How to put on robe and wizard hat?
June 5, 2009 9:45 AM   Subscribe

What should I expect at a Dungeons & Dragons game session?

I haven't been exposed to Dungeons & Dragons since I dabbled with it 15+ years ago, yet I'm attending a D&D game session tomorrow evening with a bunch of strangers who are regular RPG-ers.

I'm familiar with the basic concepts of D&D, but don't want to be the non-gamer bozo who diminishes the enjoyment of the other players. Anything I should do to prepare? I'm told pre-made characters will be available and it's fourth edition, if it matters.
posted by Hlewagast to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm guessing you're of adult age given that you say you dabbled with it 15+ years ago and few people under, say, 7 play D&D, so you're in your 20s or later.

So you should expect a bunch of guys sitting around a table, probably drinking caffeinated beverages and rolling lots and lots of dice.

While 75% of the conversation will be game related 25% will be about anything else as the DM sometimes has to take players off one on one or simple times that some characters are more in play than others.

I would not dress up, this isn't a LARP. You're sitting around a table rolling dice and playing make-believe. But it's not as lame as it sounds :)
posted by arniec at 9:52 AM on June 5, 2009


Bring Swiss Cake Rolls.
posted by charlesv at 9:54 AM on June 5, 2009


Best answer: If it's 4th edition you're playing, you can expect there will be a map of some kind, a lot of miniatures or tokens, and dice. When you're in combat, you'll find it's a lot like tactics games you might have played: each player and monster gets a turn in which to take a certain number of actions, like moving on the map or attacking. 4th edition relies heavily on a grid system to handle things like the range of your spells or how far you can move on your turn. With your premade character, you will get a number of powers that represent your various attacks or spells, which can be used with varying frequency.

Out of combat, it's usually less formalized and more talky: you will describe what you want your character to do, other players will do the same, you might talk to your other party members in character, and the DM will tell you what effect all of this has on your situation.

It's fun! If you have the time or inclination, you might want to pick up the 4th edition Player's Handbook before your game and flip through it to get a sense of how things work. Probably your other party members will have a couple copies for you to look through, though, so it's usually not strictly necessary. You will definitely want paper and pencils and dice, though again you can probably borrow these from someone else if you need.

And if you're interested, here's a podcast in which the guys from Penny Arcade and PvP play a 4th edition game with Wil Wheaton and a DM from WotC. That's just the first episode, there are eight total I believe.
posted by miskatonic at 9:56 AM on June 5, 2009 [7 favorites]


At least a few of those regular 4th edition gamers are going to argue over game mechanics, if my former gaming group was close to a representative sample. Bring something to eat or keep you busy during those times. 4th edition is just kind of horrible that way; prone to over-complexity that breaks up the flow of action. Hopefully your group is more fluid and relaxed, but have something ready to occupy your attention so you don't start to resent fellow players for monopolizing the game with trivia.

On preview: what charlesv said.
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:56 AM on June 5, 2009


So you should expect a bunch of guys sitting around a table

True. Girls only play GURPS.
posted by elfgirl at 9:58 AM on June 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you have a set of polyhedral dice, bring them. They probably have spare dice for new players or guests, but if you already have some, it's best to bring your own. If you don't, you have a conversation starter: where do I get dice?

I haven't played 4th ed, but I'm given to understand it's heavily miniatures-reliant, so finding a figurine may also be an issue. With pregenerated characters, though, you can expect one to be available if it's needed.

On preview: Paper and pencil are also good. When I played regularly, I used an engineering pad so I could make dungeon maps when needed.
posted by immlass at 10:05 AM on June 5, 2009


The helpful half of my comment, which seems to have disappeared before:

Some basic overview of the gaming mechanics of the system would probably be appreciated by the other gamers. I'm going to bet that since you were invited with the knowledge that you aren't an active gamer in other campaigns, they won't expect you to bring much in the way of your own dice, etc. If you have them, though, by all means bring them.

Also, snacks. It's a rare gaming group that doesn't appreciate the contribution of munchies. It's the equivalent of bringing a bottle of wine to a housewarming. :)
posted by elfgirl at 10:16 AM on June 5, 2009


Best answer: Man, why is AskMe tailor made to my areas of expertise today?

You really don't have to prepare if you're aware of the basic concepts, but if you want to make a whole new character (which is a lot of fun so I'd recommend it) familiarize yourself a little with the different character classes and races and what they do on wikipedia or a gaming site.

