Dungeons and Dragons, explained

Dungeons and Dragons, explained

This is me. And these are some of my co-workers. Tonight, we’re on an epic adventure, defending a village from an army of dog monsters and trying not to get ourselves killed. Welcome to the magical world of Dungeons & Dragons, the best game I’ve ever played. Chapter 1: What the f*ck is D&D? D&D is a tabletop role-playing fantasy game. You and your friends sit around a table and pretend to be heroes going on an epic
adventure together. This is a role-playing game. It takes place entirely in our collective
imagination. Every D&D game is run by a DM — Dungeon Master. You arrive at a small village on the outskirts
of the forest. The villagers watch you nervously as you enter. They seem tired, worried. The DM is the main storyteller in D&D. They create and describe the adventure the
heroes go on, giving them goals to accomplish and rewards to motivate them. The mayor of this town wants someone to investigate strange sounds coming from
a nearby abandoned mine. He’s offering a thousand gold pieces to anyone brave enough to take the job. And while it might look like the heroes and
DM are playing against each other, they’re actually playing with each other. The goal of D&D isn’t to kill the other players. There’s actually no winning in D&D. The goal is to hang out with your friends
and act like weirdos together. So the DM’s job is to create an adventure
that’s exciting, fun, and challenging, and the heroes’ job is to work together to
survive those challenges and explore the world the
DM has created. Which brings me to my favorite part of D&D. Chapter 2: Creating A Hero. Before you can start adventuring in D&D, you need to create your very own hero. Using the D&D handbook, you pick a race: human, elf, dwarf, etc. And you pick a class, basically your job: fighter, wizard, rogue. I play Amelia human warlock. Oneshoe, rock gnome sorcerer. I play Isla, druid elf. Harriet, tiefling rogue. Blaze, dragonborn paladin. Once you’ve decided what you want to be, you fill out one of these bad boys, a character
sheet, which is just a piece of paper that keeps
track of your strengths and weaknesses. Stuff like that. That character sheet is important, but way more important is what makes your
hero unique. Deciding what your hero looks like: she has a septum piercing, violet eyes. She looks like a devil, like a fun devil. Think about Predator. Think Predator in your mind. How they dress: big sorcerer floppy hat on. A rotting werewolf pelt. She doesn’t wear a lot of clothing. And whatever little quirks make them stand
out: I hand out pamphlets like a Jehovah’s Witness. I carry a warhammer that’s as big as my body. I have a demonic imp who follows me around. And what’s her name? Mother Teresa. You also create a motivation for your hero, something that calls them to adventure. It can be as lofty as rooting out evil doers or as simple as getting treasure. Once you’ve decided who you’ll be, the DM weaves your stories together and you
start playing. You pass through the dark entryway of the
abandoned mine. The passageway is narrow. Suddenly you see a dark figure in the corner. And you keep playing for a long, long time. Playing D&D. I know it seems really complicated, and this thickass rulebook doesn’t help. But, at its core, all of D&D is just three
steps: describe, decide, roll. The DM describes what’s happening: in the corner of the mineshaft you find a
sleeping goblin. He’s lying down on a pile of coins. He doesn’t seem to have noticed you. What do you do? The heroes decide what they want to do: I want to steal the coins. Excellent. And then the player rolls one of these: a 20-sided dice. Is it dice or die? I don’t know. Singular of dice. Historically, dice is the plural of die. Die is singular, you’re right. I’m going to try it again from earlier on. And then, the player rolls one of these, a 20-sided die, to find out if they succeeded or failed. The higher you roll, the better. I rolled a 2. Not good. While sneaking, you knock over a pile of rocks and the goblin shoots up wide awake. Then, the cycle starts over. The goblin grabs his club, looks at you and yells “INTRUDER!” What do you do? That’s D&D in a nutshell. And it’s that second step, “decide,” that makes the game so special. In most games, how you play is limited by the options the game designers give you. Run this direction. Fight this thing. Save this princess. Essentially being railroaded down a story that someone else wrote for you. In D&D, what you do is totally up to you. Maybe you panic and try to run away. Maybe you draw your weapon and prepare to
