Let’s try something a little different for this particular Game Night!, shall we?
Dungeons and Dragons is, without a doubt in my mind, the single greatest tabletop game of all time. It does everything a good tabletop should: bring friends together, challenge the group in a fun and interesting way, and doesn’t require the constant attention and dedication to the game. You can set up, sit back, relax and have some fun. But one hang up I’ve always had is that it can be very hard to access for newcomers.
Luckily, 5th Edition manages to fix that issue. For the most part, at least.
Today, I’m going to go over why 5th Edition D&D is the quintessential role-playing experience. I do have my issues with it, but even the most gorgeous trees could use a little trimming! Or balancing, in this case. But we’ll get to that.
Story: Literally Whatever You Want
This may seem obvious to those who have played Dungeons and Dragons before. But for the sake of any possible newcomers, allow me to explain.
At it’s core, D&D is a game all about creative freedom. This can be found in virtually every aspect of the game; while the stats and abilities it provides are set in stone, what you do with them is as flexible as water. This also applies to the story telling.
There are numerous approaches to how you tell a story as the DM. Do you want to buy a pre-made module from Wizards of the Coast, read that and take your players through it? Or do you want to use the available resources to craft your own story, with your own world, story and characters? Do the players start out as the good guys or the bad guys of the story?
While the end result of the story is all up to the players, the actual telling of the tale is all up to the DM. It is their job to present the players with the different obstacles, decide how their actions will change things in the story, and throw extra obstacles in their path to further alter the story.
Simply put: the players are the Fellowship, and the DM is Tolkien. Only if the Fellowship had minds of their own. And happened to be dyslexic maniacs who spent an hour trying to woe a fish.
Gameplay: Simple Has Never Been So Complex
On the surface, D&D is a simple game. You create your character to role-play, enter the world set out by the DM, and go on an adventure crafted entirely by your personal choices as a player. If you want to attempt something, you roll a twenty-sided die, which shall decide your fate. Depending on the items you have, you may use the other sided dice, which are: the d6, d8, d10, d12, and the Percentile.
The complexity lies in keeping track of your stats and the abilities of your different classes. While it is undeniably simpler than previous modules of D&D, where the stats alone took up the entire first page, the number of different stats, abilities and other such stats are much easier to keep track of.
But then there are the class abilities. There are numerous different classes to play as, each with numerous different sub-classes within it. These have unique abilities that serve to aid your character in various situations, from combat to talking. Be it a spell or martial art, or simply the ability to shout at your party members to do a better job and increase their roles, everyone has something.
This is where I have a minor issue. See, the balance between classes is kind of… rough. Some classes are simply far more powerful than others. For example, the Cleric class can be so overpowered that many DMs across the globe have simply decided to ban them entirely, as to prevent the balance of the game going to shit. Meanwhile, the Ranger, while not bad, is completely overshadowed by the Fighter, who could easily become a better Ranger if you give them a bow.
However: this is all down to the players and the stats they role. If you have a player in your party who roled only 15s or 18s on their stats and only chose the most powerful spells, you’ll more than likely find yourself with a character that can fold reality on a whim. But a really fun player could make that fun, and a good DM can make it into an interesting bit of story.
Even with the imbalance, it all goes back to creativity. With enough of that (as well as insane improvisational skills), you could sweep these issues right into the trash. Then, with those out of the way, you can have an insanely good time.
Presentation: The Power of Imagination
People may argue that, in order to get the full D&D experience, you need to have boards with dozens of painted miniatures and sets, along with every book in that specific module. This mentality has remained true for 5e as well. But fear not, fellow poor people! I’m here to assure you: that is not the case.
Yes, you need to at least have the Player’s Handbook, DM’s Guide and the Monster Manual. But so long as you have those, character sheets, dice and pencils, along with a group of friends, you can play D&D. You don’t need a game map with minis and everything for the full experience. So long as you have an imagination, as well as a good party, you can experience the game to it’s fullest.
Everything all goes on in your mind. Sure, it’s up to the DM to paint a clear picture, much as any good author needs to. But even a lacking description can come to life, should the player have enough imagination. Thus, D&D is the best looking game of all time. After all, it’s up to you to paint the image. Why not make it as gorgeous as possible?
Plus, I have a simple nostalgic soft spot for the D&D set up. DM behind the screen (which is more often than not me nowadays), sheets, dice and pencils laid out before me, and my friends at my side. That to me is more charming, engaging and beautiful than any fantasy world, no matter how vibrant.
Although Middle-Earth still makes a fair argument. But when you’re New Zealand, that’s kind of an unfair advantage.
Dungeons and Dragons has always been the best gaming experience you can have. Now, with the simplistic streamlining of 5th Edition, it’s even better than ever before! It’s more accessible than it’s ever been, making it super easy for anyone to play D&D at any time.
Now, there is one major hurdle: it can be hard to find people to pay with. Luckily, there are lots of different solutions to this. There are plenty of online services you can use to play D&D with people all across the globe, such as Role20. Local game stores often have open D&D campaigns that people can join to play. Hell, there are entire Discord servers dedicated to helping people find groups!
In every sense of it, playing Dungeons and Dragons has never been easier. If you haven’t played it before, I’d highly recommend you give it a shot. So long as you have a good group, you will have more fun than you could possibly imagine!
Just be sure not to take it too seriously, yeah?