Here are some random tips for a first timer:

1. Say stuff in character!
Assume that everything you say is in character. Don't worry about seeming like a nerd, youre playing freaking D&D as an adult you're already at the bottom of the barrel--just put on your best transylvanian/british/german/southern accent (whatever says Archaism to you) and speak to the other players like they're people.

2. Don't distract the DM
Ask him/her questions and stuff but try to figure out what they are looking for in any given situation. Respect their rules and intentions. If they say: "You can't climb that" dont try to prove them wrong with a protractor and some physics books. If they want you to do something (LOOK IN THE GODAMN CHEST ALREADY!!!!!) just do it--surely there are cool situations further down the road where you get to have more options. The same goes for the other players...maybe it makes no sense for your elven wizardress to go to whorehouse with the barbarians in your party, but try to think of a reason...you dont have all night, and people want to get to the good parts. Ie the whores. No, not really. Actually that's another good point. Don't do anything explicit, it just ends up being weird.

3. Give your character a purpose other than Stay Alive
it's a lot more fun if you're sitting around thinking about how you can get this character into a situation where they can reveal/achieve/serve/avoid X, where X has nothing to do with stabbing trolls or getting gold. Bonus points for not telling anyone what you're doing.

4. Ask questions first --
Don't start killing things until you're sure there's not a better, more nuanced way. If you're supposed to kill it will probably attack you--maybe it can be your friend? Use all of your character sheet--check out what non-fighting skills or spells you may have to solve any given puzzle.

5. Its more fun if you take it a bit seriously
Sure it's silly. It's ridiculous in fact. You have a job and stuff and you're expected to beg a giant eyeball to spare the life of your favorite talking cat. But mocking the proceedings just is going to make you look like an idiot. Ham it up if you have to, but don't bother letting everyone know all the time how absurd you feel. It's a bring down. By the same token encourage the other players when they do something awesome in-game, even out of character. Nothing feels better than a well-deserved Hi5 for figuring out that the Wand was cursed or what-have-you.

6. Combat
You're going to do a lot of killing probably, so do it with panache. "I attack"= BOOOOORING. "I swing my axe at it!" = OK. "I yell out HIIIIIIIIYAHHHHH and bring the axe down from over my head, trying to chop off his arm!" = awesome. "I kneel down, pray to crom for guidance, then jump straight up in the air whirling two axes and using ventriloquism to distract it while i flip over the beast cutting its eyes out and carving my name in its hairy back!" = Wait, no that's too much, and you will invariably miss.

Despite all of these warnings: You really can't fuck this up...say and do as many things as you want to.
D&D rules, especially when everyone is taking an active role.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:21 AM on June 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


It isn't actually like the (funny little) youtube video onhazier posted, unless you're playing with a bunch of teenage boys in one of their mother's basement. I mean, part of it is, but it's not as immature or whiny as that sounds. The DM will describe the setting to you. If they're a particularly descriptive DM, that means some of this detail might eventually be important, so pencil and paper and a good eraser will be good for you to have to take notes, make notes on your character sheet, and so on. Try not to argue with the DM as you hear in the video. This will tend to piss them off and make them do horrible, horrible things to your character.

When rolling dice, especially if other people are doing it at once, be aware of where you are throwing the die. You don't want to a) screw with other people's dice rolls or b) accidentally mess with figurines.

Be aware of whether or not this is the sort of gaming group that does a lot of crosstalk. I have played games where there was a lot of out of character chatter and banter, and that was a lot of fun, but I've also been to games where people for the most part stayed in character, and that was fun too if a bit intense.

It's always fun to give your character some personality quirks if they don't come with one (you said pre-made characters). So if your character is a barbarian, you could for example make a habit of taking the a tooth or a finger from each one of your victims. Or your character could have an intense fear of slimy things, which could manifest itself during a monster encounter and have hilarious and/or disastrous effects. Cultivate in character relationships with the members of your party as well. In one of my games, I was a halfling with a dwarven lesbian lover, I had an uneasy truce with one of the members of our party, and I was constantly playing pranks on the last member of the party, like stealing small, useless items.

Good luck, D&D is fun, especially with friends, and we're usually (all too) eager to explain things and show newcomers the way.

Damnit, now I want to play. But my favorite DM moved away, and I don't really have anyone to play with. Ariana, I love you, wherever you are. May the Dragon's Egg bring you happiness, and may Slevin one day find you and bring you joy.
posted by Night_owl at 10:32 AM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you're playing with the kind of people I used to play with, you're going to get lots and lots of puns.

But if you'd like to hear what it's like, try DM of the Rings.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:39 AM on June 5, 2009


Ah, rats. DM of the Rings.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:39 AM on June 5, 2009


Monty Python quotes. Probably in spades.
posted by kaseijin at 11:15 AM on June 5, 2009


Second on the Swiss Cake Rolls.

