Monday, 29 January 2018

D&D: the journey begins - a starting guide to D&D pt1

I've been super quiet about Malifaux recently. For various reasons getting a load of models to central London with a load of equipment is just too time consuming. When I started Malifaux it was an easy to access skirmish game. You could have a couple of crew boxes, a few supplemental boxes, cards, tape measure and maybe a few tokens.
Now though the game has ballooned in a huge range and I can't really keep up in a way that is enjoyable. I'll still do some painting and hopefully some casual play.
Luckily the group decided to do some D&D. I was a bit curious and so I decided to give it a try. I was almost instantly hooked. Here was a game without the limitations of the table top. A game that rewarded the effort of making a background, being imaginative and focused on a social gathering.
This is now my game of choice. I'd like to share my journey with you. In this series, I'll cover how to get started, a guide to getting a character to the table, the pros and cons of optimisation, why you might want to kick someone out of a group and a better way to handle it, the various accessories, podcast reviews and YouTube including the mighty Critical Role.
Let's get a couple of questions out of the way before we get started on getting started.

What is Dungeons and Dragons?

At its most basic, it is a group of 3-8 players pretending to be adventures, exploring strange lands, slaying enemies, lying & cheating the palace guard, and getting more and more powerful with experience. It is also the way a group of people, often strangers, can come together and play a complex social activity without the usual awkwardness and boredom that goes with making new friends.

1. I've heard that Dungeons and Dragons players are weird and smell bad, is it true?Yes, and some of them have strange, colourful clothes, talk in a mysterious language and eat too much pizza. Seriously though, most modern D&D players are pretty regular people if you are used to the gaming community. Plenty of very everyday people play the game. You will occasionally meet some very odd people, but then you can meet some either odder people at the golf club too.

2. I seem to remember that this game is Satanic and it is not ok for Christians.Well I've asked my master Lord Asmodious, Lord of the 7 Hells and he says that he is perfectly happy for people to play Dungeons and Dragons. He encourages it. Hmmmm, ok, ok. It is a fantasy role play game. The only darkness in it is what people bring to the table. There have been a lot of studies showing role play can have a very positive role, both in treating trauma and development problems, and also for adults to be able to step outside their tightly defined adult roles. A boring accountant, can for one evening, became a heroic warrior, skilled in the arts of war and love. Think of it like being in an Ab Lib drama production. If one of the actors is playing the devil, it doesn't follow he or the other actors are literally devil worshipping, we can recognise that they are playing a role. 

3. Didn't someone get murder though for playing D&D?
No, that was a media scare story. The "victim" turned up alive and well. Not that you would know that from the terrible Hollywood movie. 

4. Can girls actually play this? Isn't it for mouth breathing boys?
Seriously? I really shouldn't have to say this in the C21st, but for the hard of thinking out there. Of course, girls, women, transgender and anyone else can play D&D. The more people join a hobby, the better it is for everyone. New view points, mean new ways of looking at a story, of creating a character and of exploring life. I'm playing in 2 groups of mixed players, and it is great. The key to a good player is enthusiasm and a willingness to work with everyone else. Don't exclude people, and don't make fun of people who do play.

5. Is it expensive? Do you need a lot of models, stuff and costumes?
No, it is amazingly cheap. It is about the cheapest hobby I know. Paper, pencils, dice, group of people, cup of tea. Play nearly anywhere. I've heard some people call it expensive, but they are usually mistaking the cost of stuff that you don't need, with the essentials. You do not need pizza, three beers and a  cab to play D&D. It isn't D&D costing the money there. You can sit on the sofa and play D&D without paying a penny after buying your dice and book. I've even heard some people play it without a cup of tea, which is frankly weird, but this is an open and tolerant hobby. Models are optional. Discuss them with your DM. Personally I don't find them useful.

6. I'm a veteran wargamer, can I skip reading the rules and jump in?
Ummm yes, but you will just be told "Roll this now. You win/lose." You won't know why. You will get frustrated and Lord Asmodious will hate you. Read the rules. They really aren't that hard once you've had a couple of sessions experience. 

That's the starter questions and myth busting done. Let's have a very quick talk about how to get started, and what you need.

EssentialA dungeon master. This person runs the campaign, helps the players explore the world, provides them with characters to interact with (known as Non Player Characters - NPC's), and acts as a friendly referee. They are not in competition with the players. Seriously, this is important. It is not players vs DM. It is players working with the DM to create a epic story, and avoiding his/her best attempts to kill them along the way.
Players. This should be obvious. You need at least 4 players really, including the DM. You can do 1-1 games, but in general you want more people. Be social, reach out and find players.
Dice: You need dice. That's basically unavoidable. A D20, D6, D8, D10. These are only a few quid at most for a basic set.
A Players Handbook: Get the 5th edition players hand book. At least one of you will need a copy. Without it, you really won't know the rules or get anywhere. The internet isn't a great substitute.
Paper & pencil: Whether it is an expensive notebook with a heavy leather cover, or a few sheets of tatty old A4, paper is where you write your character stats and track wounds. 

My shopping lists

Beginner/causalSet of pencils £1.50 for 10.
Players handbook £30
Dice £2.75
Notebook £1.50
Curious attitude and open mind

Mid TierDungeon Masters Manual £40
Xanthars Guide to Everything £30
Campaign book (option, most players grab some for reading background fluff)
Set of spell cards £15
Business card holder in leather to carry spells
Deluxe Dice & artisan carry bag £10
Foldable Dice Tray £15
Dungeon Design Sheets (optional - not all DM's use figures or maps)
Models to represent characters (again optional - a later article will talk about models vs only storytelling).

Over committed hobbyistMetal dice in display chest £30
Artisan Leather Bound Note Book £40
Artist commissioned character sheet and artwork Varies

ProfessionalYouTube channel
Group of professional voice actors
Home built scenery
Production staff
Studio microphones and camera's

Critical Role LevelAn aura of gods given charisma and movie star looks......ah Vex.
Next time we will talk about sitting down getting ready for a game. 

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