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.
Blending the tabletop role playing game Dungeons and Dragons into strong and positive education for children
Parents possess so many opportunities for their children to be successful. As you search for activities for your child this summer, consider getting them involved in Dungeons and Dragons. Let me share three values of playing this well-established tabletop role playing game.
What is tabletop role playing?
One of the questions I am asked when talking about Dungeons and Dragons is “what kind of video game is it?” Most people imagine children glued to a screen and nothing could be further from the truth! If video games are your thing, then have a blast, but if you are looking for something for your child which involves more social connection, then consider tabletop role playing. Dungeons and Dragons, or D&D, is a simple game where people gather around a table and tell a story. At most the supplies you need are pencil, paper and a polyhedral dice called a “d20”.
Make a choice in game, and roll the dice! The higher the number, the more successful you are. The lower the number, well, time to think of another solution.
Wizards of the Coast, founded 30 years ago, are constantly improving upon the content they release and with the 2014 5th edition update, the books and manuals are geared towards a more diverse audience. The clean artwork captures imagination and the instructions read like a choose your own adventure novel. My 9 year old son has plenty of the content memorized and let me tell you, he reminds me of the rules to the game frequently! If you are a long time player, or brand new to the scene, many parents, like myself, are wanting to get their children involved in such as beloved pastime.
If you homeschool, read through this article on how to Homeschool like a Dungeon Master
In our over stimulated world, we can quickly become isolated. While our smartphones hold our attention, our family tables are left empty. Although we have plenty of wireless connection, people are now less connected than ever. Whatever happened to simply getting together and enjoying each other’s company? Look around, we even have products like Yondr, which are designed to create “cell phone free spaces” so that people can enjoy live entertainment once again. Being present can a problem.
Dungeons and Dragons requires you to be present to play! Much like an afternoon softball game, if you play the field, you remain present your teammates.
The game begins by one person called the dungeon master (DM), setting up a storyline in a make believe world. After the DM sets the stage full of a world with history, interesting locations, fascinating people and problems to solve, then the game is ready to introduce the player characters (PCs). In case you were wondering, Wizards of the Coast produces great story lines like Dragon of Icespire Peak , ready for you to read and play through to completion. If your kids enjoy chasing after dragons, then this story will hold their attention.
If you want to know what I think goes into a great adventure, check out A recipe for a Satisfying Adventure
Next, we introduce players, individuals who take on certain roles in a group called a party. One player may act as a guide, while another acts as a champion. Another player takes on the role of a healer in case anyone is injured while another player acts as the plucky comic relief, making up songs and cheering everyone up when times get sad. I have described to you some of the job descriptions or classes any PC make perform, such as a ranger, fighter, cleric and bard. When you mix in that fantasy worlds of the imagination often times include more than humans, you now have a party of an elf ranger, a dwarven fighter, a human cleric and a hobbit bard. You can imagine what kind of hero your child will want to play! Much like popular stories such as The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, each actor plays a different kind of character to balance out the skills of the party. With each session lasting anywhere from 2 hours to an entire day, people spend time together, creating memorable stories.
This brings us to another value of the game. In D&D, players collaborate, rather than compete with each other. Everyone can take on the hero role, and everyone can win as long as they listen. While most board games involve individuals vying for power, money and spaces on the boardwalk, Dungeons and Dragons has always been about players working together to solve logical problems.
For example, if our party comes across a drawbridge manned by hideous monsters, each of the players indicate what their character would do in that situation. The ranger would scout ahead looking for a secret way in, the fighter would stand their ground and protect the party, the cleric would hold back some healing power in case one of their comrades needed aid and the bard would taunt the enemy, seeking to distract them. This kind of play promotes active listening. D&D allows each player to talk around the table, scribble notes and spur each other on much like friends telling ghost stories around a campfire. While one player shares, the others listen and from there, plan their next action. This kind of play promotes children learning to listen to the dungeon master and each other and therefore developing empathy, understanding and teamwork.
Of course, this highlights another value. Dungeons and dragons teaches children how to problem solve. The dungeon master works to set up a verisimilar conflict in a simulated world. Sometimes this problem involves a trap door in a dungeon, a small village threatened by an incoming tornado, or a city guard needing convincing to aid in setting the prisoner free. Keep in mind, a life of adventure poses many challenges throughout the average day! After perceiving the problem, each player goes around the table generating ideas and discussing how they plan to rectify the situation. Much like the improvisational music of jazz or blues, each player needs to show up in the scene if they want to support each other. In role playing games, each child plays a part to create a good story worth telling over and over again.
