Quest For My First DND Game
My first DND game was nerve-wracking, but I had a great time and I wanted to share here my experiences. I hesitated for a time before hopping in this this awesome world, and I want to help others enter it without stress as well.
Why I wanted to play D&D
I have a long history with playing computer game rpgs (CRPG). I love building my own character, exploring a world, becoming a hero and saving the day. I put hours of research into my character builds trying to create fun but strong parties. The problem with CRPG’s is that.. They are either too limiting in the freedom of choices, or when you do find a great one, it ends far too soon or falls apart. And then there is the real downside that most decent games lack multiplayer.
In comes Dungeons and Dragons. The very game that created the crpg. On paper, it seems to address all of my issues with video game rpgs. But with 100’s of rules covering everything from which plants you can eat to how many goblins you can sweet talk into killing each other per turn, D&D is a vastly complex system that can seem really intimidating for new players. It certainly did for me.
After sitting on it for years, I finally decided to give it a go. I watched videos, listened to podcasts and after a lot of searching I eventually found a DM ( Yup you guessed it: DM Patrick! )
But it seemed the more research I did, the worse my anxiety was building. I had scheduled to join the group in just a week so I started reading every source of “getting started” material I could find. There’s 1000’s of guides online and, unfortunately, I found that most of them were superficial
or heavily opinionated.
I was quite lucky with finding Patrick. He has a lot of guides that walk you through creating a character, how to be a good player, and how to act at the table. For someone that was worried about such things as every group can be different, this was a huge help to me.
The Misconceptions and Myths
The real issue I started to face was what character would I play. In games, I tend to build my NPC party as the main tanking / damage dealers and I would play support. This also applied to online games. I guess it’s a means of control “if the important role of healing is in my hands then, I can be the one to ensure our success” would probably be an accurate description of my thought process.
The problem is, this doesn’t really apply to D&D. NPC’s are smart for the most part (at least that’s how Patrick runs his game). They’re not going to smash into your tank while your spell casters deal tons of damage unnoticed. There is no reason a party of damage dealing rogues cannot be successful in D&D, so gone is the opportunity to ask “What roles need to be filled?” like you would in a MMO guild (again, this is due to how Patrick runs his games).
So, with this knowledge, and still the desire to play a support, I found the Bard. Here was a chance to mix things up for me. No longer will I be sat on the back line spamming heals. Here was a support class with a ton of extra flavour. Alas, just as I had found a class that seemed to tick all the right boxes for me, I was exposed to what is probably the worst myth for a new player flying around the web.
- “If you’re playing for the first time.. You definitely don’t want to be a spell caster!”
- “Every new player should be a Fighter. Maybe eldritch knight if you want a taste of magic”
- “Casting is an extremely complex mechanic, you should learn the game first.”
I felt very disappointed to read so many opinions repeating the same thing. After so much research to find the right class, it seemed my efforts were in vain. Fortunately I discussed this with Patrick and he assured me while yes, Fighters are mechanically easier to learn, Spell casting is not an overly complex mechanic.
And he couldn’t have been more right. While I can’t lay claim to being the best spell caster in the history of D&D, I pretty much picked up the general gist of things after our first combat. Even better, though, was that the entire group was warm, welcome, and understanding of my occasional confusion.
I really hate this piece of advice now when I see it, because I feel like it pigeonholes people into making characters they might not really enjoy. I could continue talking about other bad advice new players are given, but I think that would probably be an entire article. The real thing is to just talk to your DM about it, or better yet drop by our forums! We’d be happy to give advice & thoughts based on our experiences.
The Learning Curve
Ah so many books! So little time! How will I learn everything in just a week?!
This is actually a big one for me, I was really worried about not knowing what to do when things presented themselves, and my group being angry with me.
This really does stem from my experience in MMOs. When you go into a raid and you plus 29 other people start the fight, only for you to instantly die because you’re not aware of a certain mechanic. Your raid group is going to get real mad, real quick.
To be successful in those types of games you need to know your class very well. You need to know everyone else’s classes very well so you can anticipate reactions, and most of all: you need to know the enemy very well. So thinking D&D would be similar, you can imagine the amount of stress I was feeling.
Fortunately, it’s really not like that. In fact, I would argue the least you know, the better. I still enjoy not knowing much. It really adds to the flavour and fun of the game. Of course, I’ve heard stories of other tables not welcoming new players because it bogs things down, which I can understand. If that’s the case, then first and foremost: you may want to ask the DM and/or the other players how they feel about adding those with less experience. Patrick makes it very clear that we’re all here to have fun, AND learn. Elitists and gate-keepers have no room at his table.
Just last night we were facing off against a Dryad. I knew a little about Dryads from other media as they are a common race to find in games but I had no idea what this thing could do, or what threat it really was to the party. The end result was a tense combat full of suspense that I wasn’t even really sure we would win and a huge relief when we did. There was even a conversation after the fight if killing the Dryad was a good thing or not as we have no idea what the consequences will be.
I also do not read up on my party members classes and abilities because it’s really fun to learn in game. The first time my friend (druid) turned into a bear in game to fight an enemy just blew my mind. “What? You can do that ?!” and I like to think my character is just as surprised as I am.
I guess my advice to new players is learn the core rules and your chosen class. If you’re playing on a digital platform such as Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds, learn a bit about using that as well. Let the rest come naturally, as it’s an amazing fun way to experience the game.
Meeting the group
Here it was. Judgment day. It felt a lot like the first day at a new job.
- “Will they like me?”
- “Will my character fit in with the group?”
- “Have I learned enough not to annoy them all?”
And just like starting a new job, there was one request which I was completely unprepared for, and still when new players join us, I get the feeling some of them are experiencing a similar predicament.
Oh boy! All that effort into my backstory questions, character building, class research. Just went out of the window. I still cringe at the way I not only introduced my character but the first impression I gave everyone in my group.
“I um… am a halfling… Who is a bard… and um… I like… supporting.”
But, after that awkward bumbling mess of nerves was out of the way, the others started telling me about their characters and thus began a delve into a magical world of creativity and storytelling.
In an MMO or online game your introductions are normally just a stat drop. “I am a level 99 wizard with a power level of 9000 and I’ve completed every raid in game” Awesome. Welcome to the guild.
But here was people describing their characters as living beings, with fascinating goals and backstories. Not one person spoke of their power or abilities beyond mentioning the class and what roles they see themselves in the party.
I started 6-7 months ago and I haven’t stopped since. I have no intentions of doing so either. Every session I get to learn new things, get to be creative and explore a rich world.
So if you’ve been pondering trying this game, stop questioning it and Roll Up a New Character!
Let’s Hear From You!
Share your experiences, the joys, stress (I hope not), and horror stories of your first sessions or even joining other groups in progress. I’d love to hear from you.