Let's Quest!: Dungeons & Dragons Spotlight

Craig Argyle

Posted on December 31 2020

Let's Quest!: Dungeons & Dragons Spotlight

The first Dungeons & Dragons game was played back when Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson chose to personalize the massive battles of their fantasy wargames with the exploits of individual heroes. This inspiration became the first fantasy roleplaying game, in which players are characters in an ongoing fantasy story. This new kind of game has become immensely popular over the years, and D&D has grown to include many new ways to vividly experience worlds of heroic fantasy.

Dungeons & Dragons is about storytelling in worlds of swords and sorcery. Like games of make-believe, D&D is driven by imagination. It’s about picturing a crumbling castle in a darkening forest and imagining how a fantasy adventurer might react to the challenges that scene presents. In this fantasy world, the possibilities are limitless.

Unlike a game of make-believe, D&D gives structure to the stories—a way of determining the consequences of the adventurers’ actions. Players roll dice to determine whether their attacks hit or miss and whether their characters can scale a cliff, roll away from the strike of a magical lightning bolt, or pull off some other dangerous task. Anything is possible, but the dice make some things more probable than others.

When you play D&D, you take on the role of an adventurer: a skilled fighter, a devout cleric, a deadly rogue, or a spellcasting wizard.

Your first step is to imagine and create a character of your own. Your character is a combination of game statistics, roleplaying hooks, and your imagination. You choose a race (such as human or halfling) and a class (such as fighter or wizard). You also invent the personality, appearance, and backstory of your character. Once completed, your character serves as your representative in the game. With some friends and a little imagination, you strike out on grand quests and daring adventures, testing yourself against an array of challenges and bloodthirsty monsters.

One player takes on the role of the Dungeon Master, the game’s lead storyteller and referee. The DM is in charge of the adventure, which appears in the adventure book, while the characters navigate the adventure’s hazards and decide where to explore.

The DM might describe the entrance to a castle, and the players decide what they want their adventurers to do. Will they boldly stride up to the fallen gate, or try to sneak up in case anyone’s watching through those arrow slits? Circle around the castle looking for another entrance? Or cast a spell to cloak themselves in invisibility?

The DM determines the results of the adventurers’ actions and narrates what the characters experience. Because the DM can improvise to react to anything the players attempt, D&D is infinitely flexible, and each adventure can be exciting and unexpected.

The game has no real end; when one story or quest wraps up, another one can begin, creating an ongoing story called a campaign. Many people who play the game keep their campaigns going for months or years, meeting with their friends every week or so to pick up the story where they left off.

The adventurers grow in might as the campaign continues. Each monster defeated, each adventure completed, and each treasure recovered not only adds to the continuing story, but also earns the adventurers new capabilities. This increase in power is reflected by an adventurer's level.

There’s no winning or losing in the D&D game—at least, not the way those terms are usually understood. Together, the DM and players create an exciting story of bold adventurers who confront deadly perils. The group might fail to complete an adventure successfully, but if everyone had a good time and created a memorable story, they all win!

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