Where Do I Start?

Beginner's guide, Role Playing, Tales of Gaming -

Where Do I Start?

Discovering a new hobby is an exciting and empowering experience but it can also make you feel clueless. "Where do I start?" is usually my personal reaction. Taking your first steps into a new world can be intimidating, especially when it comes to tabletop games. 

Playing with your family is one thing but finding a group outside that circle of trust has its challenges. Ultimately it takes a bit of courage, a leap of faith so to speak. I always say: "The water doesn’t stay cold for long once you start swimming!". You will quickly realize that all tabletop players have gone through this at some point and there's nothing to really be afraid of!

I could, once again, reminisce and tell you about how I got started. In fact, I already have! Today, however, I want to let someone else tell you about how she discovered tabletop role playing games just a few years ago. It's interesting to get the perspective of someone from another generation, one that is contributing to the rebirth of pen and paper games in a big way! 


My First Time Playing Dungeons and Dragons

By Alessandra Lessen

My first-time playing Dungeons and Dragons was when I was in High School. I had made a nice group of friends whom I keep very close relationships with to this day. Currently, I am in my Junior year of University and my friends have all moved away to University, but we still talk often. While we were in High School, we mostly all hung out on campus. When I had first met my friends, I didn’t know that they met every weekend to play Dungeons and Dragons until one lunch break they were all talking about it at our table. I was curious, I knew about the game, but I had never played it or seen anyone play it. I was listening to their conversation, as they were also talking to me about it, as if I was there and knew what was going on. They told me how close their last boss fight was, and just how they were talking about it was making me just as excited as them.

They were all saying things like, “Oh my God, if you didn’t make that save you would have been dead.”

And, “That spell totally saved you!”

“I had such bad rolls, I was barely able to do anything that whole fight!”

I was sitting there listening to them just like “I want to play!”.

When they finally finished telling me about their epic boss fight, I asked them if I could join them on their next adventure. I had never played Dungeons and Dragons, so I knew nothing about setting up a character or the classes and they were aware of that. For a minute, I was worried that they wouldn’t let a novice player like myself join the experts. However, for them the more the merrier, and they were more than willing to help me learn the mechanics of the game and even let me borrow a set of dice.

Later that week one of my best friends sat down next me during a break that we both shared and explained everything to me about the 3.5 edition. It was a lot to take in and I found myself getting lost from the confusion. Especially when she was explaining to me how to roll my characters stats, and how certain stats need to be placed in the right categories depending on the class I choose.

I was very confused.

1st level rogueThe class that I chose to play for my first game ever was ‘Rogue’, and because I was a novice player I didn’t dual class and we kept it simple. Now I needed to choose an alignment. I didn’t think that would be an option to your character. I never realized how much attention and care was put into a role-playing character until I made my own for the first time. I had a lot of fun creating my character, giving her a personality, traits, skills and even a backstory.

Looking back at my first character creation now makes me realize how sad and edgy of a teenager I was back then. I didn’t come up with an original name for her, it was name that I had heard from some anime, and I liked the name so much I decided to name my rogue after her. I gave her bright red hair and green eyes (I secretly wanted to be a ginger). For my alignment, I decided to make her evil because I thought I had what it takes, and I really wanted to impress my friends because I am the designated nice person in all my friend groups.

After only having five days to learn how to play the game, the day had finally arrived, and I was nervous. I was so nervous, and it was my first time staying over at my friend’s house overnight, I had no idea what to bring so I brought a chocolate cake for her and the group. It was also made very clear for me to not forget my character sheet. For the first few hours we hung out as a group, just talking and laughing. It settled my nerves, but when it was time to play I felt that same nervous feeling hit me again.

Everyone pulled out their dice, character sheets, and a couple even pulled out calculators; it wasn’t until later in the game I realized why. Earlier in the week I had ordered a set of dice from the internet because I didn’t have time to go out into the city and buy some. Unfortunately, there was an issue with the order and my cool set of dice wasn’t coming anymore. I was pretty upset about it because it felt as though my first-time player experience was ruined because I wouldn’t be using my own dice. I had to borrow someone else’s.

I got over it quickly because I was more focused on the game than my missing dice. Our Dungeon Master was extremely detailed in his descriptions of the adventure, I was able to picture the moment that we were all in clearly. There was even music in the background to match the game. He introduced our characters and we described our appearance to one another. The players started to talk to each other in game, I gave my character a backstory: I was born from a wealthy family with a title, and an infamous one at that. Something had happened where they were all taken out and I was the only one left (I know, edgy).

I knew that I couldn’t really trust the other character in my group yet, and I knew that one of the NPCs in the game was responsible for the massacre of my family. I made sure to stay quiet and give very little detail about myself to them. For the first couple of hours after having been given our task as a group, we just did some exploring as we made our way toward the cave that we needed to explore. Along the way we had to make ability checks: perception, stealth, investigation etc. I was not making any good checks because my friend’s dice hated me with a passion.

Finally, we made it to our destination. We cautiously entered the cave while I attempted to make checks for traps. All of them were very low and my roll for stealth was not very good either. The Dungeon Master said, and I quote:

“You think you’re doing such a great job, and no one can see you, but really everyone can see you.”

Finally, after going through this cave with some minor altercations easily dealt with by the other players, we make it to the boss who was guarding the relic that we needed. I had, for the first time in the night, succeeded on a stealth roll and went undetected into the lair. I would be able to perform a sneak attack that was going to do double the damage. I made the attack roll and it was a natural one. This meant I had failed miserably, and I was fuming.

“You go to jump on his back, but without even noticing you he sidesteps, and you just fall flat on your face taking 10 points of fall damage.”

Fuming! We all had to roll for initiative and I managed to get top of initiative board. Luckily for me I managed to land right next to the boss and the relic that we needed, which was a very powerful sword that would banish the enemy to an unknown realm. I used my action to grab the relic and hold my attack for the next round, during the rest of which, my friends were hitting this boss with everything they had and it was barely doing anything to him.

I made my attack roll at the start of the next round. It wasn’t a critical hit, but it hurt the boss more than what my friends were doing in the previous round. As the next round went on, I was dodging attacks while my companions were being knocked out one by one. Finally, it was my turn again and I managed to roll a natural 20 banishing the monster to another realm. For how long? We didn’t know. We healed whoever was unconscious and got out of that cave. We were all cheering, and my friends were cheering for me. I felt so great and I had this massive adrenaline rush going through me.

I had the best time of my life playing Dungeons and Dragons for the first time. I played many more adventures with this group and eventually got the chance to be a dungeon Master for my own campaign. After my friends moved away, it became hard to find another group to play with. I met a couple of people at my university who knew the game, but we weren’t able to get together and play, sadly. But I don’t despair. I can’t wait for the day I get to go onto another voyage!

Alessandra is currently studying Media and Communications in The Netherlands. She can be found on Twitter at: @SturdyTurtle.

Take a chance

Hopefully Alessandra's recollection of her first adventure can help you see that we are all always beginners at something new. This shouldn't stop us from trying, the rewards often being well worth getting out of our comfort zone!

Until next time, be well and remember: why you play is more important than what you play!


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