Dungeons and Dragons Box Set

The Mesmerist stood before the fire pit ready to cast the ancient book into the flames when the Drow sorcerer stepped out of the shadows and unleashed a powerful blast of magical frost. She was thrown backwards and knocked to the floor. Recovering quickly she stood and called for her horde of hidden minions to attack the small band of adventurers now entering the chamber… Okay, that’s not from some lame fantasy novel I’m writing, but was my take on part of a Dungeons and Dragons session I played last night with the The San Diego Dungeons and Dragons Meetup Group. The group does monthly introductory meetings for people new to the game, and I felt this was a great opportunity to learn more about a big part of geek culture.

As a kid I had played a little D&D (the fantasy role-playing game), and I often read the Dragonlance series published by TSR, the original gaming company to publish Dungeons and Dragons, but the game I played last night was vastly different from the game I played in junior high. Back then we played out of a book where the Dungeon Master (DM) would describe the scenarios while the players would act or describe their actions that would succeed or fail based on the role of multi-sided dice. In contrast the game I played last night with a group of six others was based on a system of movement across a large graph where the scenes were loosely drawn by the DM and players characters were represented by miniature figures and character sheets. Dice were still used to decide the outcome of events but the individual statistics of each character were very important to how that character could move and act across the board as the DM introduced new situations.

The DM last night kept the game fairly simple and represented several rounds of combat to show how characters could use their abilities and powers in the game. I really enjoyed this function, and, though the game is heavily based in personal imagination, there was also a board game like quality that helped provide structure. The combat rounds reminded me of World of Warcraft raids where a system of player cooperation uses stamina based characters to absorb damage from enemies while distance and melee attackers deal damage to the foes and a healer stands back to take care of the wounded. I played a Drow Sorcerer and so spent most of my time casting damage causing spells from across the grid. In fact I rolled a natural twenty twice last night causing a critical hit both times. Pretty damn cool, huh?

If there was something I didn’t like about D&D it was that, although the game was fun, it was very slow. It often took many minutes for each player to joke or argue their way through a turn. I felt this game would be better played by a group of three to five players. Also, being new to the game there was a dizzying amount of statistics, bonuses, and other numbers that a noob like me found hard to keep track of (and I fucking hate math too…). I spent a good amount of time last night having to have the more than patient players, and DM, try and explain the rules of this game to me. Of course, most of it went right over my head. I also feel this is a great opportunity to rant about a small part of geek culture that has often been joked about in the past but is still a huge problem: HYGIENE!!! There is nothing worse than having to sit through a three hour session of Dungeons and Dragons while having to breath in the foul nerd-funk floating off the players next to me. This gaming experience would have been so much better had a few of it’s participants used a small combination of soap, deodorant, and breath mints. I may be a dick for pointing this out, but I feel it needs to be said.

Overall, I enjoyed this game, and the group I played with. I feel that if I could find a good group of imaginative players, who bathe often, I would probably play more. Hell, I even like the idea of playing a Drow again. Being a pissed, purple, elf with wild magical powers to kill opponents across a large piece of graph paper is kind of cool. Anyways, we’d like to know what you guys think. If any of you’ve had any recent experiences, been to any D&D meet ups, or some good stories, please let us know in the comments.

T’chou!

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