Red Dead Redemption II thoughts are next week. It’s really long. In the absence of any Halloween content, let’s talk about another thing that lets you pretend to be cooler than you actually are: Dungeons and Dragons.
Many people have heard about it, especially lately, given the ascendancy of Critical Role and the preponderance of “D&D Stories” on YouTube, but some might not know exactly what it is. Put simply, Dungeons and Dragons is playing pretend with structure. A bunch of players build characters from a wide range of fantasy races, pick their classes, and determine stats, skills and spells. They then run through a world and story managed by the Dungeon Master (DM), who describes the action, plays the NPCs and the enemies, and is in charge of the game’s balance.
The appeal of just about any tabletop game, up to and including D&D, is the fact that, unlike a video game, the game can react to just about any kind of shenanigans the players can and will throw at it, so long as the DM is up for it. For as reactive Skyrim can be, you can’t use your magic shouting to try and become the High King of Skyrim for instance. At best, you’re going to be a high ranking official in the Imperial or Stormcloak armies, or you ignore the side-quest.
If you home-brewed up a Skyrim campaign in D&D, odds are that the players are going to try and unite the Stormcloaks and Imperials to expel the Thalmor, and achieve a mythical golden ending that Bethesda didn’t have the stones to write. Or they just kill Alduin in Helgen at level 1, and the DM’s plans go up in smoke.
Getting into this madness is actually pretty easy. To figure out if it’s for you in the first place, there exists a preponderance of D&D media, from YouTube videos to a large range of podcasts. The podcast is particularly well-suited to the imagination-based action of the tabletop game, and I can heartily recommend at least two. The first one I found, vis-a-vis the involvement of Laura K. Buzz, is Dice Funk, specifically the cyberpunk chaos of the fourth season. It’s got dads, professional wrestling, references to Platonism, a very traumatized wererat bard and tubes. The second one I listen to is Not Another D&D Podcast, a parody of more traditional fantasy stories, being billed as the “Campaign After The Campaign,” where the players are tasked with cleaning up the mess created by the failures of the last set of legendary heroes.
Actually playing the game is only as expensive as you want it to be. The core player rules for the current fifth edition are available for free as a PDF on Wizards of The Coast’s website, with a more comprehensive Player’s Handbook for purchase and the set of dice necessary to play can either be borrowed or bought on the cheap. Dedicated game stores like Phoenix Nest Games here in Athens also hold their own games on Sunday, and they can help you out. If you can’t find a local game, you can even use web services like Roll20 to play the game over the Internet for free.
While Dungeons and Dragons might sound like a game for nerds who own weird dice, no video game can react to every bizarre player impulse the way a confused Dungeon Master can.
Logan Graham is a senior studying media arts with a focus in games and animation at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Let Logan know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.