I’m sure you’ve all heard of D&D, and at least a few of you have played it. Mostly, I’m aiming this particular post at those of you who haven’t played and perhaps don’t even understand what it is and why on earth anyone would want to spend time doing this thing.
So, what is it?
D&D stands for “Dungeons & Dragons”. It is a game system involving multiple players with one of them taking on the task of running the game and the rest participating. The leader decides on the setting and the story or adventure and leads the other players through it, while they are each playing a character in that world and react to the situations described.
Each character has a set of traits and skills that decide how good (or how bad) they are at different things, and often dice are used to determine how well the character does at a chosen action. This naturally cuts down on instances of “I win because I said so!” “Nuh-uh!” “Uh-huh!”
Characters come in different classes. This is like saying they have different roles. Some are combat-heavy, like Fighter (does what it says on the tin) or Barbarian, some are magic heavy like a Wizard and some fall between the two. You can also play as different races. This is a magical fantasy world, after all, so you’ll see more than strictly humans. Think elves, dwarves, halflings (picture hobbits from Lord Of The Rings) and the like, plus some things you might not even think of like bird people.
The combination of race and class is great for winding up with a group of very different characters all working together.
Now, that is as basic a description as I could give without getting into stuff like the varying number of sides on a die, magic spells and the difference between a Dragonborn and a Half-orc. I’m pretty sure I’d lose those of you who don’t play if I went that far.
Okay. So that’s what it is. What’s the draw?
In short, it’s fun. But I know that isn’t a very satisfactory answer. D&D is like collaborative storytelling, where you’re all working together to tell a fun and fantastical tale. It’s also like improv theatre where everyone is responding to what everyone else is doing. It involves creativity, puzzle solving, strategizing and occasionally getting absurd.
It’s also about the community of hanging out with some friends and working together while having fun.
And, okay, sometimes it’s about having your Sorcerer just hurl a fireball spell at a problem. Look, it’s cathartic, okay? Don’t judge.
There is a bit of escapism involved, yes. That’s not a bad thing. Honestly, this year when I started playing again after a very long hiatus, escapism is kind of one of the features. My BFF decided to run a game over Zoom and I signed up to play along with one other person I knew from online and two people I didn’t know, but have since discovered how awesome they are.
We’ve been playing most Saturdays since May, and it’s been a godsend. For a few hours each week, I’m not in the midst of a pandemic. I’m Neera, a charismatic half-elven Sorcerer stranded in a world that isn’t her own along with some other folks, just trying to get home.
I get to do cool stuff like disguising myself with magic to look like a feudal lord dude instead of a pointy-eared young woman in order to steal a magical hunk of rock instead of having the group of us fight an entire castle full of guards. Last week, one of my new friends got to cast a spell that let her talk to a mama bear and her cubs so we didn’t have to fight them.
C’mon, doesn’t that sound like fun? It’s totally fun.
I think a lot of people would actually end up absolutely loving it if they just gave it a try.
As always, please do be kind to yourself and others. Talk to that mama bear first.