First time playing Dungeons and Dragons
First time playing Dungeons and Dragons

What You Can Expect From Your First Ever Dungeons and Dragons Session

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Not sure what to expect from your first ever Dungeons and Dragons session? One of our writers talks you through his first non-video-game DnD experience.

I’ve played DnD video games for about 20 years now, so when one of my favourite content creators invited me to a Discord PnP DnD session you’d better believe that I jumped at the chance.

No, I didn’t just press random letters on my keyboard just then.

“I’m not a nerd like you, Liam,” I hear you whisper to me from beneath your +1 Cloak of Message. “I don’t know what all of that means.”

Dungeons and Dragons (DnD) is a fantasy-inspired tabletop game.

For example, imagine Monopoly but the banker is a storyteller, and it takes place in a fantasy realm much like the Lord Of The Rings or Warcraft. In fact, Warcraft is a literal rip-off of well-known fantasy PnP universe named Warhammer.

PnP simply stands for ‘Pen and Paper’, which in the modern ages simply means ‘isn’t a video game’.

And Discord is a voice chat app (which is free, and a much cheaper way to contact people than stinky old phones if you’re at your computer).

Seriously I could just say anything here, nobody would ever know.
An ingame character sheet for a DnD video game. (Neverwinter Nights 2)

Imagine There’s No Gamebraking Glitches – It’s Easy If You Try

So, think of it like this: When you play a video game – basically any video game – you’re performing preset actions in a world created by the developers.

Now imagine that you control it with your voice instead. You don’t use the W-A-S-D keys (or whatever) to move and then press X to examine, you simply say “I walk over there and examine the area.”

And because there’s a living breathing human controlling the game (instead of a bunch of half-working and terribly designed crap made by so-called ‘game developers’), this means that the system can, within reason, allow nearly any choice to be made.

Finally, (and somewhat obviously) there are no graphics – you have to use an old-fashioned thing called imagination.

I have this gaming rule which I call “Fuck off, I’m here to play games not do bloody homework reading a bunch of extra crap”, which is exactly what it sounds like. I’m looking directly at you, Star Trek Online and Vermintide 2.

However, I made an exception here. Most video games I’ve played used the older set of rules, and the modern ruleset is quite different.

So, I read a bunch of stuff and then sorted out my character sheet (which is exactly what it sounds like) with the Game Master (GM). I didn’t actually ask him “What can I expect from my first Dungeons And Dragon session?” because I wanted it to unfold organically.

Like, I could just talk about my day. It's been a rough one, thanks for asking.
Tannith/Bonnie picture was taken from – the picture of Thief’s Garret was taken from the Thief wikia, Godin is a Neverwinter Nights 2 screenshot and the Scarecrow is made from multiple pictures from Wikipedia.

The Journey Begins

The players:

  • Tannith (who is also nicknamed Bonnie), a half-elf from the 5th generation of a well-known and successful family of adventurers.
  • Theo (pronounced ‘Tayo’), the mysterious-yet-pun-appreciating human pugilist.
  • Raywalt, the scarecrow farmer.
  • And me: Godin, a Dwarf wizard.

Anyone who knows DnD fairly well probably just did a double-take. Dwarfs (yes that’s the correct plural) make notoriously bad mages because of their inherent racial statistics.

I did this to force myself to take part in non-combat gameplay and not just say “I hit them with my Dwarven Axe.”

Which brings us neatly to the combat.

AND MY AXE! Or Not. Whatever.

In PnP DnD combat you have to roll dice, possibly twice (hey that rhymed):

Roll 1: To determine if your attack actually works.

Roll 2: To determine how much damage you do to your opponent.

Given my DnD video game experience, I was expecting that this would be where the actual body of the game was. I was so very very wrong, and I couldn’t be more happy about that.

Until I played with this crew, I had no idea how terrible the DnD video games actually are. All the things I always wanted to do (punch the priest, mouth off at authority in general via smartly-worded questions, steal a cow and use it for meat, etc.) are never allowed in DnD video games because freedom of choice is sacrificed for so-called ‘game integrity’.

Truly – and I’m about to piss off a LOT of people here – Minecraft is a better role-playing game than any fantasy video game I’ve ever played. This is why I can’t enjoy The Witcher III – I wasn’t allowed to do anything I actually wanted to.

I mean, I'm just sitting around waiting for various people to contact me. Fuck this shit, fuck it all the way to Hades, I say.
Look at this amazing dialogue from this game which is widely considered the best ever most immersive most realistic roleplaying game ever made ever. Pffft. No thanks. (The Witcher III)

Let me put it like this, even though I hate Skyrim so very very much:

  • DnD video games are like Skyrim without mods.

  • PnP DnD is like Skyrim with mods, only the mods come directly from your brain (and from everyone else you’re playing with).

Our GM had written a wonderful story involving the group meeting and rescuing some hostages. In a video game, this would be a simple matter of killing all the foes, or maybe playing a fetch quest and then killing nearly everything.

Our group, however, managed to avoid most of the combat by being sneaky and inventing our own non-combat options – something sorely lacking from DnD video games.

We ended up getting one of our goblin foes to become the group squire (‘combat butler’) for our group, and even tamed a wolf for him to ride. None of this was even close to what the GM had in mind, but he ran with it – and our adventure was more exciting because of it.

I can safely say with no hyperbole that this one experience has completely and utterly destroyed DnD video games for me.

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