If you have been around the internet for long enough, especially in its geekier parts, you’ve probably heard of Dungeons and Dragons, or D&D. Maybe you’ve only seen TikToks making fun of different characters, or people making dice. Maybe it looked fun, and you want to join in. Or maybe you’re confused about what the whole thing even is. In any case – you’re in the right place. Unless you’re a seasoned D&D player, you will probably learn something new from this article.
What is a TTRPG?
Before we dive into D&D, let’s talk about TTRPGs – or tabletop roleplaying games. Tabletop roleplaying games (TTRPGs) are a unique and immersive form of interactive storytelling, where players take on the roles of fictional characters and work together to create a shared narrative.
One of the players serves as the game master (GM) or dungeon master (DM) who guides the story and controls non-player characters (NPCs). The players describe their characters’ actions and decisions, and the GM interprets those actions and narrates the consequences. TTRPGs are unique in that they allow for infinite possibilities and outcomes, as the story is shaped by the players’ choices and the GM’s responses.
You can think of a TTRPG as a cross between a board game, a video game, and an improv theater performance.
Unlike a regular board game, where the rules are fixed and the outcomes are predictable, TTRPGs offer an open-ended and unpredictable experience that depends on the creativity and collaboration of the players.
The combat, exploration, and puzzle-solving are similar to those of video games – in fact, my first encounter with D&D was through a video game, “Neverwinter Nights”. Only later have I realized that it’s a whole thing outside the game I played! However, unlike video games, in TTRPGs there’s the added element of human interaction and creativity – after all, even the NPCs have a person behind them.
Finally, like an improv theater performance, TTRPGs require players to stay in character, make quick decisions, and adapt to unexpected challenges. Which, usually, leads to some crazy shenanigans – depending on your group of players, of course.
What is Dungeons & Dragons?
D&D is the parent of modern-day TTRPG. First published in 1974 by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, D&D has since become a cultural phenomenon, inspiring countless novels, movies, and video games. The game is set in a universe known as the Forgotten Realms, where players can explore vast dungeons, battle fearsome dragons, and interact with a diverse cast of characters.
D&D is played using a set of rules and mechanics that govern combat, skills, and other actions. Players create their characters by choosing a race (such as human, elf, or dwarf) and a class (such as fighter, wizard, or rogue), and then assigning ability scores (such as strength, dexterity, and charisma) that determine their character’s strengths and weaknesses.
The GM then sets up a story or adventure for the players to embark on, which can range from rescuing a princess from a dragon’s lair to investigating a haunted castle. The Forgotten Realms are a medieval-like setting, which draws a lot of people towards the game purely for the aesthetic. It is also heavily influenced by Lord of the Rings, which is pretty evident even from the races alone.
While there are several canon adventures players can run, there are really no limits on the various stories that can be created in this universe. Everything under the D&D rules and setting is considered “D&D”, however custom rules, places, items, creatures, and any other content that is not directly based on the original is called “homebrew”. In my (granted, very limited) experience with D&D, there’s rarely a game with zero homebrew content.
I have just started DMing recently and let me tell you – almost every silly interaction my players have with one of my pre-made characters prompts me to frantically write down more ideas for funny beasts, items, locations, and sometimes even rules! Not to mention that every player’s quirks and character often inspire me to either adjust existing entities or create entirely new ones, because I love to see the players surprised and enjoying the game.
The players describe their characters’ actions and decisions, rolling dice to determine the outcome of their actions. For example, a player might roll a twenty-sided die (called a d20) to determine whether their character successfully hits an enemy in combat, or roll a six-sided die (called a d6) to determine how much damage their character deals with a spell.
The GM uses their own set of rules and mechanics to determine the outcomes of the players’ actions, taking into account factors such as the difficulty of the task, the character’s abilities, and the randomness of the dice rolls. Despite using properly balanced dice (or even digital alternatives, if playing online), players are often superstitious about “good” and “bad” dice. There’s even “dice jail”, where dice that rolled a low score one time too many go for timeout, until they “change their behavior”.
Whether you’re a seasoned role-player or a newcomer to the world of TTRPGs, D&D offers a rich and rewarding experience that can be tailored to your preferences and playstyle.
You can choose to focus on combat and dungeon-crawling, or on social interactions and political intrigue. You can create a lighthearted and humorous campaign, or a dark and serious one. The possibilities are endless, limited only by your imagination and creativity. It’s a unique and exciting form of interactive storytelling that offers a wide range of experiences and possibilities for players of all backgrounds and interests.
If you’re even a little bit curious about it, give D&D a chance – you might just discover a new hobby that brings you joy and inspiration for years to come.
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