I am an astrophysics student in my early 20s, but up until recently I had never played Dungeons and Dragons.
I have seen it on TV, specifically well-known comedy The Big Bang Theory; there it looked like a complicated game, where players have to make up complex actions, all adding to the secrets already lying with the Dungeon Master. The DM, as they are sometimes known, creates the monsters, drives the story, and generally acts as a malevolent presence among the group. Found the first battle easy? Have a boss battle, and not just one boss, but two, three, four. Face some smaller enemies around the place while you’re at it. Try to survive, if you can.
The players, for their part, tend to play as warlocks, mages, lizard-beings or other fantastical creatures (including human-sized dwarfs, apparently) and come with a variety of weapons, stats and characteristics. They can play as a team, or work individually, to defeat the waves of enemies and complete the quests.
Now, I would class myself as a nerd – I like space, I play Pokémon, I’m not an outdoors
person – but even I thought Dungeons and Dragons was an incredibly nerdy game. It conjured images of people in hobbit costumes, hunched around a table and eating sweets, getting all excited for a story played out on a grid. Harsh, I know, but I can’t help it; maybe when I find pictures to add into this blog, one of them will be the relevant Big Bang scene, and you’ll see what I saw.
But that was then. This is now. I took part in my first quest a few weeks ago, and you know what? It was fun! Yes, it took 2 hours to set up the characters and yes, it probably helps that my character is an overpowered, lightning-breathing, axe-wielding half-dragon but it was a great evening. So there I was, spending my Sunday night not at home (my usual haunt) but at a gaming café, with a bunch of my closest friends. Other commitments meant we didn’t get started for a little while but once we did, it was great!
Once I had decided that I was going to be a ‘dragon-born’ (was I really going to be anything else?), and that I would be a ranger (although to this day I don’t know what benefits that brings), the stats were to be decided upon. 6 stats are decided at the start of each game: Strength, Intelligence, Dexterity, Wisdom, Constitution and Charisma. These stats effectively decide how you play the game; one of our group is relatively weak but has lots of charisma, great for interrogating enemies and interviewing allies. Another, on the other hand, is ridiculously powerful – huge attack and plenty of health, but the intelligence of a pea and the emotional range of a teaspoon.
Then there’s me. Half-dragon, half-faun (yes, I did get ideas from the Spyro games), I was happily minding my own business on my gap year when I suddenly found myself battling a bunch of weird creatures, alongside another bunch of weird creatures. Fortunately I survived, hurt but alive; unfortunately, we all got thrown in jail for our efforts, the ungrateful-
So onto Wednesday, when we reconvened at a friend’s house for the continuation of our story. The jail, as it turns out, was being attacked by goblins, so we were obliged to fight our way out. After a full hour of remaining locked up (and only being able to move 10 feet) I was finally freed. The next sequence happened over the course of an hour or two in real time, but at most a few minutes in-game:
Bursting out of my cell, I turn to look down the corridor and see one goblin already turned
to ash in the corridor. Another stands beside the remains of its brethren; a third stands further away. Immediately getting in line with the first of the remaining goblins (this is crucial to use the attack I’m about to use) I spit lightning at the foe. A direct hit; nothing remains of the goblin. The third, seeing its two companions turned to dust, starts to run down the corridor, and turns right at a T-junction. I follow, picking up an axe as I go; I run down the corridor, fling myself around the corner and throw the axe. It ends up in the back of the goblin’s head; needless to say, the goblin is down.
We discuss where to go next – the armoury, containing our weapons, seems a sensible choice. Rearmed, we make our way via two different routes to the main hall. The other group are startled by the sight of a goblin behind the door; I notch an arrow to my longbow, and shoot at the nearest goblin; a direct hit, a third kill. Two more are trying to knock a door down, to get at the soldiers behind it. Another arrow on the bow, another hit, but not another kill. One more, then; a second shot kills the beast. The second is left pinned to the door by one of my companions.
The other group, meanwhile, contains the glass cannon – high attack but low defence – who not only killed the first goblin in the corridor, but proceeds to kill a second in the hall. A third, an extremely strong goblin called a ‘Hobgoblin’ (despite my suggestions, not an alcoholic), is dispatched of by use of a quite frankly ridiculous spell that deals tremendous amounts of damage, with a lucky roll of the dice.
With the enemies dead (saving one for interrogation), we release the soldiers and begin talking to the remaining goblin. I wish to ask it a question; unfortunately, thanks to a bad roll of the dice and average charisma, I spit at its feet instead. Information gleaned, we leave for the nearest tavern; further interviews take place with the customers, in which we find out clues to the next part of our quest…
And that’s as far as we’ve got. For now, our quest is paused, as real life and its tribulations get in the way. We have started a different game (a Pokémon version, for extra nerd points) but our progress in the traditional story is yet to be revealed. So all that’s left is to give my opinion on the game, and it goes something like this: from the outside, Dungeons and Dragons seems supremely nerdy, but in reality, it’s a great game that not only gives an opportunity to rediscover the feeling (if not the setting) of telling stories around the fire, but allows the rest of the group to actively participate in that story.
Of course, the other benefit is that it’s an excuse to relax and hang out with my mates for 3 hours!
All credited pictures from Flickr, used under the Creative Commons license found at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode