into the game:
First, let all players read up on the rules. A pre-game session is always a good opportunity for this. Have players who are interested have a read over the game’s mechanics or watch a few videos online (recommendations below) to get a sense of what D&D is about. The game is different for everyone, so don’t think there’s a ‘proper’ way to play D&D. A lot of it is about improvising and going with the flow. As long as you’re keeping things consistent, don’t worry.
Next, choose someone to be a DM. Most of the time, there’s someone in your group who is willing to take this role, but remember it does differ from the other players’ experience. As the game’s guide, it’s the DM’s job to make sure players progress through the story, are challenged by what they encounter, and are rewarded/punished fairly for their actions in game. If you all fancy pitching in for the 5th Edition Starter Set, there’s everything you need to play a game, including a pre-made adventure. Otherwise, as DM, it’s your job to come up with a story for the player’s to go through. There’s a bunch of online tips and tricks for this, and I will include a series called DM Tips on Geek & Sundry to help you out. Little tip: keep it simple to start with. Take inspiration from stories/film/TV you already know.
Then, players create their characters. I would also recommend the DM do this too, as it will help them and players understand the game’s rules. Again, a pre-game session is a perfect opportunity for this, as it can often take time to collate all the stats and info onto your Character Sheets. Make sure you, as players, are creating characters with different skills and capabilities. Mix it up! Have a lumbering Fighter, a quick-witted Rogue, and an oblivious but intellectual Wizard, for example.
Finally, jump into a game. Get together, introduce your characters, and let the DM take you on a journey. Remember, allow all the players to get used to the game. You’re going to make mistakes, rules-wise, and that’s fine. Trust the DM’s judgments because they aren’t there to kill you all and be super evil. They’re almost like a member of your team in that, unless otherwise agreed upon, they’re there to help players progress and have a good time. Spend a good couple of hours in the game, try role-playing as your characters to increase the immersion (DMs, it’s good to reward players who act in accordance with their character’s personalities), and give each player an opportunity to play to their strengths.
D&D is ultimately about escapism and molding the story to what your players want to do. There’s really no set path for you to follow. If you enjoy role-playing more, allow more opportunities for NPC interaction. If you’re more combat-focused, throw waves of enemies at the group and ask players to describe their attacks in detail. Be creative. As a general rule, if an action is physically feasible, let them do it. If it’s a little bit more extravagant, let the roll of a d20 decide. Embrace the uncertain dice rolls; the epic fails and successes, because it’ll be those that you reminisce about after the session.
The game creates so many memorable encounters. I guarantee that by the second or third session, you’ll be talking about events that happened in-game as if they were real experiences. A personal example comes from a D&D group I DM’d for in University. At the very start of the campaign, the story derailed slightly in a tavern and, long-story-short, two members of the group ended up whoring out one of their teammates in order to create a distraction. It resulted in a castrated Orc, a tavern hootenanny, and an ambush gone awry.
So grab some friends, a few spare hours, and delve into one of the most popular and influential bits of pop-culture ever created. Millions of geeks and gamers can’t be wrong, surely?
There’s be more D&D and table-top related posts in the future, but if you’re still looking for more guidance, then head over to the D&D Subreddit for more information by the community.