Dungeons & Dragons: A Basic Walkthrough

I’ve been asked by many people to explain Dungeons & Dragons.  I bring this game up a lot because my time in the game is the inspiration for my books.  That being said, I’m not even close to an expert.  I never owned all of the manuals or studied the ways to create an unstoppable character.  I was in it for fun and the storytelling, so that’s the viewpoint you’re going to get here.  Also, my whacky humor, so bear with me.

First a brief explanation:  Dungeons & Dragons is a tabletop role-playing game of the high fantasy genre.  You create a character alongside your friends (or random hobos off the street that you’re paying to play) and go on adventures that require the use of paper, dice, imagination, and sometimes little figurines.  Never call them dolls or your more avid (rabid?) players with get angry.

Without further ado, a thorough walkthrough on how to play Dungeons & Dragons:

  1. Buy dice of various sizes, pencils, paper, soda, chips, and at least the basic manual for whatever edition of D&D you’re going to play.
  2. Learn to say the die sizes as D-4, D-6, D-10, and D-20.  There’s also a D-12, but nobody likes the D-12.
  3. Gather your friends and decide who gets to be the characters and who gets to run the game.  If you have a friend that is dying to be the dungeon master, make him give his story pitch first.  Also, have him sign a contract that he won’t start trying to kill your characters within the first 10 minutes.
  4. If you have a female gamer, give the male gamers a 1-minute ogling time then tell them that she has the right to hit them for doing it again.  If need be, arm the female gamer with a blunt object.
  5. Start making your characters by choosing your fantasy race (elf, human, dwarf, halfling, gnome, half-orc, half-elf), your class (fighter, cleric, magic-user, etc.), and flush out the character with the personal details.  Age, hair, eye, gender, and other physical pieces of information are important . . . okay, only gender.
  6. Name your character.  Be creative.
  7. Roll dice to see what your stats are or use a point system where you divide a set number of points between the 6 stats.  These stats are Strength, Dexterity (Agility), Constitution (Stamina), Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma.
  8. Use your stats to find out what bonuses and negatives you have to various abilities.  This includes you skills and saving throws.  A saving throw is what you roll when you’re character is about to get fireballed (reflex roll), hurt bad enough to go into shock (fortitude roll), and resist a mental spell (willpower roll).
  9. Choose your skills and special abilities that depend on your race, class, role-playing style, and where you want to go with the character.
  10. Change character name because you thought of something better.
  11. Begin arguing over who has the prettier dice.  Let the woman win and I don’t always mean the female gamer.
  12. After agreeing on how much money each character starts with, buy gear for your character.  Remember that clothes, food, water, and weapons are not immediately given.  If you want to horde your money then prepare to be a naked, starving, dehydrated, defenseless character that will be thrown in a dungeon or eaten by a housecat within seconds.  Yes, stat-wise a housecat can beat a defenseless human in D&D.
  13. For magic-users and priests, choose your spells.
  14. For magic-users, choose a familiar too.  This is an animal companion that can give you a magical boost and deliver certain spells.  Acceptable familiars are crow, owl, mouse, hamster, cat, and other small animals.  Unacceptable familiars are lion, bear, moose, elephant, and anything else big enough to kill the entire group.  NO DRAGONS!
  15. Okay, maybe the first name was better than the second name.
  16. Everyone tired of character building?  Good.  Let’s start the adventure.
  17. Draw straws to get bathroom break order because everyone over-indulged in the soda.
  18. Now we start the adventure.
  19. Dungeon master forgets promise and kills group within 15 minutes.  Beaten with character sheets, empty soda bottles, and dice.  Fun until somebody clocks him with the monster manual, which will probably be the female gamer.  She worked hard on that character and endured a lot of ‘chicks in chainmail’ comments to get to where she is.
  20. Restart game as if nothing happened and have fun.
  21. Get angry at the magic-user for casting a spell that injures everyone.  Review the term ‘area of effect’ and explain that they have to be careful with their doom spells.
  22. Enter a town to let the depleted priest rest and get his healing spells back.  Remind the barbarian that he can’t read, so he should put the tavern menu down.
  23. Sit idly while the thief runs off to do his own thing.  Discuss leaving him in jail when he inevitably gets caught.
  24. Ask if it’s too late to change your character’s name again.  Pout when told your heavily armored warrior from a long line of champions is now named Betsy Cherrypie.
  25. Go through battles, traps, and adventure.
  26. Divide up the game loot.  Money split evenly after barbarian ‘checks’ thief’s pockets. Magical items go to whoever can use them most.  Let female gamer smack the guy who demands everything because he doesn’t understand the concept of sharing.
  27. Dungeon master hands out experience points based on creatures slain, adventure goals reached, role-playing ability, and other rules that are probably made up as people go along.
  28. Hug your character sheet as you see your 1st-level character rise to a temporarily impressive 2nd-level character.  Put new skill points where you want them to go and stare forlornly at the useful skills that your class is forbidden to touch.  Try one more time to beg for Animal Husbandry even though you’re playing a warrior.
  29. Agree to meet again and promise not to lose your character sheet.
  30. Lose your character sheet on your trip home.  Cry into your pillow.