Lastly, on a personal note, as a first time player in 2017, I introduced Dungeons and Dragons to my children, ages 5-9, both boys and girls. I noticed their love for reading and writing skyrocketed over one summer adventure we played together. Dungeons and Dragons was like rocket fuel to their education. Whether it was math or language arts, every subject improved the more they played. Without any prompting, they spent their days drawing maps, writing stories and stapling the pages together to make little books. And when we were done, they then spent time outside, acting out the adventures once again. Their attention span increased. They found a love for reading books to each other and this filled my heart with joy. In a world where we increase our connection to screens, I express gratitude to this game of storytelling. Dungeons and Dragons has helped me and my children connect to each other. My family will be upholding this value for a long time.
The luck o’ the Halfling
I have two halflings in my game that I DM now and like to make luck feature a little more interesting than just simply mindlessly rerolling natural ones. To be clear, I think of natural 20s as successful opportunity meets preparation kind of payoffs. But for the lucky feet, I think that despite failure the odds are still in your favor anyway. Here are some creative ways to use luck!
Strength – you attempt to heave the loot past the ogre cave and into a safe distance around your allies. You pull the bag and it tears open leaving the gold coins scattered on the ground. Oh look. Someone missed this ruby worth 500 Gp with magic abilities. Looks like I could pocket this for now…
Dexterity – you reach your hand to untie your self from the guards mount. Your hands slip as you spook the horse. Now you are charging ahead at the mercy of the steed. Oh well, at least the guard didn’t notice you gone … yet.
Acrobatics- You slip on the stoney crevasse, plummeting to your 5d8 damage! Whoops! Your pants catch on a wicked root protruding out of the cliff side. A little help?
Perception- your eyes peer out into the darkened wild keeping watch for your allies. A bloodthirsty owlbear sneaks up on you but at the last minute while relieving your self near a tree you cast thamatury on your body fluid making the noise sound like thunder. The owlbear heads for the hills.
Investigation – You inspect the hallway for traps. Looks like the coast is clear y’all! Only to literally walk the path to disarm the trap as designed and intended. Ahhh, I’ll just keep that to myself.
Investigation – You read through the text searching for clues, anything that would show the way out of the castle. Nothing! Darn! Oh wait , a love letter from the lord to the mayor. Looks like I found me a little blackmail.
Deception – You attempt a little trickery into getting the ferry master to allow you passage. But your disguise begins to melt away as the sun ascends into the sky. Poor ferry master though, he thinks you diseased and will do anything you want, just don’t poison me with Waxface!
Saving throws – any ideas?
you fumble and miss your target, but land your weapon into another nearby enemy causing damage to that new target instead.
You swing your blade and watch it slip from your sweaty grip – only for it to catch another target square in the chest nearby.
You let loose an arrow completely in the wrong direction, your enemy laughs at your ineptitude and steps closer in confidence only to walk right into a natural trap – sealing the same damage as your weapon! Haha! Who’s laughing now?
Your hand axe spirals through the air, bouncing off the shield of your friendly ally! Sorry friend! This causes your ally to immediately spin around catching the edge of an enemy noggin. Roll for damage!
Spell attacks – your fire bolt leaps from your fingers arching high over the enemies head. Lo! The flames caused a branch to catch flame and fall to the ground, roll for damage! 🔥
A sickening ray shoots from your palm, fully intended for your target at a distance. Oh no! Darn that magic, it’s spiraling out of control but lands on a nearby attacker with only enough HP left to be reduced to 0. Well, that was nice.
Hope you enjoyed this!
This week on the Lost Mine of Phandelver our travelers, with goblin prisoner in tow, trekked through the crude trail through the Neverwinter Wood on their way to the alleged goblin hideout. As they headed out, Meric stood still, the stout halfling form in the forest.
“You go on without me. There’s something peaceful about last night that I need to explore. Something is calling me to stay and involves more than chasing after goblins in the woods. I don’t know what it is, but …”
“Say no more,” replied Elric, and he pushed Fhedi the goblin ahead of him and began walking on the trail.
Meric resumed his pose up in the tree the night before, closed his eyes and focused on the rising sun in the east.
