Friday, June 2, 2017

A Beginner's Guide to D&D

Dungeons and Dragons--and by extension, Pathfinder--has been making a comeback over the last few years, with more people taking the opportunity to try their hand at it. The game was incredibly popular during the late '70s, '80s, and early '90s, fading more into the background by the early 2000s. For a while, although people knew about it, D&D was more of a niche activity than something large groups of people were actively playing.

However, in more recent years, people have been talking about it more, and the number of people playing is once again expanding. Even people who wouldn’t consider themselves geeks have been experimenting with it, as the game offers a unique experience that board games cannot. Although it may be limited to my small-town point of view, more women, at least in rural areas like my own, are getting into it too, joining groups that were once dominated mainly by men.

There are many reasons these tabletop RPGs can be appealing. They are far more interactive than a video game, they allow you to be more creative, and they can provide a strong social element. These games are also a lot of fun, especially if you land with a group you can jive with well.

If you are a beginner, there are a few things to consider that can help cultivate a greater experience transitioning into tabletop gaming.

Invest in your own set of dice. Usually, people will be able to loan you dice, but finding a set of dice you love and can take with you to each of your games can help you feel more connected to your own character. Much like your character, your dice become uniquely yours. Most comic book or gaming stores will carry at least a few collections, but there are also hundreds of places to get incredibly unique dice sets online. Amazon carries a vast variety of options for decent prices, or you can check out some dice-specific websites to order customized sets.

Find out what kind of DM/GM you have. The Dungeon Master/Game Master does not have to follow a specific rule book on how they lead the campaign. Some DMs/GMs prefer to have players roll for practically every action/interaction they wish to complete. Others like to allow more role-playing into the game, leaving rolling for specific actions or communications.

For example, if a DM wants you to roll for everything, that means rolling for how long it takes you to get from point A to B and whether you successfully pull up your pants, walk in a straight line, draw your weapon, carry a normal conversation, etc. A DM who limits what you roll for usually isn’t so concerned about getting you to drop a D20 on determining if your character can put one foot in front of the other. In these cases, rolling will come into play for battles and feats like successfully crossing a tightrope or distracting the potions master with your wood while your cohorts steal his wares.

As a beginner, knowing which category your DM falls into is important because it can be a factor in how you assign your character stats. If you have to roll more often for basic functions, you may want to put higher stats in a trait that will help with those rather than stacking up traits for specific functions only.

Familiarize yourself with the edition’s races/classes. Depending on what edition you are playing, or whether you are playing Pathfinder instead of D&D, both the classes and the races available can vary. Every class has access to different traits, bonuses, and feats, as does every race. Some classes do not work very well with some races, while other races can sometimes receive bonuses for being combined with certain classes.

Character creating often goes far more in-depth than it would in your typical video game because there is no existing outline for your character. Everything from race and gender to appearance, history, lifestyle, etc. is essentially in your hands. Your DM may provide specific requests for you to keep your character within certain parameters, but essentially, you’re in control. Familiarizing yourself with the available classes and races can give you a better idea of the direction you would like to go.

Fortunately, there are plenty of guides online, as well as PDFs available for most editions, so you have the ability to do your research without having to locate hard copies of the books. There are also many handy websites that can walk you through the benefits of each of the different classes and races, as well as provide you with different ideas on how you can play them.

Get creative with your character. Before you even receive your character sheet and start rolling for your stats, start thinking about who your character is. If you want to be a love-sick hobbit obsessed with tall elves who casts spells using a purple, sparkly wand--go for it. Maybe you want to be a half-elf who tries to steal from everyone you encounter. Or a dwarf who tries to sweet-talk your way out of everything. Don’t be afraid to get creative and have fun with it.

You can choose to play it safe and stick with the kind of character you are most familiar with from video games, or go wild and be adventurous right off the bat. Whatever makes you feel most comfortable and excited, go for it.

Adding things like weaknesses also helps to present a well-rounded character. It can be anything from a serious weakness (like asthma) to an allergic reaction to the colour pink, an obsession with eating unicorn poop, a drug problem, an Achilles’ heel--anything. Give your character quirks, personality, and then get in their heads so you feel comfortable role-playing them.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you aren’t sure how something works, you don’t understand how to do your character sheet, or you’re genuinely confused about something, ask the DM or a seasoned player. Most people are genuinely willing to help newbies get a better understanding of the game. When there are a few new players in your group, it may be beneficial to see if the DM is willing to run a small side campaign with all the newbies. This can help give you the opportunity to become more comfortable with how the game plays. Either way, the more you ask and learn, the easier it will be to fully engage yourself in your campaigns.

Try not to take the game too seriously. Once you start playing, personalities can clash, people can be jerks. Remember, everyone is trying to get into character, and some will purposely create characters who are slightly less than likeable. Try not to take their actions personally--it’s a game and everyone is there to have fun. If one player has their character coming after your own, keep it in character. Maybe they designed their character to dislike your race or certain traits you show.

When something happens to your character that you don’t like or a game doesn’t go the way you thought it should, remember it’s not the end of the world. Turn it around into a way to enjoy it.

If there is a genuine issue, talk to the DM or other players about it directly.

Have fun. Essentially, these games are really just about having a good time and escaping from reality for a while. They’re an opportunity to experience a different kind of adventure, exercise your imagination, and spend an evening challenging yourself creatively.

Work to create the kind of gaming atmosphere you want to enjoy yourself in. This could mean taking over a table at a local gaming shop or library with a group of people, pigging out on junk food, and ignoring the world.

It could also mean hosting the games at someone’s house and having a potluck dinner once every few weeks so that everyone can enjoy the game over some great home-cooked food. Whatever type of experience it is you are looking for, look for a group of players who want the same thing. You may even surprise yourself by making a few new good friends through it.

Have you been thinking of playing, or are preparing to play, D&D or Pathfinder for the first time? If so, what questions do you have as a beginner?


Post a Comment