Roll for Initiative

With lockdown having many people lose their minds at the thought of being stuck inside, I and others are taking advantage of all this free time. We are using this opportunity to sit down and play a few hours of the “world’s greatest role-playing game”, Dungeons and Dragons.

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With lockdown having many people lose their minds at the thought of being stuck inside, I and others are taking advantage of all this free time. We are using this opportunity to sit down and play a few hours of the “world’s greatest role-playing game”, Dungeons and Dragons.
 
Though the game has a reputation for being played purely by introverted loners who reside in their parents' basement, this is not the case. I initially bought into the stigma surrounding the game, assuming it was reserved for such basement dwellers. Still, I am glad to say I was proved wrong. A close friend of mine bought the starting set for the game and asked if I wanted to test it out with him and a few others. I was initially hesitant, after all, I didn't think of myself as some big nerd. But I decided to do the courteous thing and play along. 

Fast forward six years and I am currently in charge of running several games, one of which has been going almost three years. I was hooked from the moment we started. It’s an experience like nothing I've ever played, the characters, the story, the world, everything. The character aspect is one of the main reasons I love the game so much. Even though I have gone through the process of making characters dozens of times, either for me to play or to help a new player making their first, it never fails to make me smile. There are so many aspects to consider. 

When you make a character to play, you don't just make some generic Joe Blogs, you make something more. You give them bonds and flaws, ideals and character traits. They can be as similar or different to you as you desire and allow you to embrace your creative side. Want to play a bard called Billy who plays the bongos, go for it. Want to play a ten-year-old girl who got struck by lightning and can now cast spells, why not? Sure, it’s a fantasy game filled with magic and monsters but at its core, the game is about the characters. You care about them, and the dangers you face are made all the more effective as death is an integral part of the game. 

These aren't just random TV show characters that you hope make it to the next episode, these are your characters. You have spent time and effort making them and spend hour upon hour, week after week playing them. Though they exist only in the context of the game, you have a real connection to them. Though I have never had a character fully die in one of my games, there have been times where their fate has been up to a single dice roll. 
That brings me to my role in these games, the Dungeon Master. Other than being one of the nerdiest titles known to man, the Dungeon Master (DM) is the one who runs the story and prepares the games for the players. For new players or those who want to try their hand at being in charge, there are many options.

 The company that made D&D, Wizards of the Coast, have produced countless pre-made adventures that take place in the vast world they have spent decades building. I am currently playing through one of these modules with a group and am loving every minute of it. Though the official adventures are phenomenal in their own right, nothing is more rewarding than putting the time into making a world of your own. To me, it is the ultimate form of storytelling. Having control of the narrative and being able to tailor a story for a small group of people is fantastic. Nothing beats the feeling of finishing a game and having a player tell you how much fun they had or how astonishing they found that plot twist.  

Playing is more than just cathartic escapism. It is a great tool that helps improve various skills. Problem solving, teamwork, critical thinking are all great examples. Still, I feel that it is a confidence booster above all else. One of my players who has been in my group for the past two years was always quiet. He would only speak when he had to and would rarely get involved in the group discussions. Now that he has played with us for some time, he has come out of his shell. Now he finds himself leading many of the talks at the table. 

For those of you that haven't played this game, I would recommend giving it a try. Put the preconceived ideas you may harbour against it aside and just give it a shot. The fantasy elements and sophisticated game mechanics won't be for everyone. But for those who are intrigued, you'll find the unique mix of character role-play and fantastical storytelling the perfect way to kill time during the lockdown.

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