“Ugh!” exclaimed Kelfborn, “it’s a snare. The forest gnome stood their, scimitar in hand with a rope secured around his ankle. A quick reflex and cut through the cord kept her from becoming the victim of a goblin trap. “I bet there is another further in,” and before long, they came across an already activated pit trap, capturing a small white rabbit 10 feet below.
“Oy! Are you just going to stand there or get me out?” cried the surly beast. Kelfborn instinctively understood every barking order the rabbit gave. She explained the situation to the team, who of course, were already moving beyond the pit, not seeing the concern over this woodland creature.
“We could call him “Dyner,” Perrin slyly remarked. His grin began to appear as he stroked his chin, pretending to contemplate.
“Oh, let’s move on!” Nissa broke the inactivity and invoked mage hand scooping the rabbit up (uttering terrible curses so the gnome heard) and released the creature bolting into the woods. “Any more traps?” she asked, looking towards the goblin. He had barely time to answer before a flash and smoke on a nearby tree caught Nissa’s eye. “Come on,” she pushed him forward off the trail, “you’re going first.”
A while passed as Nissa and Fehdi wandered off the trail. When she returned, Nissa had a dark look in her eye. “The Traveler communicated with me.” Even as she uttered these words, the forest went silent, as if listening to see if she would reveal the message. She turned towards the trail and began walking, muttering under her breath, “beware of…what?”
Before the party lay the mouth of a ominous cave. Naturally delved into the mountain, a shallow stream spewed out alongside a rugged path. While wondering if guarding presence remained an obstacle into the entrance. Rather than taking a stealthy approach, Kelfborn shouted out “anyone there?” consequently waking two goblins hiding behind a brier patch. Instantly two arrows shot past Perrin’s head. “Praise Kelemvor, I live another day!” he exclaimed. Within seconds, the party, as one, rushed the goblin defense. Elric charged his firebolt without flinching and launched it zinging past one of the guards, taking off his right ear.
As soon as the warning shots fired past Perrin, Nissa took it upon herself to secure their guide as ransom. Recalling some information on knots she read in a book a couple years ago, “this shouldn’t be too hard, hold still, you vermin!” In a flash, she had Fehdi completely restrained and positioned to watch this skirmish take place from a safe distance. Charging into the fray, she raised her quarterstaff, thinking to save her best spells for a real challenge.
In less than a minute, the team had completely scorched the goblins, mostly due to Elric’s and Perrin’s flames. Frustrated that this encounter took so long, the team hid the guards further into their bramble post and set out into the cave, only to hear the sounds of snarling wolf guards.
Kelfborn stayed back for a minute, surveying the canine guards, they seemed famished, thin gaunt wolves, chained to the rock in the cave shelf. Matching the motions of the wolves, she began to silently crawl towards the beast and said, “this will be easier if any of you have some meat.” The starving wolves gobbled up the meat and in their distraction, Perrin lifted the chains, and the beasts were freed. Kelborn then led them out of the cave and spoke in wolf tongue, “there’s a rabbit out there, go!”
Perrin scoffed, “so you’re ok the wolves eating Dyner, but not us?”
Kelborn still in wolf-mode, just acted to bristle her fur. A couple dried leaves fell to the ground along with an empty caterpillar cocoon.
No matter, Perrin, Nissa and Kelfborn approached the wolves den and found a chimney. The natural exit from the den served as a fire place leading up into, well, that’s what Perrin was good for. “Give me a boost,” he said. The chimney provided plenty of handholds and lead up and around for about 10 feet. Perrin thought it a good idea to extinguish his light cantrip. The bright glow from his sheild dimmed and in darkness he proceeded.
A new glow flickered towards the exit of this tunnel. He began to hear a voice, talking in solidarity. “Klarg is King of goblins, king of the worlds!”
“Just a quick peek,” and the halfling’s curly black hair appeared in the entrance to a large overweight bugbear’s lair. In the middle of the room sat a dire wolf, engrossed in her dinner, feverishly gnawing at a bone. A smoldering campfire was lit, providing light in this cavern with the smoke rising to release in cracks in the cavern ceiling. The fat bugbear sat amidst loot and supplies, unpacking them like a greedy child on Christmas morning. Neither seemed to notice the spy, so Perrin kept on observing. While Klarg (as he called himself in third person) played with a longsword, two goblin sentries came into the room from the north entrance.
“King Klarg, your majesty,” one interrupted.
“King Klarg is very busy,” snarled the oaf. “I can take a message for him.” and he began trade personalities acting as a member of his court.
