By Lex "Gaz the Dungeonmaster" Ansems on February 18, 2015

Whenever you see a movie that has nerds in it, it’s likely to see them playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons. Armed with pen, paper and a buttload of weird looking dice, they sit round a table wearing cardboard armor and wizard robes while telling stories of how they are brutally murdering a dragon... sound awesome right?! So let’s all embrace our inner nerd and play Dungeons & Dragons

Firstly, let’s take a look at the story part of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). To put it succinctly, you make up the story yourself. This may sound easy, but it takes a skilled Dungeon Master (DM) to write it and successfully lead the playing party to either victory or their untimely deaths. In theory this means everything is possible. And when we say everything, we mean absolutely EVERYTHING! Do you want everyone in your imaginary world to wear pink leather stiletto heels? Well now they do! Is everyone half animal / half human?! Boom, done! Now they are! This is one of those games where only your imagination is the limit.

If you’re new to D&D and lack the skills to design your own world, you can always use published adventures filled with standard encounters, premade Non Player Characters (NPC) and premade puzzles. The beauty of this is that you can get used to the core mechanics of the game without all the hassle of needing to make up everything in the world. When you don’t like something that is in one of these ready-made stories, you can just change it to something else if you like… Brilliant!

Now we get to the real heavy hitters: DA RULEZ! The rules IN D&D are really simple and really hard at the same time. No, I’m not going insane, let me clarify that statement. The difficulty of a rule set mainly depends on what version you are playing, the 5th Edition being the latest version. The group I played with uses the 4th Edition. Each revision of the rules features more and more extra rules that PC or DM can make use of. But let’s not elaborate on the various sets, but let’s find out how to actually play D&D.

Usually, a D&D campaign has one Dungeon Master (DM) and an X amount of Player Characters (PC), the DM is the god of the world, and he controls the NPC's, the monsters, the bad guys, etcetera. He basically controls everything in the world that isn’t a PC. If your DM tells you that you died, then you are dead, and there’s nothing you can do about it (Besides bitch-slap your DM, although that usually doesn’t improve your relationship). So you see that a good DM is absolutely vital if you want to play a decent game of D&D.

The DM has his own rule book: The Dungeon Master guide. In this guide, all the rules are explained and one may find explanations on how to build encounters or how to balance traps. And the guide also contains example encounters to clarify certain aspects of possible actions the DM or PC can take. Last but not least, it also contains a boat load of tables, charts and numbers the DM is going to need to guide players through the world. But my absolute favorite part of the book has to be right at the beginning, where it tells you what kind of players there are; the actor, the power-gamer, the rules lawyer (yay, that's me) and so on. It’s a really interesting read, and you will definitely recognize yourself in one of the types of gamers it describes.

The Players also have a book of their own: the Player's handbook. This book explains you how to make a PC and how to play the game, it also gives you information about how much everything in the basic world cost (however if for some reason, you want everybody in your world to pay with cupcakes, go right ahead! The world is your oyster… or cupcake, as the case may be). The rules themselves are pretty clear, but keep in mind that there are a lot of them. And no, not a lot like in: “gee, that’s a lot of rules”. Imagine a lot of rules, multiply that number by a Zillion, and that’s how many rules there are in D&D. For instance, a PC has combat skills but also a set of out-of-combat skills. These skills are partly chosen by the player, but mostly determined by the basic rule set.

A good D&D game is mainly dependent on 2 things: Firstly, A good DM (remember when I talked about your DM saying you died? If he does this without any reason, then that's a bad DM). The DM makes the story and guides the characters through his world. He makes them feel excited when they end part of a campaign in success and makes them feel bad when they fail. Secondly, the players (shocking, right?). The players need to be engaged into the story, work together, really play out their characters and have a sense of fantasy, as well as a sense of humor.

D&D has a couple of minor downsides that may make it hard for you to get started:
- you need a lot of stuff, just the basic books costs about 30 Euro each and well, there are a lot of them, (I personally own 8 books at the moment, with 3 extra on their way, and I still need like 29 of them if I want to own every 4th edition book)
- if you want to incorporate miniatures into your game then you need to buy a lot of them. Dungeon tiles, character miniatures, props, everything! You can actually make some of these things yourself if you plan on playing for long times. If not, then it might just be a huge waste of time.
- There are a lot of rules to master and understand. Also, having all the freedom in the world can be a bit overwhelming at times.

But don’t let these things stand between you and hours of fun. D&D still has plenty going for it: - you have ALL the freedom in the world. If you want to get drunk every n-game night, go right ahead. You want to shoot the mayor of a big town, just because you feel like it or you think he looked at you the wrong way? Again, go right ahead. The possibilities are endless! But beware; your actions will have consequences. So think before you do anything stupid!
- You will have a lot of fun with your friends, in our sessions we have had a lot of WTF moments, awesome laughter, great victory celebrations and ‘AAAAAAAAAAAAAWH Yes’ moments.
- It's a never-ending game. Are you bored with your current character? Just build a new one! It may take some time, but practice makes perfect. In a short while you will be rerolling like a champion.
-Overall, the D&D books are really well written, and the art in them is jaw dropping good. And not just good, but really, really, really, EXTREMELY Good! I downloaded all the books online for free, but I still went out and bought them, just for the art (and reading a book feels really good). However, living in the Netherlands, these books are really hard to come by, so your best option is to order them online

Final Verdict:
D&D is a really complex, not-suited-for-beginners kind of game, but can be amazing once you find a good teacher. The books are very well written, have great artwork in them and are entertaining to read. The price tag that comes with playing D&D might seem high at first, but that's all relative to your expectations. You only have to buy a book once, and if you think even that is too expensive, they're free to download if you look online. And never forget the most important rule of all: When you start playing, don't stress out but just go with it and D&D is guaranteed to bring you endless hours of fun!

Author's note:
If you want to see what a great D&D session looks like, I recommend that you check out THE D&D channel on Youtube, featuring the PAX Games and the Rollplay series.

Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. & Wizards of the Coast
Published: 1974 - present
Designer: Gary Gygax & Dave Arneson (first edition)
Players: 3 - 6 players, ages 12 & up
Playtime: approx. 90 minutes