Tuesday, 30 July 2013

What I have learned about D&D

I have been playing D&D for 5 years now and between the rules, feats, and monsters, I have picked

Dallas Kasaboski
up a few experience points, learning the strategy behind D&D. If you haven't read it, I recommend The Player's Strategy guide as it's a great way for players, veteran and novice, to gain tips into how to play this game. Here are a few of my own personal highlights, things I've learned about the game simply by playing.

Between the combat and the roleplaying often lies skill challenges and problem solving. D&D is a game of imagination which forces you to constantly question and examine your current situation. Sometimes, this abstraction makes things difficult but just as often the abstraction keeps you from forming solid opinions or bias which allows you to dream up a myriad of solutions. If you want "outside the box" thinking, ask a D&D player. The lack of taking anything for granted causes you to constantly find new and interesting ways of seeing things, and this can allow for some unorthodox thinking. I have come across a few tests and puzzles designed to promote creativity, teamwork, or unconventional thinking, and when I took those tests to any of my fellow D&D players, they were able to spin the puzzle around, and come up with a variety of solutions.

While we all enjoy D&D combat, my friends and I especially delight in the strategy and tactics of it. Often, our combats involve us standing over the battle grid, examining possible courses of action. Like a more complicated game of chess, we plan several moves ahead, considering all the pieces on the board.

While resourcefulness is a useful trait, allowing for some interesting uses of equipment and the environment, tactics allow an efficient use of actions which allows a party to become a serious threat, sometimes to the DM's chagrin. We've had some interesting balance challenges in our latest game because our three players are able to easily take out a solo 5 levels higher than us.

Never ask a question unless you want the answer to be yes
Since the rules of the game are flexible and much of the game is left to the imagination, contribution, and leeway of the players/DM, anything can happen. With that in mind, if you don't want a bad thing to happen, don't ask if it happens. Don't mention it, don't talk about it. Even if you have an awesome, and benevolent, DM, you don't want to give them ideas.

It started out as an inside joke, when one player failed a skill challenge roll and asked, "Do I lose an eye for that?" The DM thought it was a good idea and went with it. Now when I play, I only ask questions to find out information or to casually ask the DM for something special.

Don't roll, just say and do
D&D is an odd game as it can be equal parts rules and imagination. Sometimes, we get caught up in the rules and rolls. One example which seems to come up a lot is coup de grace. According to the rules, if a foe is defenseless (unconscious, tightly bound, etc.) one could attempt to end the foe's life quickly and yet still fail. While this makes sense it it seems odd that a character can't just cut a defenseless ruffian's throat and be done with him. Other instances include doing simple things. As a friend of mine recently said, "Your skill points are to help you be awesome. Your character can likely do anything you can do, the points are to help and see if you can do better." This is a good philosophy to play by as, far too often, I'd fallen into the trap of, "I leap on the table, oh I failed my Athletics check, I guess I don't leap on the table." As long as it's not too important or outrageous, a good DM will let it happen and a good player should know to just do it.

My first encounter with D&D involved watching others play. During these sessions, I would often whisper suggestions, ways to overcome certain challenges, and the solutions often included rope. It has so many uses and I have become known, in my D&D group, for being able to use rope to win the day. I have used rope to save characters' lives, find my way through mazes (thanks Perseus), and to seal friendships. It is my #1 recommended piece of equipment to have and I would not leave home without it!

Know your limits, and challenge them
While there are many ways to imply the above, I'm talking about creative, character limits. I recently realized that while I enjoyed flavouring my actions, I wasn't too comfortable making up elements of my characters's past. I even went so far as to make a character with amnesia so as to avoid a backstory. My hesitancy stemmed from a reluctance to step on the DM's toes, so to speak. To use another idiom, too many cooks may spoil the broth and I did not wish to inconvenience anyone by my creations. When I did think of something, I ran every detail by the DM to make sure it would work out and that they were prepared. I realized this was limiting my gameplay so I worked to trust myself and trust my judgment.

On the other hand, I've seen what happens when people ignore or fail to consider the limits imposed on their characters via the fictional world the DM has created. D&D is a collaborative game so keep on being creative, but work together to make things enjoyable.

And that's about all I can think of right now. I am sure there are lessons I'm taking for granted, and I hope that D&D continues to offer new challenges and new lessons. Thanks for reading.

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