I Played D&D and It Was Almost Exactly as I Imagined

That's a lot of twenty-sided dice.
That’s a lot of twenty-sided dice.

I often pass my neighborhood gaming place at night, blown away at just how many people flock there to play role-playing games, like Dungeons & Dragons.

In case you’re not familiar (I wasn’t really), Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game. Each player uses a character they’ve designed to embark upon imaginary adventures. Instead of referees, a Dungeon Master oversees the game, and acts as the storyteller. Characters form a party. Together, they problem-solve, engage in battles, gather treasure and knowledge. They also drink a lot of ale (in the fantasy land. In real life, players drink Big Gulps Mountain Dew). Basically, it’s like Game of Thrones, except instead of George R.R. Martin writing the story, it’s a group of random dudes from your company’s IT department (and a few gals, too).

D&D is classic, stereotypical nerd stuff. I was intrigued.

From my perspective, which is zero exposure to D&D aside from the movie Role Models, it seems D&D devotees are fanatic about this stuff. It’s more than a hobby, it’s a lifestyle– not unlike folks obsessed with hot yoga, endurance sports and fantasy football. For people to love it that much, it has to be a little awesome, right?

To be honest, this short video perfectly showcases my expectations:

Spoiler alert: it was a lot like that, except more fun with way less complaining!

I headed to Source Comics & Games in Roseville (thanks for the suggestion, Nora!). It’s a huuuuge store next to a Guitar Center, with tons of parking, a million different games, figurines, puzzles, comics, plus loads of candy bars and soda. It’s 13-year-old boy’s dream. Or a 35-year-old who’s obsessed with Spiderman comic books. Whatever, the people who love this place, LOVE this place. They also have about a dozen tables in the back for weekly gaming events.

Wednesdays from 6 – 8-ish pm is D&D night.

I’m all for trying new things, but I felt bringing a knowledgable D&D-er along would help a lot. I was pretty nervous about other players lacking the patience to deal with a newbie. Thus, I invited my D&D-loving, 15-year-old cousin Joe, who immediately asked if I’d already built my character.

Ummm…  was I supposed to?

Joe brought his own pencil, dice and character. I did not.
Joe brought his own pencil, dice and character. I did not.

Apparently, there’s an elaborate process that goes into selecting and creating your character. You can be a warlock, druid, fighter, barbarian, wizard, cleric, dwarf… and probably a bunch of other things. Building a character requires knowing some ground rules and rolling a crap ton of tetrahedron dice to figure out your character’s attributes, like strength, wisdom and intuition. Joe’s character is a dwarf fighter (I think?). Luckily, Source offered pre-built characters for newbies like me. I chose a benevolent wizard, who I named Wally Longflame.

Apparently all these papers were necessary for me to play. YIKES!
Apparently all these papers were necessary for me to play. YIKES!

We were seated at a table with six other players and our Dungeon Master DM, Paul, who seemed like a nice guy who’d maybe work at a tech company. The rest of our tablemates were all dudes, three guys in their twenties, another techie dad type, and one older guy with long gray hair and a blue t-shirt boasting a wolf, sorcerer and a flurry of lightning bolts. Nobody seemed phased or charmed that a girl was joining them. It was just like whatever, let’s do this.

Since we were joining an in-progress game, everyone had to wrap up last week’s adventure (which apparently involved killing some sort of ogre in a cave filled with loot), then head back to town to meet up with us. The DM told Joe and I that our characters were “waiting for the group in a seedy tavern.” We then placed Lego figurines inside a box marked ‘Dive Bar’ on the hand-drawn map splayed across the table. The rest of the team proceeded to place their Lego figures at the dive bar, where we enjoyed many proverbial ales.

We literally talked about drinking ales in bar for 10 minutes, then slept at an inn, then enjoyed fresh baked goods in the morning before heading out on our next adventure.

This session included two battles– the first against four robbers enjoying a pig roast in the woods.

Four unsuspecting robbers ahead. I'm the one with the wizard hat. 
Four unsuspecting robbers ahead. I’m the one with the wizard hat.

My fellow players told me to “hang back” because I was too new and could easily be killed. So I looked on from the “brush” as they fought the robbers, one at a time, rolling a 20-sided die to determine how hard their hatchets, swords and punches landed on the bad guys. At some point in this battle, I was gifted a magic missile wand, which becomes VERY important later in the story. Eventually, we successfully killed the bad guys, released a bear they’d held captive, and took their cart, which we sold for some gold back in town.

We then drank many ales and decided to hit the sack early. (Just a reminder: though the DM is guiding the story, the rest of us are all just making everything up.)

Our next adventure took us to a house in the woods, where we’d chased a goblin. We decided to enter the house– empty except for a table with some rusty metal tools. All of a sudden, the DM made a [Lego] ghost appear. He blocked a locked door inside the house, threatening that we’d be sorry if we didn’t leave immediately. Our table conferred and decided to destroy the ghost. One at a time, we tried to either exterminate the ghost or open the locked door. Everyone failed. I went last, asking if I could use my magic missile wand. The DM said, sure. So I did and boom!

The DM picked up the ghost and placed him behind his cardboard backdrop.

You guys…. I KILLED THE GHOST! (Can you kill a ghost?)

We kicked down the door and entered a new chamber, which housed a vault. One of our barbarians opened the thing, and a skeleton in rusty chainmail began fighting us. Again, one by one, our posse started fighting him. They all failed to kill the thing. I went last, using my magic missile. Boom! Down goes Frasier!

I KILLED the skeleton, too! (Can you kill a skeleton?)

We scavenged the room for treasure. which means we simply asked the DM lots of questions about what the room looks like and if there are any secret compartments. We found a locket and some coins. But really, who cares what we found, because I CONTRIBUTED by using my MAGIC MISSILE WAND!