“Fedhi hasn’t returned from his scouting excursion.” There was a brief pause of ignorance, so the other goblin spoke up,
“The scout hasn’t come back, what do you want us to do?”
“Ugh! Find scout!” Klarg was dropping his pretense and appeared sincerely angered. And he began to have a tantrum, the dire wolf looking up attentively. Both the goblins backed out of the room, excusing themselves between “yes, your majesties” and “of course sire!”
Perrin thought this a good time to exit his time in the smelly cavern and relay this to his comrades. But before he could finish a total description of the tale, a voice shouted from up the passage into the cave, “Fehdi! Where you been!? Get your sorry green ass back to Klarg with report!”
While the team was collecting intel, Fehdi was by now, untied and standing in the passageway. Within seconds, the team scrambled a makeshift battle. The noise caused the goblin sentry up the path on on the bridge to notice the trouble. Perrin saw the creature begin to scamper away, no doubt going for reinforcements. He channeled the divine energy and launched a holy flame of fire at the bridge incinerating right before the goblin leaped away. Unfortunatly, a cry echoed through the cave, “release the flood!”
Time slowed for the team as Kelfborn and Perrin, in melee combat with the two goblins and Nissa and Elric hanging back, firing away, and guarding their goblin captive. A surge of water rushed down the tunnel catching those in the path. Kelborn had a stoke of luck. Turning around, she found three handholds and briskly climbed up the stone wall. The water grazed past her, soaking her boots, but she was able to resist the current. Perrin, however, still focusing on the flame and preparing for another strike, found himself caught abruptly in the flow. The two goblins carried along with him out of the cave entrance received most of the beating and their bodies went limp. Nissa and Elric leaned out of the wolves den and watch the flood rush past their feet, burying the stairs.
Outside the cave, Perrin lay flat, face on the ground. Looking up, he sighed, pushed himself up, muttered a prayer and said, “let’s try this again.”
Images credits: Wizards of the Coast
Last week on the Lost Mine of Phandelver:
Gundren Rockseeker left his adventuring band in charge of a wagon full of supplies. He then left for Phandalin early to take care of some business with his escort Sildar Hallwinter. The adventuring band, while on the Triboar trail to Phandalin found themselves ambushed in the exact same spot as horses, which we found out belonged to Gundren and Sildar. The team is made up of Elric the dragonborn wizard, unconventional and quite charismatic, Nissa, the elf warlock, buried in her studies, Meric the Halfling monk with a quick eye and quicker feet, Perrin, the grave cleric with always a hand to bless and Kelfborn the backwoods gnome of the forest. While investigating the slaughter of the steeds, a group of savage goblins pounced on the unsuspecting group. After a couple of arrows found their target, the highlight of the skirmish was Elric showing off his dragon breath attack, completely incinerating a goblin warrior to ashes. Nissa, then mortally wounded and unaware of the pool of blood at her feet, retired to her comforting space in her studies. We witnessed a tender moment, as Perrin kindly stepped over and healed Nissa without her having to even glance up from her pages.
With a clever maneuver, Kelfborn set up camp and hid the precious wagon in the forest off the trail. She discovered a collection of goblin and human footprints, suggesting more was…uh, afoot in this mystery. However, she kept this information to herself, but Elric suspecting something was… afoot, uh, also found tracks with keen eyes towards a trail.
All bed down for the night, while Meric kept second watch. The Halfling, cross-legged, balanced up in a tree high above the campsite, kept a perceptive watch out for anything stirring in the forest. While the party slept, Meric witnessed a goblin sentry bumbling down the trail in search of his companions. With a flash and speed, Meric pounced on the goblin like a panther on his prey. In seconds, the goblin, despite a struggle, was knocked out, gagged and bound. The stout Halfling drug the prisoner to the campsite and let him wake up when conscious, only to scamper up the tree and resume meditating.
Upon waking, the party interrogated the goblin, named Feedy, and even threatened to make food out of Feedy, until he confessed the whereabouts of the dwarf in Cragmaw hideout, held prisoner by Klarg. The adventures also learned of King Grol sending out more warriors to transfer the dwarf to Cragmaw Castle. Feedy agreed to lead them to the cave, but only after being charmed, intimidated and downright stripped of any goblin decency. Only then, did the goblin willingly lead the party away from the campsite and deeper into the forest.
A heavy winter rain began to fall as the travelers plowed through the muddy street. In this small village of peasants and farmers, the people toiled daily and the weariness flowed through every interaction.