The key thing with D&D is that you have to use your imagination.  The rules, dice, paper, and figurines are simple tools while your imagination is the main ingredient.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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39 Responses to Dungeons & Dragons: A Basic Walkthrough

  1. Bastet says:

    LOL!!! Wonderful…I just had to facebook it to my youngest!

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  2. So funny that you bring this up. I was writing last night at 1am and in walks my eldest son, he’s almost 20! with 3 of his friends. They played this game until 4am. I remember my brother playing it for months on end when we were younger.
    I used to love playing the older Final Fantasy games but I never got into Dungeons and Dragons. Thanks for the peek into what they were up to last night. 😀

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  3. LOL this is awesome.

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  4. Thanks for this post Charles – definitely explains the essence of d&d. Sounds like so much fun!

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  5. Ah, the one universal truth of DnD – the rogue will always try to steal hard-earned treasure from his group and invariably get caught. Awesome post 🙂

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    • Thank you. That is so truth and it always happens in the first adventure.

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      • And the second … and third … and fourth. Lol. My one and only time playing a rogue, I had a kick a** bluff check and an awful pickpocket check. So I spent about ten minutes trying to pickpocket the city guards, getting caught, bluffing my way out of trouble, and try try trying again. I think the DM eventually let me pickpocket a few coppers so I would stop trying, lol.

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      • Many DM’s seem to have some issue with thieves being thieves. I had one that didn’t like that I was trying to burgle a house because it took away from the other players. Within 5 minutes, I was found by a 90-year-old woman after rolling 18 on my move silently skill. That basically ended my character’s thief career since I wasn’t allowed to do anything thief related. Oh and if your thief is caught with her hand in a target’s pocket, don’t say ‘I’m lonely’ as an excuse. My friend did that and it didn’t end well.

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      • Hahaha I didn’t even think of that. I’ll have to use that line next time — maybe my DM will be more gullible than yours. And it sucks when DMs don’t let you do things that your character should legit be able to do, just because they don’t want you to do it. I know they want to advance the plot, or whatever, but sometimes they have to let us get the shenanigans out of our system before serious adventure-having can be done!

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      • I think it happens more with thieves than the other classes because thief stuff tends to be solo missions. God forbid the thief gets an hour or so doing stuff alone. It’s always strange when a thief is just hanging around the group for no good reason. They don’t seem the type to go on adventurers for the good of all.

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  6. tyroper says:

    Um, I think I’ll go back to WoW. D&D looks too hard

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  7. Number 20. Yes. There’s always someone who needs to review of area of effect. 😉

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  8. tjtherien says:

    I enjoyed this one… I was an avid D&D player… 24 hour marathon sessions… I was usually the dungeon master forget the modules I used the manuals to create random adventures… I even at one time considered writing a book that would be dictated by the roll of the dice… create each character hand them to people to play run them through a few scenarios and translate it into a novel… that was when I was younger… a couple of years ago I reconnected with an old friend and he pulled out the Monster Manual, Fiend Folio and Players Handbook he had kept them over all these years mine (I had all of them had been lost in the shuffle of many moves over the years…) so this made your little explanation really fun to read

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    • Thanks. I have my old books packed away somewhere, but my folder of characters was lost years ago. The series I’m writing now is based on a D&D game and I’ve found that it’s impossible to transfer some stuff. A critical failure or lucky roll at the right time don’t really translate. I assume it’s possible, but I never figured it out. They come off as sudden and sloppy writing unless the reader knows it’s based entirely on a game and knows the rules of the game. Maybe if the story had a game within it.

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      • tjtherien says:

        when I was young I had the opportunity to play with one of the people that created the modules and he tested them out on us kids at the public library and he taught me the most important lesson of being a dungeon master and this might help you translate those things that don’t translate “The Dungeon Master has ultimate discretion…” call it divine intervention that doesn’t allow stupidity to happen like the dice calling for an encounter vampires, and other undead in broad daylight…despite what the dice say the Dungeon Master doesn’t allow it… or creates a circumstance to permit it such as Deity intervention Loth for example might cast a darkness spell that lasts for several days… and unleash minions to counter act the progress the party is making too rapidly… the success I would have to say would have to lay in the dungeon masters ability to keep things in context

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      • That makes sense. Most of the games that I played weren’t done to have books written about them, so we let everything slide. This led to my way of thinking that some stuff will simply stay in the game and be fun stories to tell when I’m sitting on a stage talking to a room full of fans.

