It seems odd to think of today’s world as a place where people of all ages are embracing fantasy and sci-fi with such passion. Dungeons & Dragons (also know as DnD), without question, is the foundation stone on which the Role Playing Game (RPG) world is built. But when looking back, DnD had a humble beginning. In this article, we’ll explain what is Dungeons and Dragons and how to play it!
History of Dungeons and Dragons
Today alternative worlds are everywhere. Superhero movie franchises account for millions of dollars of income to the film industry, TV shows (such as Game of Thrones), and film adaptations (such as Lord of The Rings). All this made fantasy cool! We see escapist video games in every home and the whole industry has risen up around comic conventions.
But in the mid-’70s, when the first D&D rules were published, things were different. The young men playing it (and it was pretty much always young men back then) would generally be the uncool set, the oddballs and outsiders. The idea of trying to explain to people how you spent your evenings pretending to be questing heroes, slaying hordes of goblins, and delving into deep underground labyrinths was a conversation not worth having (believe us, we know, we were there).
But D&D endured, it spawned a community and it encouraged other gamers to write their own game systems. Stories that took its players out into deep space or the realms of Lovecraft-inspired horror that allowed you to explore dystopian futures or historical pasts.
This community eventually joined with others – film, books, and TV – to become a movement, a genre, and industry. Today this movement is part of everyday life. So when you watch the latest Marvel film, play Halo on your X-box or checking out pictures of Cosplayers dressed as Daenerys Targaryen, just remember that it is D&D which forms an important part of the platform that all of that is built on.
How to play Dungeons and Dragons
What remains revolutionary about D&D is its fluidity. While board games, no matter how complex, follow a logical sequence of events, Dungeons and Dragons is based on a more fluid structure. It’s much about the interaction between the players and the Dungeon Master – the referee who controls and directs the flow of action as it is about actual rules.
D&D could be seen as being part game, part story-telling, and part social interaction. When learning how to play Dungeons and Dragons, you must realize that it is less about the players following the rules as the rules are more turning your imagination into gameplay.
Each player generates a character via a series of dice rolled statistics (such as strength and intelligence), chose a race, a profession, and then equip the character with various weapons and wizardly items, trappings, and armour. They are then ready to head out into the world and make a name for themself.
The world of D&D generally being a Tolkien-esque medieval fantasy, but again, this is a game of the imagination and so the world is limited only by the Dungeon Master’s flights of fancy. We personally have adventured in a Japanese-infused water world of islands and open seas. We even have jumped in a Micheal Moorcock inspired realm of surreal science-fantasy as well as the more usual European mythology driven land that Tolkien himself would easily recognize.
The world is your oyster, as they say, though in that world the oysters are possibly ten times the size and likely to give you a nasty bite!
Basic Rules of Dungeons and Dragons
So, you have a character to play and a world to explore. Let’s get adventuring!
Dungeons and Dragons, as the name suggests, revolves around the concept of exploring dungeons, a loose term which could represent a castle basement, a monster’s lair, a bandit stronghold, and occasionally a dragon’s den. The rules are flexible enough that campaigns, the name given to your series of adventures in this brave new world, might eventually include everything from mass battles to hopping through other dimensions and encounters with deities to unlocking the magical secrets of the universe. But to begin with, things will be a little more modest.
One person takes the role of the Dungeon Master (DM) whilst the others play characters in that world. Gameplay follows a flow of dialogue, the DM describes what the players can see, while the players respond with their actions. Then the game mechanics are used to decide any consequences. So, the DM might tell the players that they are stood in front of a locked door – the players elect the strongest warrior to try to break it down and dice are rolled. The thrown result is compared with the player’s strength to see if he is successful or not.
Dice roles provide the random factor in the game. Almost anything that you do (attack a zombie, scale a wall, jump across a chasm, cast a spell) all have a chance of failing. Success or failure is modified by the player’s statistics but ultimately governed by the dice rolls. Luck is a fickle mistress!
And so you travel through the world, you explore and adventure, navigate and negotiate, steal and storm, fight with sword and spell, rise from unknown novices to the stuff of legend. Games are open-ended with one adventure often being just a brief chapter in a bigger story.
How Many People Play Game of Dungeons & Dragons?
Again one of the great things about D&D is that even the amount of players involved is a fluid concept. One person has to be the DM, directing the flow of events in their world, but that person can also be a player in another person’s world. Groups of players often take turns alternating their roles between players and DM they choose.
So apart from the DM, who is more like a god of the world than a player in it (though don’t fan their ego by telling them that), a party of adventurers can be of any number. With the game being based on dialogue and social interaction, it is still possible to play with just one player. Two is more enjoyable but based on our experience the optimum amount is three or four. Any more and things begin to get a bit too chaotic.
But just because one adventure featured certain players, the next adventure might feature a slightly different set of faces, in the same way that characters in a story move in and out of the main dialogue. Perfect if you have a busy schedule and can’t commit to playing as regularly as everyone else. A neat trick indeed.
What do you need to play D&D?
It has been said that football is such a popular sport because it requires very little set up. It takes a ball and some players and you can have a kick about it. Dungeons & Dragons is similar. Once you have purchased the rules, you can get by with very little. You need a figurine to represent your character, a character sheet showing their statistics, a bag of polyhedral dice, and a map to explore. But most of what takes place is in the collective imagination of those sat append the table.
As you are only able to see the places you have already explored, the rest remains in a mystery. The map is often revealed by using a series of floor plans, card squares, and linking corridors. This can be as simple as shapes you have cut from a cardboard box or a map sketched out on squared paper.
Eventually, you might want to invest in professionally printed floor plans, paint your figurines, and add various visual aids, such as doorways and altars as required to help set the scene. But you can still start very simply, which also means cheaply. You can grow your gaming trappings as you grow as players.
When Should Players Get Magic Items?
The world that you adventure in is a magical one. By that we mean that it is full of fantastic creatures, spell-casting wizards, religious warriors who can send the undead back to the grave and it has magical items in it. These can be anything from enchanted swords and magic rings to potions and magical armour, and again the bounds of such items are limited only by the DM’s imagination.
One of the big debates in D&D is how much magic should be available to the players? Players will generally find magical items in the course of their adventuring, when they capture a dragon’s treasure hoard or as a reward for returning the local Lord’s daughter safely to him. But it is all about getting the balance right. If the players acquire too much, if they all have impenetrable armour and swords which can cut through anything, demons in bottles and rings of unlimited wishes then they become indefatigable super-heroes which take all the risk out of the game. Be too mean with what they are allowed to find and you take all the fun out of playing. But a good DM will gauge what suits the players’ needs as well as their own therefore he can compensate accordingly.
And that, in brief, is why Dungeons and Dragons has not only stood the test of time but grown from a niche past-time into a major industry. No two worlds are the same. The players grow their own personalities separate from the person playing them. The world around them evolves, often due to their actions while the past is the stuff of legend and the future is unwritten. Doesn’t that sound cool?
This is how you play Dungeons and Dragons, my friends! Now go and explore the game yourself! But don’t forget to check out our cool metal dnd dice sets before!