Gnolls, nerds, and geeks—Oh my!

Photo by Brittney MacDonald
Photo by Brittney MacDonald

A noob’s first experience playing ‘Dungeons & Dragons’

By Brittney MacDonald, Life & Style Editor


I am well aware that I have been living a secret lie—the truth is that I might not be as much of a nerd as I have presented myself as. Yes, I have dedicated countless hours to playing video games, marathoning sci-fi shows, and watching anime—but, until recently, I have never actually played Dungeons & Dragons (D&D).

My fall into geekdom has been a lifelong journey, but throughout most of it I have been fairly isolated. Throughout my formative years I lived in the middle of nowhere, and this greatly affected how I became the geek I am today. As such I was never really indoctrinated into the expansive and strange world of tabletop games. Those were for social people, people who had a dedicated group they could play with—you know, people that lived near other people. Instead, I relegated myself to playing games online in order to get my social nerd fix.

Nowadays, as those around me spoke of their grand campaigns and accidentally murdering their party members, I began to feel the loss. So I started preparing, in case I was ever afforded the chance of joining in a game. I bought my own dice set, I familiarized myself with some of the classes and races most common D&D campaigns would afford, and I told anyone and everyone that I wanted to play, just to get the word out there. Finally, my chance came. I recently participated in Relic Entertainment‘s Extra Life fundraising event, during which people at the company would play video and board games for a full 24 hours in order to raise money for the Vancouver branch of the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. I wasn’t able to stay for the full 24 hours, but I did get to participate in a small D&D campaign and pop my proverbial RPG cherry.

As someone who has never played D&D before, it was certainly an enlightening experience. I did not have to go through the process of making my own character, or finding out what skills were best to use, as all the characters we played were pre-made for the interest of time, and also for the sake of noobs like me. I was also afforded the luxury of a very patient Dungeon Master, and a party of people that didn’t mind helping me out and telling me when certain skills would be beneficial to the campaign.

As intimidating as it all seems—with all the papers and the keeping track of things—I know now that once you get the hang of it, D&D isn’t as hard as I thought it would be to get into. I did learn a few important things along the way, though. For one thing, you have to be fairly good at basic math. On top of whatever you roll, you also have individual character stats you need to add—this all has to be done correctly because it could mean the difference between a mild graze and a critical hit to an enemy. Another thing you should familiarize yourself with is some mild terminology. The biggest one that came up was when the DM would ask for a “skill check,” apparently this means roll a 20-sided die and hope for a high number.

This brings me to my next point—know which die is which! Playing D&D, the dice you use for various things are often referred to by how many sides they have. So, a regular six-sided die would be a “D6,” and the fancier 20-sided die would be a “D20.” Be aware of which die is which in a table top set, so you know which ones to use when the DM asks for you to roll one.

My last point is one I discovered a little too late, though not late enough for the game to be completely ruined by me. If you are working off a pre-made character, read your skills as well as your listed items so your imagination has some fodder to work with. Don’t be afraid to put something weird out there. Do you want to trip up the giant with gumballs, or tame the giant dog-monster to be your companion and protect you as fiercely as Old Yeller before that unfortunate rabies incident? Do it. As I was told by multiple people, a good DM will work around whatever craziness you toss out there.