...Wants Are Many
Now, there's an old saying that goes something like this: “In theory, there isn't any difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” The truth is you will likely be hard-pressed to find someone who is committed enough to be willing to DM just for you and do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to rules. Being a Dungeon Master is a lot of work even under the best of circumstances. If you manage to find one that is ready and able to give you that personalized an experience, understand that you will have found not just a rare DM but in all likelihood a truly rare individual. You had best not abuse that fact.
In light of that here are a few things you can have ready to help make your DM's job easier, to show you appreciate them, and to show you have some skin in the game, so to speak. Like all things, how much you will get out of it is directly related to how much you're willing to put into it. This is where you have to decide how much money, if any, you are willing to spend on this little venture. Every good hobby has a low barrier to entry and Wizards of the Coast has been putting a lot of time and effort into making sure that the same holds true for D&D. These things are not needed in the strictest sense, but you will want to get comfortable with having and using them. They get used a lot. Everything listed in this next segment can be obtained for extremely cheap or free. There are also premium options but those will not matter unless you decide to continue with the
• Dice – In my last article, I mentioned that one of the cool aspects of this form of storytelling is that nobody knows what's going to happen next. That goes for the DM and players alike. There are two reasons for this. The first I've already mentioned, but I'll repeat it here: no one person tells the entire story. Dice are the other reason. As the DM takes you through the story they will frequently be asking you to roll one or more of these dice. How those dice fall has a direct impact on how the story progresses, even if the player is not aware of it at the time. D&D uses more than just your run of the mill 6-sided cubes for dice. You can't just raid an old Monopoly box and be good to go, but don't worry. They're easy enough to obtain. Just go to any game shop and tell them you need a set of dice for D&D. They'll know what do, and you should end up with a set of 7 for less than $10. You may also be able to round up or borrow a spare set from another player.
• A Copy of the Rules – Like so many other games, rulings on the field and questions regarding the rules happen all the time. When these situations come up, you are more likely to have an interest in knowing what the rules actually state. Having a copy handy will reward that interest and provide a service both to your fellow players and potentially to your DM. A copy of the Player's Handbook, the primary source of rules for you as a player, retails for around $50. That's a little steep for some people, especially those just testing the waters. The good folks at Wizards of the Coast (the company that “makes” D&D) understand that, and have a solution for you. They boiled down the Handbook to only the most basic and practical info and posted it in the form of a 30-ish page PDF file to their website, for free.
• A Notebook/Paper Pad – Nobody remembers everything. Period. Read your favorite fantasy novel/series, then go back and read it again a couple months later. Chances are you only remember a fraction of what happened and you don't necessarily remember it all correctly. Trust me if it's true when you're reading a fantasy novel, it will be true when you are essentially living one. In a pinch – or if you're really broke/stingy – most smartphones/tablets have an app built-in for typing notes. You can also download an app like Evernote or OneNote. You could also just go to your nearest drug store or office supply store and cough up $5 or so for a decent set.
• A Character Sheet – Without diving too deep into detail, a character sheet is basically a collection of important numbers and factoids about the person you will be playing, all crammed on to an 8.5” x 11” piece of paper. You'll probably refer to this more than the rules. You can create your own if you really want to but, once again, Wizards of the Coast has your back. You can go here to download ready-to-use character sheets free of charge.
That should cover the things that you might want to invest in leading up to your first dive into the game. There are two more things that are useful but they are not material objects. They have more to do with you but having these can only help you on your journey. You'll do well to have
• Imagination – It should go without saying but it bares mentioning all the same. This game is limited only by your imagination, so the stronger and more active it is, the more fun you are going to have. If we're being honest though, and if you're like most people, you are probably feeling rather disappointed by the state of your own imagination. That's fine. Don't worry. Imagination works according to the same rules as every other muscle in your body. If you feed it, use it, stretch it, push it, it will get stronger. It's going to take a willingness to stick it out for a few weeks or maybe even months to start seeing results. In other words, it's going to take
• Patience – Remember how I mentioned before that you already knew how to play D&D because it was like the games you probably played in your childhood? Sadly, childhood is usually the last time that we used our imaginations in this way, or this extensively. To extend the metaphor, be ready to discover just how out-of-shape your imagination and accept that one workout is not going to reverse years or maybe decades of disuse in one go. Since a typical session of D&D can last 2-3 hours at minimum, you may even come out of your first game with a bit of a headache. But like every workout, the first one is always the hardest. It only gets easier, and you may quickly find out that it's also worth it.
