Just What Is Dungeons & Dragons, Anyway?


There’s a humorous aspect to my current position in the blogosphere. As previous discussions with SunkenThought have revealed, I do have a handful of Best Blogging Buddies, her being among them. One of the beautiful things about blogging is that you puts you in touch with interesting people that you wouldn’t have crossed paths with otherwise.

What I do find odd, however, is the fact that I haven’t attracted other Dungeons & Dragons fans to the blog. Despite my original D&D post blowing up in terms of visibility, it hasn’t really generated any ongoing support. My followup to it has mostly remained untouched, and that lightning-in-a-bottle remains unreplicated.

Yet, I do not believe in consorting with other fans to the exclusion of my beloved regulars. Instead, I believe it is far more productive to share my interests with my audience in hopes of perhaps showing them something new and engaging.

With all that in mind, I realized that I had talked about D&D’s resurgence, discussed the culture surrounding it, and reblogged a post or two regarding other people’s experiences. But, I never got into what the game actually is. What is D&D and how does it work?

Dungeons & Dragons is a tabletop roleplaying game. In short, a group of people sit around a table and collectively tell a story. If you were to sit in on one of my weekly sessions, it would consist of something like this:

Me (Dungeonmaster): All of you show up at the city of Medamarsae, the economic hub of the world of Rhagnim. You’re low on coin and looking for work, or any other way to get by.

Nathan (Pimkin, Rogue): What do we see?

Me: You see a crowd full of people standing in the square. It looks like there’s some important event happening.

Bryan (Syllamir, Bard): Can we see what’s happening?

Me: Syllamir, you see an important looking woman take the stage.

Nathan: I steal something from someone in the crowd.

Me: Roll for sleight of hand.

Nathan rolls a twenty-sided die, 16.

Me: You manage to lift five gold pieces from an unsuspecting target. Be careful though, you might attract the attention of the guards.

Bryan: Ok, so the important looking woman. What does she say?

Me: She introduces herself as Grand Magistrate Mihavel Arundalia. She begins to speak at length at the importance of unifying the continent of Lammins against the threat of Wilwynn Eldramoore, the evil necromancer. She goes on for about a half an hour when an arrow flies at her and hits the stage! The crowd disperses and you’re face to face with a group of mercenaries ready to fight!

So, the key to understanding this way of playing is by first establishing the two types of participants in the game. The first are the players, who control a character in the story(PCs or “player character”). They determine their characters’ interactions with other characters in the game and the game world itself. The other participant is the Dungeonmaster (abbreviated as DM). The DM plays the role of non-player characters (NPC), controls the world itself, and tells the story that the players are playing through.

In the above snippet, the players have wandered into town and are looking for work but get caught up in an assassination attempt on an important political figure. Often the players ask questions or make statements, such as when Bryan asked to see what was happening on the stage in the town square or when Nathan stole five gold pieces from an unfortunate passerby.

As a way of factoring chance into the equation, dice are rolled. While your standard six-sided die is included, there are a group of other dice in shapes likely unfamiliar if you’re just used to the standard board game dice. Usually in the rules, they are referred to by the prefix d- and the number or symbol they correspond to: d4,d6,d8,d10,d12,d20,d%.



Counterclockwise from the bottom right, a six-sided die(d6), a twelve-sided die (d12), an eight-sided die (d8), a twenty-sided die (d20), a four-sided die (d4), a ten-sided die (d10), and a percentile die (d%).

The most important die in Dungeons & Dragons is going to be the d20. Other dice play a role in the game, but you will be reaching for that d20 more than any other one. This is why when the game was revised in 3rd edition, its core rules were opened up as the d20 system.

Each player keeps a character sheet that tells them about mechanical elements as well as elements such as their personalities, equipment, hit points, features, traits, magic spells, and backstories. If you want to get a good idea of what one of these looks like filled out, you can visit the link here.

There’s some math that’s required to determine things like your character’s skills and proficiencies but it’s nothing too complicated. The current edition, 5th edition, serves as a good entry point to the game.

Speaking of entry points, how does one even start? Well, you can pick up a copy of the Starter Set at your local Barnes & Noble, hobby shop, or on Amazon for $20. It has everything you need to begin, including dice!

If you want to peruse a character sheet, read the basic rules, or find a store that carries D&D products, you can find all that at this link.  Then, should the game appeal to you and you want to sink your teeth into something meatier, there are ways to further explore the game.


12 thoughts on “Just What Is Dungeons & Dragons, Anyway?

  1. Reblogged this on The Blogging Meetup and commented:

    Another Dungeons & Dragons post! This is a fun one.


  2. I miss playing dungeons and dragons, used to play it a lot. My first ever character was a rogue elf who had been positioned within a tavern in the town that had a visiting D&D campaign. I was requested by the GM to lose as the barmaid but was actually a trickster rogue hired to assassinate the visiting campaigns leader. It was awesome.


  3. Also, thanks for the mention XD I got carried away reminiscing that I forgot to thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I read this on Feedly when you first posted it and I shared it with my brother. I’ve never read any other piece that discusses D&D the way you have. Not only is it a game, it’s a story-telling masterpiece. That makes things different. My brother is now petitioning it for a group to play D&D on the weekends in Bangalore (the city in India where I am from). Seems he’s already signed on a lot of people. I’m going to have to keep sharing these posts with him.


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