By Anni Simpson on October 11, 2014 at 6:00pm
So maybe I’m more of a tabletop noob than I ever thought I was. Although people in my high school social circle played “Dungeons and Dragons,” I never engaged in any of the campaigns. It scared me with its formidable daylong character-building sessions during lunch, and I didn’t have the money for the rulebooks. Unfortunately, I was still running on dialup in the ninth grade, so I used my time on AOL (aging myself here..) for more useful things like playing “NationStates” online with the same classmates. But “D&D” burned itself into the back of my brain.
Honestly, Stephen Lynch summed up my ninth grade perception of "Dungeons and Dragons" for me:
It’s a shame it took seven years to check the desire to play off my bucket list, but my first campaign with took place Sunday, Sept. 14 at an apartment full of people I only half knew. Seven people participated including myself, all starting at level one in the “Pathfinder” campaign. I rolled a Halfling rogue based on my MMO preferences where I always have a rogue/assassin type character. Although I needed help with some of the character building, PCGen alleviated much of my stress. I was familiar with the dice-rolling element of figuring out my stats, however; that I’d watched plenty of times during A Lunch.
With beer in the fridge and sweets on the counter, we began our grand adventure as mercenaries hired to transport spices using four caravans. I immediately “messed up” by attacking a wolf with a crossbow. Mostly, I wanted to be able to say I used a crossbow since the likelihood of that in real life was fairly low. It took us about an hour to clear out the seven now-pissed wolves and reign in our oxen. I made several mistakes along the way with regards to rolling initiative, understanding adding attack, and even looking at the wrong sheet for my class skills. My fellow mercenaries were forgiving in nature and overlooked my mistakes, as well as helped me remember exactly which order to roll for attack (missing vs. hitting) and damage dealt.
Three players – myself included – did not align as lawful or good. I personally rolled “chaotic neutral.” In short, I concerned myself for what benefited me in the here and now with little regard for others in the dwarven camp we discovered, the man who hired us (poor Opie), and even my fellow mercenaries. I displayed this in a spectacular show of insanity by charging in a goblin camp – my group designated as the sneaky group who waited on the diplomacy team – with no diplomacy or charisma to my name.
Following the debacle in the goblin camp, I decided to try and play the game “right,” which is where my focus sort of tapered off. It wasn’t a function of the game – more the fact that it was around 2 AM by this time. At approximately 2 AM, we reached our “final” destination, a large camp of gnolls, wolves, and weregoblins. I continually rolled misses, so I wasn’t able to do much, but I was able to jump over a wall acrobatically so well I earned bonus XP for it at the end of the night.
In jumping into this sort of game in 2014, I found that the use of technology greatly improved the experience. Our loot, experience gain, our updated level, and overall summary of who did what during each part of the campaign was updated in a Facebook group dedicated to the campaign, and we fought over loot in the thread. Additionally, we were able to individually update our character sheets using PCGen, which we’d talked about at great length. This improved the experience for the GM who could receive our .pcg files online beforehand and have us print at home. Additionally, we were able to leave earlier and receive our items, XP, and gold rewards over Facebook threads instead of hashing it out before we left, tired and cranky at the late hour.
As the next several weeks passed, I found myself understanding the game better. I had a strong understanding from the first night of who I wanted to be and dedicated points to skills in characteristics like stealth, aerobatics, and … a little diplomacy. By then, I’d learned also to skin the wolves that harassed our caravans, haggle for better gear, and had equipped gear that actually helped me stave off attacks from the “end bosses” like necromancers or goblin kings.
The group I played with made the experience, though. People who had no high expectations for new players made it easier to slide into a world with long-established rules, strategies, and lore. And people who were silly, willing to try insane tactics against the fate of their die, made the experience fun in a completely new way. Every night, someone cooks dinner, we tell inappropriate jokes that would make the most seasoned MMO raiders blush, and use our good, ol’ imaginations to take us to faraway lands I never knew could exist.
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