3 pillars of playing Dungeons and Dragons

To explain Dungeons and Dragons, according to the Dungeon Master Guide by Wizards of the Coast, the 5th edition builds adventures off of 3 pillars. These 3 pillars help guide the storyteller, or dungeon master, in creating exciting settings, peoples and items to make this go from a a simple game to a narrative adventure. When adding in the randomness of dice rolls and the creativity of other players at the table, there really is no limit to how much fun this pastime can be. While reading through this, first, you must understand 3 truths about the world of fantasy, in that the world is primarily unexplored, hostile and incredibly diverse. When you factor in that most of the plane has been city built upon ruins from the past, or the entire terrain has been altered due to some tampering with the laws of physics, then you can find much to be discovered. Also, when you think about all of the conflicts between deities, otherworldly beings and even nature having a personality, this then fills the world with competing beings, also known as monsters, possibly inducing combative situations. The last principle about the world in which to engage, is that humans, although plentiful, are one of many races on the plane. Between elves, dwarves, dragons and extra terrestrials, this means your average dinner party brims with customs and manners worth discovering. Interactions become humorous and moving. I hope you enjoy learning about the 3 pillars of playing Dungeons and Dragons.

The world is an unknown place

Exploration of uncharted lands requires adventurers to saddle up and head out into the great blue yonder. Between wilderness and new civilizations, when the world presents interesting locations, players can use their time exploring people, places and things that grabs their attention.

I think these encounters channel up the most imagination in players. A good dungeon master presents a living breathing world to not only explore, but to actively engage and alter the setting. No one wants to touch the backdrop scene only to find that it is made from cheap cardboard and paint. When a player says “I want to dip a bucket into the abandoned city well”, ensure to make it worth their while! If you don’t know what one may discover down the well, then allow the players to assist in the building of that world. Maybe the water has a strange property that gives a clue as to why the city inhabitants evacuated so long ago, therefore aiding the adventures on their quest. Maybe the well links to a basement in the noble’s manor, and a guide presents itself to walk with the players for a time, giving history and lore along the way. Maybe the well looks mundane, but later on, awakens the curse within the city causing a hideous otherworldly being to rise from the ground. If only the players could have read the warning sign!

The world is a hostile place

Between encountering exotic lands and peoples, sometimes adventurers will be required to retrieve weapons to defend themselves. At times, a quest begs the adventurers to oppose a villain using force. Since the world, especially in the wild, presents as hostile, players may find themselves in a situation where they might be on the menu for some hungry monster. Even the natural order that we commonly think works together competes for territory and resources. When you add extra planar beings in the mix along with other worldly entities, worldviews don’t always match up. Players often descend on the food chain and will need to defend themselves to prevent experiencing digestion. Combat may not also be resolved with death, for parlay sometimes brings the best results. Deals can be struck and bonds can be formed. Sometimes the enemy of my enemy is my friend. In a pond of threat, players may realize that it’s not about fighting the big fish, but getting the attention of the bigger fish. That being said, protecting your friends against pure evil, brings out self sacrifice, noble strength that makes a story move us to tears.

The world is a diverse place

It’s not all pit traps, lava monsters and hordes of undead zombies. Social encounters bring Dungeons and Dragons from a game to a theater. The dungeon master plays parts as the townspeople, nobles, tribal guide, or alien emissary and the players act out their respective parts as the adventuring heroes encountering the world. Sometimes social encounter go well and the king hands favor to the players and sadly, at times, these encounters end with the village chasing them out of town. Beware that even a friendly game of cards could end in loss of life! Did you really mean to make a joke about the orc’s mother? Roll for initiative.

If a fellowship of heroes find the world, discovered, safe, and predictable, what would be the use of leaving the comfort of hearth and home? Although, Dungeons and Dragons can be used to tell any tale, even one of simple folk playing out their lives after the war, rebuilding, the story teller must keep in mind these 3 pillars, exploration, combat and social interaction, and like a good book, the setting, conflict and characters keep us entertained for years to come.

4 Comments

  1. So, based on what I’ve read, the dungeon master is the one who sets the stage for the others to play in and others have their own characters and backstory for them to fit in. Sounds pretty cool. Does dungeons and dragons have a central lore to it or can players just come up with new races?

    1. Exactly. It’s a tandem effort, but the DM does eventually arbitrate if rules are contested. The lore is centralized, but heck, people branch all the time. I mean, you’re basically writing your own fiction as you go. Like an impromptu table read.

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