By: Isaac Skaggs
A mighty behemoth, magically chained and imprisoned for centuries, has somehow broken its bonds. As it sets forth to wreak havoc on our world, a party of elite heroes is rallied by a local duke to stand up to the potentially apocalyptic threat. This is the world where you, intrepid adventurer, are going to rise up with a team made up of your friends to attempt to quell this threat. How you accomplish this task is up to you, maybe you lure it onto a battlefield where you and your party have the tactical advantage, maybe you have a powerful wizard who has the ability to banish it to another plane of existence where there aren’t any civilizations for the monster to destroy. Then it occurs to you: Has anyone tried communicating with this creature?
When the uninitiated first sit down with the sacred text known more commonly as the Player’s Handbook, they often become awash with overwhelm. Where and how does one begin to create their first character? Well fear not, brave traveler, you have come to the right place. Have a seat by my campfire and I will translate these archaic writings into the common tongue with this light primer of the deep, but also quite accessible gaming system that is Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons.
First thing’s first, let’s define terms: What is an RPG, more specifically a tabletop RPG? There are a few working definitions floating around the ether, but here’s my best go at it:
An experience in cooperative story-telling, generally curated and prepared by a Game Master (called the Dungeon Master in D&D, DM for short) in which a group of players, each typically taking the roles of a hero in the story, overcome obstacles by utilizing teamwork and problem solving to achieve goals set forth by the Game Master or by the players themselves.
Playing Roles: Who’s who at your D&D table?
Most of the people playing at any given table are going to take the role of adventurer, a “player character, or PC”. These players generally will create one unique character with their own quirks, abilities, and backstory to effectively become the main protagonists in a tale spun by the final player, the Dungeon Master. The DM has a special responsibility in that they embody the world as well as all the characters that are not controlled by the other players. They are responsible for playing these non-player characters, (commonly referred to as NPC’s) which include allies and villains alike. It is also up to the DM to build the setting around the player characters, providing them with encounters and events that catalyze the growth and development of the protagonists from novice adventurers into renowned heroes.
Character Creation: When adventure knocks, who comes to the door?
Creating a player character is often the first adventure new players embark upon, and many find the experience to be nebulous and confusing. They fail their quest before it even begins, undoubtedly dooming the world to one thousand years of darkness. I have found that before deciding what your character can do, it helps to know who your character is. Create a brief story to share with your DM, the details can be vague: Where is your character from? What is important to them? Why would they take to a hard life of adventuring in the first place? By answering these questions the answers to more difficult ones will be revealed to you as your character’s story develops. From this story you will be able to choose their Background (Player’s Handbook, page 125). A character’s background provides starting skills, some equipment, and a situationally useful feature relating to your past, such as a long-time ally or the familiarity with how a city is laid out. Your DM may even have a place for your character’s origins baked into their setting, bestowing them with an inbuilt reason to be involved in the grand adventure they will soon be thrust into regardless.
Character Creation II: “I'm the best there is at what I do.”
Comic book references aside, player characters in fifth edition D&D tend to follow this rule, eventually excelling in a handful of skills and combat roles, while being mediocre or even abysmal at most other tasks. After answering the questions provided above, you will then more easily decide how you would like them to function mechanically on and off the battlefield. Your character’s race, their ancestry provides them with bonuses to their ability scores, as well as features unique to members of their race.
Once you have decided upon that, you will be better prepared to choose your character’s class, the role they serve in the party. These twelve classes fall under two broad categories, martial and caster. Martial characters tend to be those who “go up and hit things”, overcoming the majority of their problems physically. Casters, by contrast, are generally more frail, relying on a wide assortment of magic, as well as their wits to overcome obstacles. Most characters fall into one of these two camps, while a few borrow features from each, being more versatile but less specialized overall.
For important starting equipment, check out Norse Foundry!
When playing Dungeons and Dragons, you are going to need a few crucial items at your disposal to be able to experience it fully: First and foremost, a group of three to six friends who are interested in taking part in an adventure with you, a copy of the D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide, Monster Manual, and at least one copy of the Player’s Handbook, all for fifth edition. You’ll need at least one set of polyhedral dice per person, although multiple sets are often very handy to have at your disposal. For those who are really serious about playing D&D, Norse Foundry makes epic, seven-piece polyhedral sets in a variety of different metals. They also sell real leather dice bags, and pencils that serve as six-sided dice. Rolling trays are also very useful tools to have in your possession for your group’s first jaunt into the world of fantastical, imaginative delight that is this engaging hobby. Norse Foundry can provide you with all of the necessary components for your first adventure, save the literature and of course, an adventuring party. Happy questing!
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