Dungeons and Dragons: Character Creation and Learning the Game

Hello Around the Geek fans! It has been some time since my last D&D article, but I have finally pulled myself, out of the quagmire, that is real life, in order to bring you some more D&D tips.

Right, now you have bought your books, gathered a group of friends, but are now starring at several multi-hundred page volumes wondering how you will ever learn this game. Don’t be intimidated, there are a few easy tips to keep in mind, which will make learning to play easy.

First, the group must decide who will be the Dungeon Master, now referred to as DM. Choice of DM by far has the greatest impact on whether or not your D&D experience will be a good one. The DM is responsible for running the game, creating an interesting story, and playing as referee to settle any rules questions that may pop up. Needless to say it is not an easy job, and not one someone should ever be forced into. That is not to say being a DM is not fun. The DM gets the enjoyment of creating something something from their imagination, and then watching other people experience it. It is an experience very similar to writing a story, but rather than a story you will be creating an environment for players to interact in.

Some traits a good Dungeon Master needs:

1)      Ability/ desire to read the rule books. Every Dungeon Master needs to be willing to look up rules and read thru the book in order to create interesting and challenging encounters.

2)      Impartiality. The Dungeon Master needs to be able to be impartial. If certain players start to be favored over others conflicts will happen.A DM who is viewed as fair will be able to better moderate their game.

3)      Creativity.  Perhaps the most important trait, games get very boring if there is no imagination on the part of the DM. Think of the difference between a repetitive, predictable video game, and one where the setting and characters come alive, and the game play is always fresh. Creativity is essential to assuring a game remains fresh and interesting, even when using a pre-made adventure.

4)      Ability to improve and think on their feet. Players will constantly do things unexpected, so any DM needs to be prepared to roll with the punches. Preparation goes a long way to assist this, but at the end of the day some people are just better at winging it when necessary.

5)     The final trait, communication, it is essential that the DM be able to communicate well, in order to get across settings, monster reactions, and other features within the game.

If your group has a veteran player who is willing, usually they make the best DMs, as they will already be familiar with the rules. That being said, if you are creative, and find the idea of being a DM a try jump right in. Like everything DMing is a learning process, at first hte process may feel awkward and rough, but after a few sessions you should get the hang of things.

Now that your group has a DM players need to create characters. In order to do this some knowledge of the rules is necessary. Though the DM should eventually read all the basic rules, this is not necessary for players. Players should read the chapter on combat, and the chapter on character creation. Then I would suggest every player read the basic descriptions of each class, in order to gain basic information on the options available to them.

The rest of the information necessary to read is determined by character choice. Players should read the information for their race, skills, and feats (presuming the edition they are playing has those things). If you are playing a character which casts spells be sure to read the chapter on spell casting. As a general rule of thumb combat characters are easier to start with then magic users. The main difference between a magic user and combat character is the need to read more, if you are willing to read more don’t let the increased difficulty turn you off from playing what you find compelling.

As a basic tip most parties need a few elements to succeed. The main ingredients to a well balanced party are a character who can heal, a character who can fight in combat, and a character capable of searching for and disabling traps, as well as opening locks. Keep in mind these are guidelines, not rules.  If you want to play a sneaky party which doesn’t have any front line fighters go for it! Just be sure your DM is aware of this flaws in your party, so as not to put challenges that may accidentally be too hard. And DMs keep in mind your job is not to kill the party, but challenge them, some players may die, but you should never set out to “beat” your friends or “win” the game.

After these basic steps you are ready to play! Keep in mind D&D is about the story and enjoyment of the game, rather than the rules. If while playing a rules question pops up that cannot be easily be found, the DM should make a ruling which makes sense, then continue playing!

This week’s article will be my last of the starting D&D articles I have planned. From this point on I am willing to discuss pretty much any related topic that I get as listener questions, or anything that takes my fancy. So get your questions and comments in today, and I will focus my next article around it!

Contact me at my twitter @jake_hutton, or on the Around the Geek facebook group. For longer questions or comments email me at theeternaldungeonmaster@gmail.com.