I was nervous walking into my friend Matt’s house. Really nervous. See, I was a stranger about to enter a strange land. It’s OK, though. I entered the house a little late due to my commute from work, and the table was already set. There were several sheets of paper at each seat, a box of little miniature figurines, approximately 30 different kinds of die, and what appeared to be a tiny cardboard wall at the head of the table. I would learn later that that little cardboard wall (about 4’ long when unfolded) was the Dungeon Master’s guide. That’s right, I was about to play D&D for the first time ever and I had no idea how to process the nerves.
It was a bit late and I hadn’t had dinner. Good thing I brought with me a nice little spread that included a sandwich, a bag of garlic parmesan pretzel chips, and the remnants of my box of Malbec from home. I’m classy. Nobody at the table had food or booze. I was alone in my quest for nourishment, and the contents of my Kroger bag soon became my security blanket. I must have looked like a little mini-hoarder with my dinner and effing box of wine literally sitting at my side, but at this point I didn’t care. There was no time for caring as I had to decipher this piece of paper in front of me with the word "CLERIC" written atop the page. Apparently this was the class I was assigned and I now had to not only name the character but also the god he worshiped. I went with Bjorn, the dwarf cleric who worships the blood-lusting god Thacktor. The blood-lust god Thacktor requires trial by combat to enter his house of worship, and you shall pay the toll. At this point I realized I was about to either have a great time or get completely out-nerded. Bring it.
The "bringing it" would have to wait, as I still had several things left to do on my sheet of paper. One of the cooler parts of D&D is deciding which characters you have particular "bonds" with. The bonds can be friendly or not. One particular character had previously insulted my god, Thacktor, and I found him to be insolent. One gentleman, whom I decided was completely trustworthy, thought I was somewhat suspect. These bonds, in our game at least, proved to not be of much consequence throughout the game because my fellow participants and I were more interested in the adventure at hand.
I was starting to feel pretty comfortable and by this point, I’ve developed a tiny bit of rapport with my RPG crew. It was, however, this point in the evening when I learned we weren’t playing D&D proper, but rather a spinoff game called Dungeon World. Apparently D&D’s rules became too confining for a lot of players. The group I was playing with liked worlds that were more "free" and "fun." Since I like those two things, I’m now glad we’re playing Dungeon World. It didn’t explicitly say there’d be dragons in the game, but I like a little mystery. Gotta leave a little something to the imagination, D&D.
This leads us to the plot of our game. Matt, the Dungeon Master (DM from here on), laid out an interesting story for us. Our crew had been commissioned by a lord to procure a ring from a deceased relative in his tomb. Seems easy enough, right? The DM then told us that the game would be as free as possible, meaning that if we wanted to do anything, all we had to do was ask. The only thing is that in D&D, everything is decided by dice. Not just any dice, all of the fucking dice. There were 4-sided, 6-sided, 8-sided and 12-sided die littering the table, and they all had a very specific use.
In my case, I had to roll two 6-d (yup, them’s the lingo) to figure out my chances of success in any attack or spell I was attempting to complete. A roll of 10 or better meant that you were flawless in your attack. You succeeded and acquired no damage. A roll of a 10 is the equivalent to being the Johnny Manziel of a D&D character, you don’t get touched and everything you do works. A 7-9 meant that you were successful, but you sustained some kind of damage in your attack. Upon completing a 7-9 roll, you must roll a d-4 to figure out how badly your character gets messed up. This is the football equivalent of winning a game by 2 points and losing a key offensive lineman for the next 2 games to a knee injury. If you roll a 6, you fail but get some XP (Experience Points, these are necessary for leveling up). This is the participation ribbon of D&D. Roll less than a 6? You’re Baylor before RGIII.
The quest began by entering the tomb, which was ridiculously large. With shiny, clean floors. Way cleaner than an abandoned tomb should be. We’re asked where we’ll go and then presented with a situation. After a few initial encounters with random goblins, we enter another room which is empty with the exception of a pile of freshly picked apart bones. Looks to be a kind of chicken wings. A goblin enters the room, doesn’t see us, but dumps a fresh platter of picked-clean bones in the corner. We see this goblin enter another room and it sounds like a bar scene. We’ve basically approached Goblin Wild Wings from the alley entrance, and it’s time to get busy with some blood-lust. Thacktor be praised.
We enter the room and the team begins to dismantle these poor, engorged goblins like they’re a somewhat salvageable automobile at a pick-n-pull. Suck my overdone simile, other writers. Everyone is rolling between 7 and 10, and these goblins are wishing that they had hit up WingStoplin for their chicken appendage consumption. Apparently we’re at the end of this pathway, though. We must go back and find a new door. Our locksmith picks the gate and we enter the tomb from a different angle. This time, we’re dead on. We meet 3 other goblins, but these aren’t the previous, lazy, stoned, wing-sucking goblins. One of these is a...GOBLIN WIZARD! It’s on like an upturned lightswitch. The crew hits several bumps in the road here, but we’re obviously in the penultimate room due to the difficulty of this battle. Mind you, I’ve now hit the box o wine for my 5th glass and we’re in hour three of the engagement. The box, she is empty and I am relieved. Any more and I’d have probably committed Cleric suicide just to have a nice chat with Thacktor.
I’m more comfortable in the game, as I’ve been relatively quiet up to this point. If you know me, relatively quiet means that I’ve only monopolized about 20% of the conversation up to this point, but now I’m getting a little cocky. The DM asks me what I want to do, so I say, "I’d like to take my weapon, wield it like a golf club, approach the wizard goblin and strike him so hard that he bounces off the ceiling, the wall, and the floor. After this, I’d like him to be impaled through the skull by the chandelier and we’ll leave him dangling there as a warning to the other goblins." Of course, I thought Matt would tell me that was stupid and to come up with something more realistic.
"Awesome. Roll for it." Matt said with a huge grin.
I roll a 7.
Crap. This means I’m somewhat successful, but I’m probably going to get hurt here. I hit the wizard, but that bastard hits me back and he doesn’t ricochet off the walls as I’d intended. The little shit’s still alive. We battle a little more, defeat the sons of bitches and carry on. We enter the final room. The "body" we’re supposed to remove the ring from isn’t so much a body as it’s sitting at a dinner table with three decomposed skeletons. This game’s a bit messed up, huh? It doesn’t want to give us the ring as it’s the source of his power. His precious. We retrieve the ring after another 20 min of battling, return to the forest and live to fight another day. This game could have gone on for hours longer, but after 3.5 hours of playtime, we all needed to hit the sack for work in the morning.
You want my review of D&D? Fun on a bun. There aren’t many opportunities for us to put away the electronics and just use our brains for entertainment in 2014. D&D forces you to think on your feet, use a little improv and just have fun around a table with 6 people. Weirdly, even though we were in character, I feel like I got to know the people I was playing with pretty decently. The experienced players I was with couldn’t have been cooler about my noobness and were quite patient when I had a question. Would I do it again? Hands down. Yes.
My name is Wes Davis, and I’m a huge nerd.
So, what should I try next?