Suggested read-along music:
So there I am, in the living room of my best friend’s house. Four of us are sitting at a green suede card table. There are cans of Mountain Dew piling up on the floor around us, pencils, paper, and dice litter our play areas. A pile of rule books stacked up to my knee serves as a table for pizza. Aric huddles behind a cardboard screen, muttering to himself, checking numbers, and throwing dice. We all watch in anticipation as he jots down some numbers.
“You open the door to a long unlit hallway.” He says with an overly serious face.
Austin, a human paladin, steps forth with the torch and lights the nearest sconce.
“Too bad, you set off a trip-wire and are shot by (Aric pauses as he rolls some dice and reads a chart) two crossbow bolts for 13 damage.”
That was the first time I ever played Dungeons and Dragons. My character was a half-orc barbarian, and I thought he was the coolest character in the whole world. We spent a full day inventing our characters and a week picking out and painting the models we would use to play them.
When creating a character you “roll your stats” which means your take various numerically sided die (that’s singular for dice) and you roll them to randomly generate your characters vital statistics. Those are things like health, when a creature hits you (or you forget to check a room for traps and get shot for 13 damage) points are deducted from your total hit points. In the D&D universe orcs are considered to be relatively stupid creatures with a tenacity tendency for strength and constitution. These stats determine the characters ability to wield progressively heavier weapons and hit points respectively. While rolling your stats sometimes you get a number that is a bit odd for your character’s race. While rolling my stereotypical half-orc, I rolled a 17 for intelligence. This was the highest intelligence roll out of all my friends and we laughed endlessly at the possibilities of a half-orc wizard. I ended up with a character that could speak three languages (I still think Aric invented a monster that spoke Aquan just so I wouldn’t feel useless).
We would draw out the corridors and rooms on a large gridded sheet with dry erase marker so we could better imagine our characters moving and fighting in unison. It started, like all good middle-earth type things, in a tavern. My character was banned from the tavern because he was half-orc, and Austin (playing a champion of light and justice) couldn’t converse with the known evil doer, so that left Jeff. He played a human monk. This is a character that masters the use of fists instead of weapons and spells. He was true neutral (on a scale of nine levels of alignment he was smack dab in the middle) so conversing with the shady man was no problem for his character. The shady man told Geoff (Jeff’s character’s name…) about a treasure buried deep within the caves of the Blind Man’s Mountain outside the town. It cost us a gold piece and two copper for the ale and information. With that we were off on our journey, marching at night to hide my half-orc from sight.
Our imaginations running wild with the possibilities of this open world and the dangers of the road that lay ahead. Aric is all too excited as he rolls his dice and laughs behind his tri-fold blinders.
“You are awaken by awake to the sound of a branch snapping” This is the standard amount of information a game master gives you.
From here you have limitless options of what you can do. You can go back to sleep and nothing could happen, or you could look up and find a small child who has run away from home, or it could be goblins looking to kill you and steal your supplies.We all decide to take the risk and go back to sleep, Aric rolls the dice and frowns. “You sleep peacefully through the day and awaken refreshed.”
In short we made it to the mountain where we all died attempting to get to the treasure. A water fairy was behind the first door on the left and I was the only character that could speak to it, I asked it a bunch of useless questions while my friends rolled to detect traps and magic, we engaged and nearly killed the creature, but I nearly killed myself with a critical miss roll (that means you miss so badly that you hit yourself with your own weapon) and then the fairy shot me with a magic missile and our adventure was over. We revisited this scenario throughout the years and encountered different challenges each time. Reaching the fabled treasure at the heart of the mountain often, occasionally dying or starting a new campaign halfway through. It was always fun, we were always laughing, and those are times I will never forget.
The battle between the characters and their enemies, the desire of the game master to create a challenging experience and pit the most difficult situations against his friend, and the innate love of gambling that all human beings have, make D&D a game that will continue to be played for generations. There are groups at your local comic store that play weekly if not daily. Go and see what it is all about. You’ll make friends with good people and laugh about the hilarious hijinks your band of merry adventurers will find their way in to and out of again. An iImmersive gaming experience that will leaves you wanting more and forces you to interact face-to-face with other live human beings in real life is are all part of the table-top gaming experience.