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Saturday, September 10, 2016
Op-Ed The Wrong Way to Play Dungeons and Dragons (Spoiler alert, there isn't one)
I’ve been pleasantly
surprised by the growth of people playing Dungeons and Dragons, but there are a
couple of things that we need to discuss so you get the most out of your
experience and actually enjoy the game you’re playing. We around the
office are of the opinion that you should probably enjoy the game you’re
playing, it’s better for everyone that way.
The first question I
keep seeing is “How do I find a group to play with?”
This is a fantastic
question that everyone has thought of at least once during their gaming
lifetime. There are three possible directions that we recommend, but
we’re open to suggestions. The first way to answer this question is to
ask you a question of our own. “How did you hear about Dungeons and
Dragons in the first place?”
If you found out about
Dungeons and Dragons on the internet, then you’ve got a couple of interesting
options. Wizards of the Coast maintains a store finder application on
their website that helps a player find any stores that are official Wizards
Play Network sites in their area. Punch in your zip code and you’re two or
three clicks from finding all the stores in your area that stock Dungeons and
Dragons products and probably host events.
If you’re an internet
player, you’ve also got several options for finding and hosting games on the
internet. We’ve written about Fantasy Grounds in the past, and they offer an
application that allows you to play the game from your living room.
Roll20 also has a similar setup, and if you’re willing to play by post
you’ll find that Myth-Weavers gives you a wide array of options to find a game
that fits your schedule, comfort level, and time commitment.
If you found out about
Dungeons and Dragons through a gaming store, then you’ve got a leg up on
finding a game. Most stores have contact boards where you can find local
players, games, and other activities that you’re interested in. Some of these
stores even host game events. You have many fine options for getting
together and making new friends who share your hobby. If you don’t have a
game store in your area, don’t despair. You might be surprised by your
local library, community center or bookstore. It’s possible to find the
folks you’re looking for in unusual places, so don’t be afraid to explore.
If you’re a younger
gamer (high school or college aged) then there’s a pretty good chance that a
gaming club exists in your school somewhere. Do some digging and explore
your school. Make sure you check out all the extracurricular clubs and
activity groups. Chances are decent in most places that you’ll be able to find
a group that meets your needs.
If you’re a consumer of
Dungeons and Dragons through other media (video games, movies, books, or
podcasts), welcome to the family. Find your comfort level and get
involved as much as you’re comfortable with. If you’re not ready to sit
down with other people and play the game, you can watch other people, read
about it, and play the computer and video games. Its okay, we’re still
counting you as one of us. When you’re ready to take a bigger step,
there’s a large community of people who are willing to help you get started.
The other question we
see a lot, and the impetus for today’s editorial headline is we see this
question a lot.
“My players are doing
this, what do I do?”
Here’s the really
awesome fact about Dungeons and Dragons. Unless you’re playing an
official Adventurer’s League game, that answer is completely up to you.
As the Dungeon Master, you control the game environment that the players
interact with to tell a story. You decide how that story is supposed to
sort of flow (and then you introduce players, who will consistently find interesting
ways to redirect your best efforts at story streaming). That’s okay, if
the story wasn’t supposed to change, you’d be writing a novel and not an
Look for advice online
if you like. There are dozens and dozens of interesting places to look
for answers and pose questions, but ultimately, the decision is yours. If
you want dinosaurs stomping around your not jungle world, go for it. If
you don’t like the way a rule works, you can change it. If you want to
change something, add something, or remove something, those are perfectly valid
decisions as long as they help you craft the adventure you are writing.
“But the book says…”
I know what the book says;
this is potentially a special circumstance that doesn’t work that way. Here’s
how we’re going to do it this time, and I’ll think harder about how it’s going
to be ruled in the future.
“That monster can’t do
This isn’t a normal one
of those, and how would you know what abilities it’s supposed to have?
“How do I make this
Most of the time this
boils down to a variation on a traditional theme, like a human from a specific
background or culture. My advice when home brewing this is to take it
easy, and look at what traits and qualities you can express with statistical
choices, skill selections, and background choices. If you’re playing a
member of a specific background that is not well known for being intelligent,
then prioritize your intelligence as a low stat. No modifiers are needed
to adjust this sub race or character option. You can accomplish a lot
within the rules as they exist, so try for that first, and then see what you
need to modify mechanically.
That’s entirely possible, and we all make mistakes
There really is no
“Wrong” Way to play Dungeons and Dragons. You can take what elements you
enjoy and combine them (along with your friends) to tell fun stories of high
adventure and awesome fun. Play the game how you want to play it, we’re not
going to ring up the fun police and tell them to shut you down.
As is normal for one of
these, we’re posting our thoughts and ideas (we don’t like hard and fast rules
for proper gaming). If you disagree, that’s fine; it’s a big enough world
with enough gamers that you’ll find the people you want to play games with.
We hope this helps some of you find your way into gaming fun faster
rather than later.