        My fear with the die-rolling for a book is the death of a main character. If it’s so sudden and has no real point to the story then you have a problem. So, how would you handle that without taking away the ‘risk’ of the game?

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    • tjtherien says:

      The same way Michener handles it who kills off many main characters in a single novel… maybe to have someone unexpected step forth out of the shadows… and then again there is resurrection in the game… it may be the party has to give up their quest because they have heard prophecy of their slain colleague and they couldn’t permit him to die without first trying everything…

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      • In a game, I can see that being fun and exciting. In a book, I’ve found that it can lose readers. For example, Game of Thrones has a big fan following and has a lot of characters dying. Many fans that I’ve talked to say they love that, but they also refuse to get attached to any of the characters. I focus a lot on character development, so this would go against what I try to do with my stories. At least for a series, I can see a problem with a high death rate among main characters. The resurrection can work as long as it doesn’t become a habit. Even Dragonball Z got ridiculous eventually.

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    • tjtherien says:

      you make very valid points and I’m not saying it is an ideal way and I think in a series it would become extremely difficult because surviving multiple adventures is a little on the difficult side even when players are ultra conservative… I think if you ventured into writing solely based on dice roll you would have to do this from the onset of the project knowing that characters are going to die along the way and preparing to provide some meaning into otherwise meaningless deaths…

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      • True. Maybe the dice-rolling idea would work best for a trilogy, but nothing more. The first could be the beginning story, the second a quest of resurrection or the last hero standing trying to find new allies, and the third would be the final battle where all bets are truly off.

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      • tjtherien says:

        if I could write in prose it might be something I would tackle… but alas I will leave the prose writing to people who are much better at it than I, like yourself…

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      • I sense a challenge. 🙂 I might already have a series outlined like this. I have a knee high pile of notebooks, so who knows what’s in there.

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  9. Prepare to sit for hours on end and watch people get more and more tired, most likely ending in someone (who has most likely not played before) giving up and just sitting back, going “I’m done.”

    I actually had my own set of dice. Brought two, gave one to my then boyfriend. Used the other set to play….never saw them again. Also forgot to grab my character sheet when he broke up with me. You should add make copies of character sheet as soon as you can. I had so much gold, all gone now. The two games I played were quite fun though. The first DM used a program he’d found online to generate certain encounters and things, and had the manuals downloaded onto his laptop.

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    • I never thought of making character sheet copies. I had a folder with all of my college characters, but I left it at a friends place by accidentally. I went back for it only to find he had gotten in a fight with his wife over gaming too much. She thought my folder was his and destroyed it in a way that he still won’t tell me. I’m assuming she tossed it into an alligator-infested pond since I lost it in Florida and those are all over the place there.

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      • I think we used downloadable ones. Two pages, one with stats and stuff, the other for items and all that other stuff you could pick up. Used pencil, of course. Ouch. That’s…that’s cruel. I feel your pain. I don’t think I could ever destroy any sort of written thing, even in the biggest argument.

        Maybe it’s still out there, and in thousands of years aliens will uncover it and go “What is this amazing game of pure imagination they used to play?” I think that’s what I really liked about it, the pure imagination used. There’s actually a Supernatural RPG book. I think I need to find someone geeky enough to play that with me 😛

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      • The least she could have done is realize it wasn’t her husband’s handwriting or that my name was on the front of the cover. The character sheets were important memories, but I thankfully had all of them noted down for their book series. The thing that really hurts is that I had maps of my world, Windemere, in the folder. Those are gone for good. Though, I can see them confusing aliens and get them on a search for a hidden continent.

        Supernatural RPG sounds like fun. Do they have Sam and Dean’s stats in the main book in case you use them as NPC’s?

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      • Midst of an argument, she most likely wasn’t thinking straight. if she was angry enough to destroy it, I doubt there’d be much rational thinking left to realise what was on it.

        I really have no idea. I saw it on Amazon but never brought it. Was a skint student when I saw it, and the only Supernatural books I could afford to buy were ones I needed for my dissertation.

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      • I think there’s an RPG for almost everything. If not then there are systems you can use for them. I remember GURPS and Heroes Unlimited worked for a few. Big Eyes, Small Mouth worked for anime and that’s a fun system.

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  10. Pingback: Dungeons & Dragons: A Basic Walkthrough | Vetrina Mentale d'Emilio dei Neri

  11. Sisko Black says:

    As a gamer I loved the piece n’ shared it on my blog! 😀

    Like

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