Monday, April 20, 2015

My Life and Times of D&D

            When I first started playing Dungeons and Dragons, it was with edition 3.5 (okay, that’s not entirely true, technically my friend and I invented our own version before that, but I don’t think that counts). At the time, I didn't really understand the mechanics of the game since I was being taught on the fly, but that didn't stop me from enjoying it. Because of the sporadic nature of our playing, though, I never really took the time to learn that version of the game, as much as I enjoyed it.

            Years and years later, I started playing 4th edition D&D with my wife and a couple of friends. I was the only experienced player (except for the friend running the game), so to make sure I could best help my allies learn, I read the Player’s Handbook cover-to-cover.

            I now had an understanding of the game far greater than I could imagine. We played and had a lot of fun, but it didn't last very long because the friend running the game got very sick.

            The next time I played, it was with my family. This time, my wife was the only experienced player, as I was the Dungeon Master running the game. At this point, I’d still only read the Player’s Handbook (I didn't want to invest in the other two main source books until I knew we were going to keep playing) and the adventure I was running was modified from a free one online.

            I did end up getting the other books – The Monster Manuel and the Dungeon Master’s Guide – and I also read those cover-to-cover. Now I understood the game extremely well and my imagination danced with the possibilities of what I could do. Ironically, my family have never played again after that, largely due to how busy everyone has become.

            I did, however, start playing much later with my wife and sister-in-law (and occasionally her boyfriend). Through running a game with my new knowledge, I started to master my Dungeon Master skills.

            Then, over the course of last year, 5th edition D&D was released. Extremely out of character for me, I bought each of the three core books as they came out. When I read these, my jaw dropped. In essence, it was the same game, but these books contained so much more.

            The 4th edition of the game has received a lot of criticism – so much so that it almost killed the brand. It was extremely rules-based, designed so that every player would be completely balanced with all the others; no one would be powerful than anyone else. The rules also focused almost entirely on the combat side of the game, which isn't good for a role playing game where the goal is group storytelling. Not really knowing any better, I hadn't seen a problem with it.

            But then, 5th edition. It went way beyond the mechanics of the game. It went in-depth into character development, world building and even plot structure that I would advise any writer (especially of fantasy) to pick up the Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide just to learn all they have to teach.

            More than that, simply reading the book made me desperately want to play the game. Normally when playing games I have particular classes I want to play (usually rogues or other stealthy roles), but this game made me want to play everything. It made me sad, because I knew that, as a Dungeon Master, I was unlikely to ever get to play as a character again.

            I did come up with a solution to that, though. My wife and I have started an experimental game where we’re running the game cooperatively and both playing characters. In addition, we’re using Minecraft to make our maps for playing on/in. So far, it’s working out quite well! In fact, we’re writing it all down, so I may end up sharing the interesting story with you in episodes as the adventure unfolds.

            In conclusion, Dungeons and Dragons is fun for friends and family, 5th edition is amazing, and people learning to write should read those books. This blog was in no way endorsed by Wizards of the Coast. Thanks for reading.

Click here to find the charity anthology containing a couple of my short stories.

To see my chainmaille, click here.

If there's any subject you'd like to see me ramble on about, feel free to leave a comment asking me to do so.

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