The town mayor, a humble looking man in his forties, hailed from the tavern, welcoming them into the dry and warm community center. After warming themselves between the keg tap and the hearth, the mayor spoke quietly.
“It all started last year, slowly, but I remember, one of our farmers reported missing livestock, not just small goats, but even his cattle. In this village, even the smallest report of a missing animal warrants attention. But after a month, we heard no more.”
Quenlin peer from behind his mug of a stout brown drink, questioning the look in the man’s eyes, searching for sincerity. He seemed and honest and sane man.
The mayor continued, “but then, everything changed. Many reports of livestock missing and then, finally,” he paused here and quickly scanned the room, “people started to go missing. We don’t know how or why, or if they’re alive, or not. But we need help. I sent the letter to our lord in Chisdale, and as I understand, here you’ve come.”
At this, Strom leaned forward with a confident expression and pride in his voice, “We help the weak, seek out oppression all over this land. We will gladly help.” His weathered face dealt kindness towards the mayor, despite its grizzled features. Yasbagee answered her fellows remark with, “this should be good, I’ve been wanting to hunt something down for a couple of months now. My blades are getting thirsty.”
One thing I have noticed in these tales of bravery and adventure is that despite threat of death, these characters always find themselves staring down a haunted mine, or looking into a menacing swamp, and then they just walk in!
The point being that motivation makes people move. Otherwise, we continue on with our lives without risking danger or threat. No one in their right mind would enter the cave unless they had a higher motivation than self – preservation.
I think one of the reasons D&D captivates our attention is that we get the chance to risk life and limb through the characters strength and valor, but truly our own as well. Most stories involve rescuing a village from terror, retrieving magic artifacts to keep evil from obtaining them, or pulling off a stunt to stop an evil lord from rising to power. I have learned this is what is categorized as an “epic” campaign. Classic good vs evil storyline.
Everyone one of us has a point where we say, “enough.” Adventures are simply those of us who respond first. None of the D&D characters I have met in the Forgotten Realms or Middle Earth would I ask to baby sit or mow my lawn, but upon news of an invading army of bloodthirsty orcs, these battle worn travelers would be the first I would call.
I think I sometimes view myself as that mayor. I see the problems, I feel the pain of the people, but at the end of the day, the most I can offer is asking for help. Maybe that’s something else I have learned: if you have enough peril, and sometimes enough gold or bartering, a hero will answer your call for help and maybe teach you how to draw your blade.
The mist began to effortlessly rise from the ground as the darkness swelled into light. Soft sounds of birds and woodland creatures stirred in the traveler’s minds as they took turns waking from their exhausted night in the forest glen. Only Quenlin, already awake and peering through the pine with draconian eyes, did not take the time to stretch his sore muscles into life. Yashbagee lit a fire with the last of her tinderbox and retrieved some of the talsin root she foraged yesterday. “Take this, all of you, the tea will help your bruises and wounds heal.” Quenlin, sniffed the tea, but of course, did not drink it as his wounds had already healed through his night’s vigil. A spark of compassion blinked quickly in his cold heart as he viewed the horrid gash in Strom’s leg. He bent over the supine warrior and held the rustic bowl up to his mouth. “Drink.” he growled. Strom’s swollen eyes opened and he slowly accepted the gesture. That morning, the party stood still around a flickering fire in the mist and watched the transformation come over Quenlin. Maybe they were wrong about him after all.
Dungeons and Dragons captures the imagination and attention of players because although part of the game rolls dice and takes chances, a big part involves the decisions of your character which can make a lasting change in the world, whether Middle Earth or the Forgotten Realms. There is also a temptation to scold ourselves when things aren’t working out. Here are some principles to consider. You may find that in this reckoning, you find our world works that way as well.
Success – Warning! May involve some wandering
Maybe you find yourself between a job you didn’t want, only applying for more jobs you don’t want, but have to take because you need the money. Maybe you find yourself stuck in a major in college and you are not quite sure if this is what you want to do for the rest of your life. Maybe you have no idea what success looks like. In Dungeons and Dragons, role playing involves a lot of waiting and even more discovering because you truly do not know how the story will end. A warrior can spend ample time searching, investigating, or wandering around to discover “what” the “quest” means. Even each clue, each little success in the journey leads to a better answer to the larger puzzle. No one simply stops playing because they are stuck in the game with no answer. They make something happen. They throw spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. Movement is life. When you find yourself stuck, visit the local rustic tavern, ask about trouble in the country side, investigate the local crimes in the sheriff’s office, or search the library for ancient books, or maybe wait for the town crier asking around for an adventure to keep the game going. Eventually, this path leads you to success and we should not scold ourselves during the rhythm of downtime in the game.
