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 adventure.  
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 that!”
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 thing?”  
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.  
“You’re Wrong!”  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.
Helpful Links
The aforementioned store locator
Fantasy Grounds can be found at
Roll20 is at
Myth-Weavers is at
Check back through our past articles to find some other helpful hints on getting ready for your first game and making sure you’ve got the right gear to get your game on right.
Game on, Game Fans

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