D&D chronicles: the novice

You may be surprised to hear that, despite my being an avid fantasy reader for the vast majority of my life, I have never much been into gaming and had never ever played the iconic role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons, until last weekend.

We were a group of mixed experience, two of us novices, and, since it appears we’re now going to play monthly (because we’ve only had two skirmishes and haven’t even got into the mines yet), I think it might be fun to chronicle my D&D initiation, er, adventures.

I’m playing a bard. They made me roll the numbers to establish my abilities about 10 times, because they said I had to get at least one score of at least 16… and I when I finally did so, wrist numb from all that shaking, I was left with a low score of 4. (For the uninitiated, that’s BAD.) I somewhat foolishly assigned this 4 to strength (I’m a bard, I sing and perform some magic and talk my way out of situations, don’t you know?), meaning I can only carry 13 pounds… meaning I can’t carry a sword or armour or in fact anything useful, except a bow and quiver, which are only useful from a distance. Nor can I swim or scale walls.

Having a strength of 4 really sucks.

Nor am I particularly skilled at rolling the die. (This may come as no surprise, given my 10 attempts to roll a set of 6 numbers that included a 16 or higher.) A standard roll for me on the D20 (that’s a 20-sided die) is about 7.

I’m going to get my own dice, I’ve decided! A lucky set of polyhedral dice that will roll higher than 16 every time…

The basic scenario we are playing involves an oddball group (bard, druid, ranger, rogue) who have arrived at some godforsaken outpost, armed and prepared to fight (me with my strength of 4), in return for gold. So far we have sneaked ineffectively about town, banded together and headed off to liberate a mine that’s supposedly overrun with goblins. On the way we have miraculously survived an attack by giant badger-like things, in so-doing demonstrating our total ineptitude; but then redeemed ourselves by planning and executing a successful take-over of a goblin-infested fort. Huzzah!

By then it was 1:30am and we disbanded.

But then most of us met up again for our writing group critique meeting the next day, during which we discussed options for our next move: how could we get our druid and rogue healed of their injuries quickly? what strategies would be needed in the darkness of the mine? would the goblins come back to eat us?

And so now we live in suspense until we gather again to resume our suicidal quest…

Overall D&D is a fascinating and fun game that mixes strategy with luck. I’ve heard many authors have based novels on their D&D scenarios, and I can see how this might be tempting. The game master in particular puts a huge amount of effort into creating the scenario for the benefit of the players. Kudos to all game masters.

I spent most of that first session hanging back to see how the role-playing aspect worked. It’s not really a game for introverts, I have to say. But one thing I took away is that you need to be assertive — which I wasn’t. Plus you need to think on your feet. I’m looking forward to the next session, because I think I’ll be considerably more relaxed.

So, are there any role-playing aficionados tuning in to this post today? I’d love to hear about your experiences — tips would also be most welcome. As for fellow novices, do you think you’d ever like to play?

22 comments

  1. I’d guess you’re playing with a group who’s still playing older versions of the game. Your story highlights quite well why I stopped rolling for stats a long time ago, and refuse to play in a game where they insist on rolling for stats. (Not that I play D&D anymore: it’s not the end-all, be-all of fantasy role playing.)

    If you enjoy it, maybe I can suggest some other systems to try out when the campaign/adventure is done?

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    1. Yes, we’re playing an older version; there’s a reason, but I can’t remember why… Must tell them about this no rolling for stats version!

      Gee, I’m such a novice. If you tune into these posts, Patrick, you’re going to find it hysterical πŸ™‚

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  2. I have never played D&D so I’m glad you’re explaining it. I’ve often wondered how it’s played, but not enough to try it out. I’ll be tuning in to see how your bard is faring. πŸ™‚

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  3. I’ve played D&D for more years that I can remember πŸ™‚ I find it incredbly fun and have a fondness for old versions.
    We gave up rolling stats pretty soon and came up with this solution: everyone had to assign 18, 16, 14, 14, 12, 10 to their stats. It’s fair, it covers all the mininum stat requirements for classes, and it gives all a high stat so anyone can feel like a hero πŸ™‚
    Good days… I hope you keep playing, Ellen!

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  4. Hi Ellen. Played D&D for donkeys years and the fact that you’re playing with your writing group makes joining your group very tempting. The older version of D&D has more flavour than the current one, which feels more like a miniatures wargame than a story telling game (although D&D has its origins in miniatures anyway). Stick with it. It’s great fun, and pure escapism. Too bad about your incompetence with dice…it’ll be the death of you.

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    1. Really? You know what this comment says to me? You haven’t played the new game. While yes, the combat is much more codified (And much better) in the new games, it’s also the first to make quest experience (The thing that makes you better because you’re following the story) a default rule, instead of an option tucked away in one of the DM option books. On top of that, it includes a page for the DM to turn any crazy idea into a balanced effect in game. No more ‘Well, I guess you win’ and more ‘That’s a great idea that has turned the tide, can you keep it up?’

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    2. Hello there mr bamboo sword! Where have you been lurking? How funny that the lure of D&D has you tempted to join my writing group… (headdesk).

      We played with miniatures for what I’m calling the skirmishes – and I thought it was cool. But others I was playing with made the same comment as you regarding the latest version and said they prefer the older versions, where you just use miniatures some of the time… I don’t know how people keep track of everything – it’s so complicated!

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  5. The thing I found about D&D was that a bad stat will help to define your character’s personality more than your highest stat will. This is because you will develop methods of interacting that allow that flaw/quirk to not impact as much as it could. Can’t climb? Ask your DM if using a rope & grappling hook would help…

    Then you may turn that into a proficiency with weapons that require similar skills like a slingshot or whip, and go from there towards every attacking move being designed to disable/trip your opponent aiming to make them more vulnerable to your teammates attacks.

    When it comes to the role playing/interaction – that’s where the old-fashioned social networking (sitting around and talkingΒ‘) comes back to you (: it’s great fun.

    Enjoy it Ellen – I look forward to the next mission…

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    1. Hi James – Yes, I can see what you mean. And I tried to beef up my diplomacy and bluff skills to compensate… but I just wanted to run in there with a sword!! I felt very deprived πŸ˜‰

      And you’re so right about the social networking side of it – exactly what I was thinking. It’s nice to gather together and hang out in person. Sometimes I think with all this online interaction we’ve forgotten to get out of the house.

      I hope you stick around for the next mission!

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      1. 3.5 sounds pretty likely. 4th edition is like an entirely different game, and it pretty much split the fan base when it came out. I actually prefer 1st edition myself, but I’ve played a little 3.5 and had fun.

        I’m looking forward to reading more of your experiences with the game πŸ™‚

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  6. I do love role-playing. At the moment I’m not doing much, but we will see after the summer.

    My best tip would be not to get too close to enemies. Hehe. With strength at 4, you are pretty helpless unfortunately. But as you say, the best role-playing tips I can give is to dive in. Give your character an interesting personality that both mixes well and bad with your groups. The most fun I have is when you argue in game. As long as people remember that in real life you aren’t.

    I love role-playing and it gets more comfortable with time. Experiment. Do things that are risky, it’s much more fun than playing it safe. πŸ™‚

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