Everyone is where they are because they walked there.
In the story above, one hero specializes in survival skills, knowing how to track in the wooded realm, discerning between healing and poison mushrooms, and navigating using the stars. Another character specializes in keeping a sharp blade and not backing down from a fight. We cannot spend our energy envying the hard earned skills of others. There is a cost to specialize in anything worth doing and that cost is, by definition, not specializing in another skill. Every hero is there because they walked there. You are where you are because you walked there and your skills are needed on any team, whether in a relationship, in parenting, in your career or any group. Dungeons and Dragons vary the party’s skills so that they accomplish any quest by the hands and minds of many.
The warrior who fights back darkness weilds more fear than the evil itself.
As your characters first start out, you may encounter a pack of feral wolves, or a grumpy ogre guarding his cave, or maybe a hideous rat that tries to steal away your supplies. Then you travel further and find the evil becomes more organized, such as a marauding band of orcs, or systemic attacks from flying imps. However, the battle peaks while discovering that the enemy behind all of the brute force is a corrupt law master, using cruel cunning to deceive the townspeople. Or maybe a rogue wizard poisoning the vegetation in order to establish her as the dominant economy in the region. However, the band of fighting travelers braves the night and hunt down the villains. What makes our heroes so great is they are not necessarily law abiding, peace keeping polite citizens. They are just as quick to slash and burn, use brute force or cunning magic as the enemy. Of course, the principles differ – the villain wants to eventually use up the people around them, the heroes protect and defend against wickedness. Times of evil summon the bravest warriors.
So, wherever you find yourself today, grab your hard earned skills, a couple comrades, and ask yourself, “What lures you to adventure out of the security of your local village?” Roll the die, and participate in writing the story of your life.
[Or more about how we are story formed]
Maybe you have seen the 20 sided dice show up in pop culture lately, or heard the name of the world’s best role playing game. I don’t know about you, but most of my childhood was spent fantasizing about other worlds, adventure quests, role playing as a different creature, and leading my siblings into that realm. Books like The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, Chronicles of Pyrdain, Redwall, and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH all deeply influenced my choice of games played. And like my childhood imagination, the game is all about telling stories of adventure. Around 2017, I suddenly had an enormous amount of free time handed to me via losing employment. That’s the opposite of striking it rich. However, in many ways, I have confirmed some powerful principles in life through researching the world of The Forgotten Realms and such, in the game Dungeons and Dragons.
- Perception is seeing what’s there
While adventuring through Middle Earth or the Forgotten Realms, stopping to take a look around goes a long way. The game is at it’s simplest form a series of ability checks your adventure makes in progression of the game. The dice roll determines percentage of success (by the way, the game is also great at building your math skills!) Just know that your adventurer will not usually be handed information without asking for it. However if you venture out there and look around, there’s no limit to what you can find. Quite simply, If you’re not looking, you won’t see anything! Life is first accomplished by investigation, perception and taking in what’s in front of your, or even better, looking behind the curtain. Take a lesson from Curious George.
- You are not as resilient as you think you are
As I researched the game, the rules of adventure, it surprised me at how few hit points it took to knock an explorer unconscious. 3 swipes from an raging ogre, 2 bites from a bloodthirsty wolf, or even a fall from a slippery ledge would issue enough damage to end the quest. At first, I thought, “how can you get through a campaign alive if the adventures have such limited resources on health?” But the more I thought about it, I realized that that’s pretty much how it is in this world as well. It’s easy to believe our health and stamina are invincible, but as we traverse through danger, we can only take so much damage to our bodies and minds before we find ourselves chronically ill, in a hospital, or mentally used up that we are only able to take one day at a time without caving into darkness. Of course in D&D, the answer to maintain health is partner up with healers, choose your adventure appropriately (don’t chase down the level 14 dragon if you are a level 2 rogue!) and quite simply: learn to rest.