• Rules – A game truly becomes a game when behaviors are restricted and what might be an easy or relatively simple objective gets complicated and more difficult with obstacles. In the case of D&D, studying all the official rules is about on par with reading an earlier installment of the Harry Potter series. Fortunately, at the outset you only need to be aware that such rules exist, and to be willing to go along. Most rules-related work and responsibility fall to the DM, who may or may not use the “official” rules.
And that's it, really. As long as you have a DM committed to helping you play the game, and a willingness to act in accordance with the rules laid out for you, you are on your way into the exciting and limitless world of Dungeons & Dragons.
Other People – In regular storytelling, as I've already mentioned, one person tells the story and another listens. Or many others can listen.
Enter the Dungeon, Slay the Dragon: Getting Started with D&D
Tools of the Trade
Last time I wrote about why you should try Dungeons & Dragons if you haven't yet. Let's assume for the sake of argument (and my ego), that I've convinced you to try it out. What do you need?
Needs Are Few...
The beauty of a game like D&D is that you need very little, if anything, to play, because it doesn't exist in the same way that we think of most games. The games we are all familiar with and that have dominated most of human history involve objects – a board and playing pieces, a ball and a playing field, a console and controller, a deck of cards, dice, etc. D&D is different. You could conceivably play the game for as long as you like without any of these things, because the ultimate focus of the game is storytelling. And of course, nothing I just listed actually tells a story. People tell stories. If one person tells a story and another person listens, you would think that all you need to play D&D is another person. And you would be right, or very close to it. You really need two things in order to play but the first and most important thing is
• Other People – In regular storytelling, as I've already mentioned, one person tells the story and another listens. Or many others can listen. It's no different with D&D. What sets this game apart is that no one person is telling the entire story. You will tell the story of a single person, your character, as will several other people (in most games). One person will take on the job of weaving all of your individual stories together into a single narrative. That person is your Dungeon Master (DM for short). You could, in theory, have a game made up of just a DM and you and several others (or just you), but on its own it would probably not last for long. To keep things interesting for everyone involved – and to truly shift from a simple storytelling exercise to a true game – you also need
Prepare to Go Underground
Now that you're ready to take the dive, a rather obvious question has popped up: where the heck do I find these people? Despite its seeming mainstream acceptance these days, the Dungeons and Dragons community is still a bit of an underground one (no pun intended). Millions of people, even those who have a long history of gaming in other spheres, go without even knowing about it. Or they may know of the game but not know anyone who plays it, never having played it themselves.
The easiest way to find a group is to... wait for it... head to the Wizards of the Coast website (sensing a theme here?) and learn about the Adventurers League. These are (usually) weekly events hosted by game retailers and comic book shops in your area. This is a fantastic option if you're availability for a game is on the erratic side. Since the event is open to the public, you can drop in as your schedule allows without having to commit to a regular group/time. There's also a good chance that even if they don't have an even of their own, they'll know where to direct. For being so large, the gaming community is incredibly tight-knit. Word of mouth goes a long way even in the biggest cities in the country. As it turns out, people who play games love nothing more than to talk about playing games with other people who play games. Just be careful because they also love talk about playing games with people who could care less. Once you express your interest in any game, but especially Dungeons & Dragons, you could find yourself strapped in for one helluva ride.
On the bright side, that's all there is to it. There are no secret handshakes, special passwords, or knocking on doors in back alleys. If you want in just walk in and everyone who's already in will be there ready to make this the best experience they possibly make it for you.
Welcome to one of the biggest open secrets in the world. Hope you have a blast.
Finding your Crew!
Images are Copy Right 2017. Capcom Dragons Dogma 2017. & D&D via Wizards of the Coast 2017. These images are for Reviews and Articles. MIra's Run does not Claim any Rights to them.