The story ended there, to be picked up next week from the same place. Yep, you have to wait a WHOLE WEEK before finding out what happens next. No binge-watching here, guys.

As we packed up our stuff, I found myself thinking, hmmm… I will probably never come back here again. Though everyone was very inclusive, and I had fun, it just wasn’t my people. But maybe things would be different if I had more chemistry with the group.

That said, I totally get why people love D&D.

It’s not a game you win or lose. It’s an opportunity to get together with people you like and create a shared experience. It’s not sitting back and playing video games or passively watching back-to-back-to-back episodes of a TV show. It’s active. D&D is an opportunity to improvise a story. That’s fun.

Weirdly enough, a few days later, I found myself wondering what would happen in the following week’s D&D adventure. Would they be able to survive without Wally Longflame’s magic missile wand? I suppose so. Regardless, I all of a sudden did want to go back. Just a little bit, to see what happens next.

* * *

Have you played D&D? I kinda loved it. Other things I’m surprised I loved: Conquering the haunted basement, caring for houseplants & Scuba diving. Life is just full of surprises!

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Comments (14)

  • Warklaw 6 years ago Reply

    Like most ‘sit around a table; board games the group of people sitting around that table can make it both a vastly different and enjoyable experiances. Since you like the idea of crafting stories on the fly, helping a group, and knowing what happens next. Since you said "it wasn’t my people’ rather than ‘it wasn’t my thing’,I highly suggest you find a group ‘of your people’ and craft some more stories.

    molly mogren katt 6 years ago Reply

    YES, I think that hits the nail directly on the head & I wish I’d expressed myself better in the post. I did like the people I played with, however, I can imagine playing something like D&D with a group of people you really ‘gel’ with would be extremely fun.

    PS is there a game like D&D that’s about a zombie apocalypse? ‘Cause I would like that.

    Joe Mogren 6 years ago

    Molly, there actually is a game about the zombie apocalypse, I was telling you about this line of games that is all about living in a post-apocalyptic world, whether you are fighting zombies, aliens, robots that have "woken up", or god’s destroying the world, and create a character that is based off of yourself, which is really cool, and you play in the area around you. Here’s the link if you want to check it out.

    molly mogren katt 6 years ago

    Do you have this game???! Sounds fun. I want to fight zombies in an abandoned shopping mall.

  • Jeanette 6 years ago Reply

    I think a lot more folks (ladies like us) would play RPGs if they knew about the creative, cooperative, storytelling aspect, or if there are a lot more RPGs than just D&D! I would agree with Warklaw: If you enjoyed yourself, why not find an interesting RPG, find a good saturday, grill up some yummy apps and have some rosé (or smoothies) out on the patio with some girls and just dig in.

    I’ve never been to gamer nights at places like the Source, and I know you weren’t making gross generalizations about gamers. I’m doing my best not to get defensive, because there’s no reason to. BUT: I know plenty of awesome men and women (like my awesome husband) who game regularly, at home, with wonderful food and drink. And they all smell great 😉

    molly mogren katt 6 years ago Reply

    Agree 100 percent, Jeanette! Though most of what happened during our session was as I’d anticipated, I honestly didn’t realize that you can’t ‘win’ D&D until last week. It’s about the journey, as they say.

    It’s funny– my cousin Joe and I both said the BO was so oppressive at first that we couldn’t even deal… and he’s surrounded by kids going through puberty every day at school . Our table smelled great, but there was a funk throughout the space. Maybe next time, I’ll play with your hubs. 😉

  • Katie Lee 6 years ago Reply

    I love this Molly! My husband plays D&D every week at a friends house and he absolutely loves it. I agree with Warklaw that the group makes all the difference. Playing with his friends is one of the highlights of his week and they’ve been doing it for a long time. They always try to get me to play and now that you’ve tried it I feel like maybe I could kill a ghost too. Right?

    molly mogren katt 6 years ago Reply

    You could definitely kill a ghost! That sounds like fun and I do think the chemistry of the people involved makes all the difference.

    molly mogren katt 6 years ago Reply

    BTW, joining a RPG is really intimidating as an outsider, isn’t it? Even if we’re only talking about your awesome husband & his buddies playing.

  • Chelsea 6 years ago Reply

    Glad you had fun! D&D is a blast, especially when you’ve been with the same group for quite a while. There are SO many tabletop roleplaying games out there. I think if more people tried it, they would love it! The "nerdy" stereotype turns a lot of people away, but it’s such so much fun to be actively part of creating a story on the fly with other people!

    molly mogren katt 6 years ago Reply

    We’re all nerds at heart, right? I’m not friends with anyone who doesn’t think that’s true.

  • Ashley 6 years ago Reply

    We were doing a weekly game night for almost a year, and had a blast. We have one friend who is really into board games, so he’d buy ones he wanted to play and teach us. One of them was a Star Wars RPG that we only played once, but I’d be down to play again. It’s fun to make up the story as you go along! Tim finally ordered a big bag of dice….there are many games that are helped with lots of dice to keep score. I hope we can get back to a weekly thing soon. There are a lot of fun games on the market. Glad you had fun 🙂

    molly mogren katt 6 years ago Reply

    I think I’d love to have a weekly or monthly standing game night. Scrabble, Balderdash or maybe even D&D!

    Ashley 6 years ago

    It is a LOT of fun. Some of our favorites are Munchkin, SmashUp, Ticket to Ride, and 7 Wonders. Munchkin has a bunch of different versions and has the whole character aspect but the cards determine it. I keep pushing for good old Yatzee but so far no one has agreed….I’ll have to keep pushing for it!

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