It's probably worth noting that Potomac Avenue subscribes to a philosophy which, in my opinion, makes for the most rewarding game experience. But it's by no means the standard among D&D players who can be, as Chocolate Pickle suggest, very, very fond of things like puns. It may be the case that the people you are joining mostly use D&D as an opportunity to get together and joke around. If that is the case, just enjoy it as a social experience and don't get too serious. Otherwise they'll probably make fun of you when you're not there.

General observation: there are many different ways to play and enjoy D&D; be open to and a part of whatever.
posted by flavor at 1:08 PM on June 5, 2009


flavor, I don't think that's necessarily fair. If we don't like something you are doing, we tend to mock you to your face. Nerds are awesome like that.
posted by Night_owl at 1:24 PM on June 5, 2009


I am one of those people who invite others to watch role play games. I'm the GM, I'm allowed. Really, not that much is going to be expected of you, other than to just watch and enjoy yourself.

Things that endear spectators to this GM:

1)Bring snacks. Really, bring snacks. Consider it price of admission to an excellent night of theatre. It is also useful when the inevitable rules drama starts - you can go and get snacks, or pour drinks, or something to keep yourself entertained. Even if you make a total ass of yourself over the rest of the game, you will be remembered as The Bearer of the Huge Bag of Gummi Worms , not the Douche That Got the Bard Killed.

2) If you're planning on playing, run an eye over the rules. Ask whoever invited you for a copy of the source material. Don't worry too much about having it perfect - even GMs have a hard time keeping all the rules straight at times. If you're having grief with the numbers, try to avoid asking the GM loads of questions, since the person who invited you should really be helping you out. That said, if the GM is the one who invited you, disregard.

3) Paper and pencils are very useful, as is an eraser. You'll notice as the game progresses that you use some stats more than others - I find it useful when learning a new system just to write them on a sheet of paper seperately, so when we hit the fast end of combat I'm not flicking over my sheet wondering what the hell a THINGER stat does.

4)Pay attention to the flow of things - I had one of my players bring his girlfriend to a game, and she would wait until the most tense moment of play to ask her questions.

5)Don't be afraid to get into it, though. Everyone was new once. If you pay attention to what the GM and the other players are saying, you should be golden.

Have fun!
posted by Jilder at 3:14 PM on June 5, 2009


It REALLY REALLY REALLY (just assume I cut and paste those three REALLY's in here another twenty times) depends on the people you're playing with, their play style and what you want out of the game.

Knowing the rules doesn't matter - much. Assuming the person running the game isn't a jerk, ask him to help you out by flat out asking what your odds are of success at a given task, or whether your character thinks he has a chance at doing something until you have a feel for what tasks are easy and what are doomed to fail.

In previous editions of D&D there are things I, heavyset middle aged guy, can do that the greatest warrior in the land will fail at, and things that no one in real life can do that a second level fighter can pull off. (And I've never played 4th edition so I have no idea what the current list looks like.)

There was an essay in The Space Gamer once upon a time (I think Reagan was president) that described four types of role playing gamers. They were the power gamers (motivation - to seek out the bestest magic sword (or whatever) so they can fight the biggest enemy), the wargamer (motivation - interesting tactical puzzles (I'm one of these)), the story teller (motivation - participation in an interesting narrative) and the role player (motivation - similar to the story teller's but more focused on their one performance). Mixed groups are usually OK, but if you're in a room full of one and you're another, expect ennui.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:04 PM on June 5, 2009


A few guidelines for a new player to 4th (these mostly apply even if you are experienced with other game systems)
  1. Pick a default at will combat power for your character and then stick to it. Whatever it is if it comes up to your turn and you spend longer than 30 seconds thinking then fall back to your default at-will. Attacking is almost always a fair plan.
  2. If you have no ranged attacks and the enemies aren't in range then move. Still out of range? Charge.
  3. Roll your damage first while declaring what power you are using then roll to hit. You do this because damage for any particular attack is the same even if you target multiple enemies. Right now that'll usually be your at will power you've chosen.
  4. If you've got a choice, pick a "striker" type character. Your DM will know what that is and can help guide you. This is because while the character types are basically balanced a striker is generally going to be attacking one on one. See point 1.
  5. The WotC character builder is the only sane way to construct a character and you can download a demo that is fully functional but limited to characters under 4th level. Character built in the demo work in the fully functioning version.

posted by Mitheral at 6:27 PM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


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