- Rest goes a long way and helps you stay alive
You heard it! Quite a bit of the game is going to sleep, resting and vacationing from perils in the wild. The sojourners will head to an inn, the kind old hermit woman in the woods, the hall of a great lord and enjoy the peace and quiet until their wounds and minds heal. I’ve worked in hospice most of my nursing career and have witnessed so many people engaging in life with only 1 hit point to save. I’ve watched fellow colleagues give all to work and leave no room for rest before chasing down another week of work. I myself have fallen prey to the lure of working overtime instead of tending to my bleeding soul. Really folks, learn to rest, vacation, veg-out, unplug and the like. And really rest. Not staring at your phone swiping through an app, but rest that truly unplugs you. This will be different for everyone and I can’t recommend http://www.personalityhacker.com enough for the resources they provide on discovery of your personality and how it rests. If the travelers forget to rest, they certainly will not be prepared for the next skirmish around the corner, and may suffer death.
- Sorry, there is always room to fail
In the game, every attempt the hero makes, whether choosing to convince a law master to set your party free or take a stealthy stab at an unsuspecting goblin guarding the bridge, it is all determined by a roll on a 20 sided dice. Rolling a 20 is automatic success! However rolling a 1, despite any bonuses your well-developed hero might have, is a total and devastating failure. Ugh, this is a humbling lesson because rolling a 1 does not care how much you have previously achieved in success before this roll. Imagine investing thought and time into developing an adventurer all the way to level 6, being careful to rest, wise about the pursuits, perceptive of the surroundings, planning each battle strategically and then make one unlucky move and fail. It happens. You will spend years at a church investing into the heart of the people and the mission only to have someone turn on you and your family and find yourself kicked out of the tribe. You know why it happened, but you didn’t think it was worth splitting fellowship. Or you pour your heart and soul into a company, promising your family that it will pay off and everything looks great for the promotion that will make life so much easier and then they hand the offer to an outside hire and terminate you because you are now overqualified for any other place in the company. Or you look left, look right, proceed your vehicle through the intersection and still find yourself injured in bed and without hope of healing. Should I go on? You fail your boards, you fail the relationship and find yourself sobbing on the floor of an empty house with even an emptier heart. Grief is really mourning something that was once loved and is now off limits for you to love. Your love is no longer allowed. Or at least it must be changed into a lesser version of that love. It hurts. However, at the end of every failure, there’s always another chance to roll the dice. Try again. Rest, heal up, start over, but please don’t stop playing the game.
- Little guys win, sometimes
You know what though, sometimes you do roll a natural 20. And win big. With superhero powers. Just like the natural 1 doesn’t discriminate failure to only failures in life but also to very successful adventures, so the natural 20 roll hands a good luck charm to those adventures starting out with very limited resources. That’s what I love about the game. It keeps the adventures humble in this large and threatening world. Even the bold remember that they too, bleed. Conversely, the promise of a bulls eye, or getting rookie of the year calls out to everyday ordinary people to step out their door and make something happen in the life around them. The first time your level 1 adventure does the perfect acrobatic and slays the fiend in one fell strike encourages them to keep going! The first time your novice cleric attempts a healing against all odds as the princess is bleeding out, and magically brings her back to life, it’s encouraging! The first time your stealthy rogue sneaks into a locked dungeon and rescues the entire party from a hungry giant, it’s encouraging! Unexpected winning can happen to you too, but you do have to roll!
- Not much adventure happens if you just sit on the couch
With that being said, as Gandalf said to a polite and everyday ordinary hobbit who had just finished breakfast “I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.” Dungeons and Dragons is such a great game because it involves a world where everyday people with stories and backgrounds can start as level one adventures and set out to make a difference in the world. A great campaign is not one where your party simply demolishes an orc stronghold, but one where the orc stronghold is demolished and the dam freed, bringing the river back into the town, boosting the economy and encouraging free-trade in safe lands once again. Now the adventures are heroes that make the world a better place. And that’s the principle, we are all formed by the stories we tell ourselves and the stories that connect us to each other and into the world. We sing songs, share dreams and relay tales, but none of that will happen if you choose to bypass the quest to the comfort and safety of your own home and hearth. Really though, we are wanting a world of adventure so we can tell those stories by the fireside one day. As Gandalf the wizard wisely said, “do you suppose, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck just for your sole benefit?” Get off the couch and off the phone, leave behind your pocket handkerchief and share an adventure with folks who enjoy your fellowship! Because life is not just about a solo trip, but a party-shared adventure that changes the world. Prepare, be wise, use all your resources, enjoy your quirks and roll the dice!
And so, our story continues