Why DnD Is One Of The Best Things You Can Ever Learn
By Emily (she/her), who is a massive bookworm and firm believer that there’s a Taylor Swift song for every occasion.
Ask almost anyone what makes a nerd, and the words Dungeons and Dragons are almost certain to pop up. It does, after all, have a reputation: slightly odd teenage boys dressed up in a dank basement. Thanks to smash-hit Stranger Things, which draws heavily on Dungeons and Dragons for its inspo, I’m glad to say that image is changing. Suddenly, DnD is cool. So, if you’ve heard about DnD but you’re wondering whether it’s for you, or if you want to try it out but took one look at the technical jargon and started backing slowly away, never fear! I’ve put together a beginners’ guide to tell you what to do and why I love it.
First, a quick summary of the game. Players create their own characters, with different abilities based on race and class. One person acts as the Dungeon Master (DM), who creates a fantasy universe for everyone's characters to inhabit. The DM will present the players with an adventure, putting challenges, riddles or enemies in their path, and the players have to use their creativity to overcome the obstacles and return victorious. The catch? The whole game depends on dice. That’s one of the reasons it’s so fun — those dice rolls can take you in all sorts of wild directions. Let me give you a scenario:
The DM tells you a magic portal has appeared. The portal seems dangerous. Your task is to close it. One of your friends decides to throw a spell at the portal. They roll a 20-sided dice, and the spell succeeds. However, the portal feeds on magic, and grows. Your other friend attempts to locate the source of the portal, but fails to roll high enough on perception to spot it. It’s down to you. You move closer to the portal to investigate it, and feel yourself being sucked in. You roll for strength. You fail. You and your friends have been portalled to space…You only left the tavern to find another barrel of ale.
In DnD, anything goes. But, to make the most of the game, here are my top tips.
- Find a good group. DnD works best when you’re surrounded by good people. Ask some friends if they fancy a wacky afternoon where you can all learn together. Or, if you don’t know anyone who’d be up for it, there are plenty of friendly online communities like Roll 20 looking to link up players and run online sessions. Cheesy as it sounds, in a world full of magical possibilities, the magic of friendship is the real secret to success.
- Create a character you like. In DnD you can be anyone from a human, to an elf, to a small frog person. So don’t be afraid to experiment with different options before you commit. Then comes picking a class, which determines your character’s skills, and thus what kind of role you take in the group. Someone who wants to shy away from combat would be better in a class like Cleric or Bard, and someone who likes to smack first and ask questions later is more suited to a class like Barbarian. You also get to come up with your character’s backstory — the more elaborate the better. As long as your character will work with the rest of your group, go as crazy as you dare…
- Get equipped. You’ll need a pen and paper to write down notes, riddles, and fun character quotes. (To preserve gems like, “I call it Jeff.” “You call the mystical artefact…Jeff?” “Yes.”) You’ll also want to print off a character sheet, so you can keep note of your stats and equipment. And, buying pretty dice sets to use is a wildly addictive hobby. I’d recommend setting yourself up on DnD Beyond, where you can keep track of dice, character stats and campaign notes all in one place. Finally, all good adventures start with a top-quality snack selection, so bust out the Doritos to sustain you on your quest.
- Ease into it. Don’t go into your first session expecting to play a three-year long, meticulously-planned Lord of the Rings style epic. Oneshots, (small, one-off mini-games), are a great place to start. They typically have a simple premise with a single goal, and allow you to inject humour and creativity to keep things fun. Since they’re short, you don’t need to worry about long term commitment, and they get you used to rolling dice and finding where everything is on your character sheet.
- Check out some streamers. I came to the game later than a lot of my friends, and the best way of learning was to watch an established DnD group to see how they played. Three years later, I’m still watching the folks at Highrollers DnD because the universe they’ve created is so immersive, and the characters are so loveable. I am obsessed. I cannot recommend watching them enough if you want to learn more about the game, or even if you’re just looking for some laugh-a-minute entertainment on your bus ride to school. (But be warned…they sneak in gut-wrenching emotional scenes when you’re least expecting it, so beware listening to them in public places unless you want to be caught crying in ASDA.)
I hope this has inspired you to give the game a try. It can be a little overwhelming at first, but you’d be surprised how quickly you get to grips with things. I love playing DnD because it’s a great way to unwind with friends, to unleash my imagination, and to tackle outlandish problems with even more outlandish solutions. (And to snack. Cannot overstate how integral snacking is to DnD!) Use these tips as a launchpad to your own adventures, and see where your creativity can take you. May the dice be ever in your favour!