Dungeons and Mastering Them

I have a confession to make:
I play Dungeons & Dragons.

Here me out, it’s not as nerdy as you think, it’s a lot like playing any video game really. Games like Oblivion, Diablo, Titan Quest and even Oblivion, are, in many ways, quite a lot like Dungeons and Dragons. D&D is, in fact, the original Role-Playing Game. The problem is, a lot of people don’t know anything about DnD to make a fair assessment, but they just take a look at the people that play it.

As I said before, countless contemporary video-games are adapted from Dungeons; Just play Neverwinter Nights or Baldur’s Gate for the most direct example. The gameplay is based entirely on the AD&D (Advanced Dungeons and Dragons) rule system, straight from the game. So it’s quite cool that a pen-and-paper RPG can translate to PC Games without being distorted. One big difference between the two mediums would have to be the freedom granted to the player.

In D&D-based PC Games (I’m going to solely refer to the relevant games as PC, because calling them Video-Games implies that it spans more platforms, but many AD&D games never reached consoles, and the term seems to dumb down and impair the credibility of them games), there obviously must be a limit on the amount of playing one could find in the game. It can’t stretch on forever, unless fan-made mods and content was developed. But in pen-and-paper D&D, the game is only limited by the player’s imagination. As fairy-boyish and corny as that sounds, it’s very true.

In Dungeons and Dragons, the players decide what decisions they will make, what quests they will do, who they will be, what equipment they will use, how they will interact with others, virtually everything. The Dungeon Master, who runs, rules over, and controls the game and its world, places adventures and locations at the players’ feet, which are either bought, downloaded from Role-Playing resources online, or made themselves. Everything in the game is subject to chance, with dice-rolls used to randomly decide the outcome of an action. Abilities and skills factor into this aswell, but I won’t go into it too much.

I first got into Dungeons and Dragons a short while ago, when I heard of the death of E. Gary Gygax, co-creator of the original game. Many people online expressed their feelings on the matter, and I was puzzled. So the guy made Dungeons and Dragons. Big Whoop. Wait a minute, I don’t even really know what I’m Big-Whoopin’. I should find out more about it.

As chance would have it (I rolled a 20, you could say), my brother was moaning over a lame and nerdy film he had started to watch and given up. It was called The Gamers. Made in 2004, it is an independent story about some RPG gamers playing a game, and going on a quest. Seeing the mechanics and freedom at play, and being a huge Oblivion fan myself, I was fascinated. I couldn’t believe all the stuff those dudes were doing. Did he just steal that guy’s pants, just because he wanted to!? This game looks amazing.

I got my pal Alex in on it straight away. I bought the Core Rulebooks: The Dungeon Master’s Guide, the Players Handbook, and Monster Manual V. I got some role-playing dice. I was ready to play.

And then… for a while, nothing really happened. I got some other people interested in it, but with frequent changes to the players lineup, it was hard to tack down a good solid playing session which everyone could attend. I rehashed some stuff, and me and Alex tried playing on our owns. The game fell apart on us, so I studied the books some more. After a long time, a few other guys and myself finally got down to some playing. And it was great. The mystery, the intrigue, the perfectly honed and balanced combat system, the freedom to beat up random strangers and not suffer a Game Over screen, just because it’s what’s not status quo. It was quite congenial.

Of course, I was just watching all that jazz going on. I was playing as Dungeon Master, which meant I wasn’t really playing at all. So I wasn’t entirely playing the game, but I was governing the game, spinning the yarn and instructing the adventurers of danger. At the same time, however, it was kind of like playing a very strange game, that was one half role-playing game, and one half real-time strategy. I ran the combat, and fought for the monsters in the world, cued appropriate music to play depending on their situation, described the player’s surroundings and folk featured therein, drew maps for the players to see attacks of opportunity or safe sneaking routes.

We’re all still learning how to play, so gaming sessions might sometimes go slow, but all the players I play with are level two, which I must say I’m quite proud of. It’s like having a child. Alex declared that he’d cry if the villainous they were fighting killed his player, because he loved that dwarf, man. He loved that frickin’ fighter.

So, in conclusion, I advise you to band together a party of bards, rogues and barbarians; elves, dwarves and orcs. Although Dungeon Mastering is hard work, it’s a very worthwhile and rewarding experience. I only wish I had have started sooner, and gotten the opportunity to thank Ernest Gary Gygax myself.

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