fight. Or maybe you try to trick the goblin. Okay, I look at the goblin and I say “we come
in peace, as friends!” 17? The goblin lowers his club, raises his eyebrow, and says “friends?” The DM sets the stage, but once the game starts, no one person controls where the story goes. Session after session, the DM builds an adventure that reflects the heroes choices. That goblin you tricked last week might tell
you about a dragon’s lair nearby. That dragon’s lair may contain a valuable
treasure you can steal. And stealing that treasure might attract the
attention of an evil wizard who wants to use it for
his own schemes. As the game goes on, the decisions you make will shape the world
you play in. We won a karaoke competition. Closed a rift to the Nine Hells. We were slaughtering this band of peasants. It was a total, like, misunderstanding. D&D doesn’t just give you the freedom to choose, it asks you to own those choices. Before long you might find yourself thinking
less like you and more like the hero you’re trying to be. Roleplaying. All of us are roleplayers. We go through our lives playing different
parts for the people around us. Some we get to choose. Video producer. Podcaster. Co-worker. Some, we have no control over. Black. Female. Queer. Even with our friends, we can fall into patterns
of behavior that eventually become expectations. The wisecracker. The cool girl. The shy one. Roles we’re so used to playing we don’t even think of them as roles anymore. They’re just us. D&D gives you permission to be something different. To surprise yourself. And that can be really scary. When you do something in D&D, We come in peace! you’re trusting everyone at the table to take
you seriously. And you’re trusting the other players to have
your back. I pull a flower out of my hair, hand it to him and give him a wink. I produce tiny rainbow over Harriet’s head? Mother Teresa does her best goblin impression
and says “it’s cool, they’re with me.” 16. 18. Natural 20. The goblin looks at you more relaxed and says “FRIENDS!” That shared vulnerability is what makes D&D
different from any other game you play with your friends. We can spend our whole lives wandering alone through the corridors of our minds. D&D asks you to wander together. To believe, for just a few hours, that there is more to us than what meets the
eye. More silliness. More warmth. More bravery. And yeah, just a little more magic. Should you play D&D? D&D is ridiculous. But when I ask my friends why they play D&D, they don’t talk about the monsters or the
dungeons. They talk about how the game makes them feel. It just feels so freeing. I’m not thinking about, you know, I have to do this tomorrow or I need to take
care of this at home. It just kind of, like, brings your inner child
back out. Nobody makes fun of anybody. Nobody feels self-conscious about it. The older that you get, the more expectations people have of you. D&D, there aren’t any expectations. I can just be free. I feel like the rest of the world doesn’t
matter, like, I’m always super stoked to play. It’s like a fun, really creative way to connect
with each other. It’s made us really grow closer. The way that you look at the people you were just playing with is really different than
other people in the real world because you’ve engaged in
something so collaborative and imagined together. The point of D&D is obviously, like, adventures
and “oh we’re world-building together!” But the real point of D&D is, like, you’re in this bubble with these people and you’re entirely focused on each other and remembering all the reasons that you like spending time with their characters but also spending time with them as human beings. If you look past the wizards, past the dungeons and magical creatures, D&D is a game about the people you play with. A game where everyone agrees to bring their
weirdness and creativity to the table. Byrd, not now. To help build a world that belongs to all
of you. A world shaped by your triumphs, your defeats, your personality quirks, and your stupid inside
jokes. A world that could not have existed if you and your friends hadn’t sat down at a table one day and said “let’s play.” Believe it or not, this video is not sponsored
by D&D. We’re just huge nerds. But if you’re interested in playing, you should check out the D&D starter set. It comes with a premade campaign, character
sheets, a mini rulebook, and dice. And if you’re interested in seeing more videos
about games, check out our sister site Polygon. They have this cool new series called Fiend
Zone which talks about how games shape and reflect
our culture. Killed it that time. That’s a wrap baby.


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