Chances are you have at least heard of Dungeons and Dragons, or its much shorter abbreviation of D&D. Whether it’s through podcasts and shows, friends of friends, or just stumbling across it online. This article aims to answer the question: what exactly is D&D?
Dungeons and Dragons is a game all about telling stories, becoming a character, and having fun with your friends. It’s set in a fantasy world of swords and sorcery, but whether you want to join a pirate gang, explore a jungle, or take part in a political plot is entirely up to you. Everything is your decision, from what you look like, to how you act, to what happens next. The dice just help you along. Most of all though, it’s about spending time with your nearest and dearest, sharing dwarven ales, and making memories.Wizards of the Coast; What is D&D.
Dungeons and Dragons: The Basics
The key to playing is imagination. It is about living and breathing the character, the story, and the surroundings at the table. While the possibilities are vast, there are still rules (even if some would side with “the rule of cool”). The success of a character is completely at the decision of the dice. Essentially, the higher the number, the better your odds of doing whatever it is you want successfully. This applies to everything, from charming the local barkeep to landing that final, decisive blow against the dragon.
The players are essentially the main protagonists of the game. They are the adventurers that are braving whatever quests may come their way. There are many combinations of races, classes, and motivations that all make a character unique to you.
The dungeon master, or DM, is the one behind it all. They are the storyteller, the master manipulator, the referee, and every NPC you meet. The DM is the one that lays down the foundations for the players to explore. They are the ones that describe the castle keep before players decide to break in, sneak around, or cast a spell. Likewise, the DM will decide how well the party performs based on the roll of the dice and then narrates the experience. Because no one can predict the fate decided by dice, everyone, including the DM themselves, can expect the unexpected.
But when one quest finishes, another may appear. This series of ongoing adventures is what is referred to as a campaign. Through daring feats, players will have their characters level up to unlock new abilities and get stronger, ready to face more fierce foes. Campaigns can be short, long, or however works best for the party. Over time, adventurers grow. Some may be gained, and some may be lost. However, as long as everyone around the table is enjoying themselves, that is the main goal.
Dungeons and Dragons: A Brief History
With a recent resurgence of the game’s popularity, not everyone knows the history of D&D. Originally, Gary Gygax released a game called Chainmail, which was essentially a tabletop medieval battle simulator. Then, Gygax and his friend, Dave Arneson, slowly turned Chainmail into Dungeons and Dragons, which is the roleplaying game we all know and love today. As people came together around tables to tell stories of their characters, that was when the first edition came into existence.
However, its initial release in the 70s caused what was known as a “satanic panic” or “moral panic.” There was word going around that D&D was demonic, dangerous, and was secretly a dark ritual (and was also what created Mazes and Monsters in 1982, featuring Tom Hanks). Because of this national outcry, words of demons and devils were then removed from the D&D manuals, which then brought out the second edition.
While some content was taken from D&D, even more, was added. The second edition brought new worlds for players to explore, as well as bringing the existence of iconic monsters from the series, such as mind flayers.
In 1997, D&D was then purchased by Wizards of the Coast. Following that came the third and fourth editions. Some argue that these editions were too unnecessarily complicated, while others enjoyed them. Regardless, these wars on what the best edition was birthed the fifth edition of D&D in 2014. This is the edition most now play.
Dungeons and Dragons: How to Begin
Interested in D&D but unsure where to start? There are many starter kits available to purchase. All that is needed are the rules, some books, and some friends to play with you. Additionally, there are plenty of articles, videos, tutorials, and forums online full of friendly players that would be happy to help. If you’re one for the digital age, there are also websites such as Roll20, or D&DBeyond, which have all resources digitally available to purchase.
Not sure about playing? There are plenty of ways to take in content without playing, like podcasts, episodes, and more surrounding the game. Additionally, there are plenty of guides, videos, and episodes available on websites like YouTube and even TikTok.
What are your thoughts on D&D? Do you have any favorite memories of the game or advice for new players? Let us know in the comments!