Dungeons & Dragons For a Fifth Generation


Dungeons & Dragons is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and it’s the perfect time for new players to dive into this fantasy roleplaying game. Wizards of the Coast recently released the game’s 5th Edition, which streamlines the rules to make it easy for anyone to join a group and go on an adventure.

D&D can seem daunting with its four decades of history, but the basic premise behind the game is incredibly simple. A player takes on the role of the Dungeon Master (DM) and leads the other players through a story. The DM weaves the tale, and the players choose how their characters will react in certain situations. If the characters enter an inn, the DM will take on the role of the patrons inside. If the group ventures into a mysterious forest, the DM will control the monsters that the characters face in battle.

Players can keep track of the action using maps and miniature figures, or they can forgo the maps and describe their location using the “theater of the mind” (which is just a fancy way of saying, “using their imagination.”)

Specific outcomes are decided by rolling dice. A character may try to persuade the innkeeper to provide free rooms, or the group may decide to sneak through the forest without drawing the attention of nearby creatures. The dice will determine how these actions play out and could completely change the direction of the story.

If you’re interested in Dungeons & Dragons, I highly recommend picking up the Starter Set for $20 (it’s even cheaper at Amazon and Barnes & Noble). This boxed set contains everything you need to start playing: the rules, an adventure called “Lost Mine of Phandelver” and five premade characters, including a high elf wizard, a hill dwarf cleric, a lightfoot halfling rogue and two human fighters.

I am running the Starter Set adventure for two separate groups, which has shown me that the game is truly powered by the imagination of the players. Each group has set out to accomplish the same tasks with different techniques. When attempting to enter a cave full of goblins, one group used stealth to sneak around in the shadows, while the other group set a trap  at the mouth of the cave and lured the monsters out by playing carnival music (hey, even goblins can enjoy a carnival). Some characters tried to speak with the goblins to reason with them, while others rushed into battle without a second thought.

In addition to the Starter Set, a few other 5th Edition books are available. The “Player’s Handbook” outlines the rules and explains how to create your own characters, and the “Monster Manual” is full of creatures for DMs to add to their own campaigns.

There is also a two-part adventure, “Hoard of the Dragon Queen” and “The Rise of  Tiamat,” although I suggest that new players stick to the Starter Set adventure at first.

The “Dungeon Master’s Guide,” which contains tools and tricks for DMs to create their own adventures, will be released Dec. 9.

And if you’re curious about Dungeons & Dragons and don’t want to spend  any money just yet, you can read the basic rules for free on www.dungeonsanddragons.com.

Now I need to go plan for my next session. The group has a town to explore, residents to meet and dungeons to conquer!