Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dungeons and Dragons Essentials

I'll admit, I'm incredibly late to the whole D&D thing. Growing up a fan of RPGs I had always seen Dungeons and Dragons, I was aware it existed, but I didn't know anyone who actually played. As I got older I had considered starting up a group myself, but with so many books out, and with several different versions, it seemed a daunting task. Until now.

A group of friends and I recently discovered the Essentials line of D&D. We each agreed to chip in and get all the materials we needed (relatively few, 2 books and a Dungeonmaster set were all we really needed. We got extra books for convenience however).

I also went ahead and picked up the new Red Box (pictured above). This isn't really necessary, and many might find it a waste. For me though, as a first introduction, it was well worth the price of admission. The box contains a solo mission which takes you through rolling a character. It works as a sort of choose your own adventure. You are attacked by a band of orcs and based on how you react your class is chosen. From there you go through a battle with the green-skinned vermin which helps roll stats, choose skills, and get a general feel for the combat. Afterwords, there is additional single player content to help you really get comfortable with how things work. The set also comes with character tokens and dice, so even after you've reaped all the benefits of the practice matches you've got something tangible to carry over to real games. The benefits of learning were readily apparent as we started up playing as a group, with me frequently being called upon to recall how combat should go (things like flanking and shifting can be easily forgotten).

The other items (Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms and Heroes of the Fallen Lands) that we picked up give the whole rundown on the races, classes, combat, items, and character creation. There is a vast world contained within those pages. One may notice there is a lot of duplication between the two (which makes sense, these are general mechanics), but both are required to have access to all the classes and races.
The full list:
Races - Dragonborn, Drow, Half-Elf, Half-Orc, Tiefling, Eladrin, Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling
Classes - Cleric, Fighter, Ranger, Rogue, Wizard, Druid, Paladin, and Warlock
Additionally, several of the classes have multiple paths (like Tank and Damage Paladin)

To get all of the necessary gear together wasn't too bad. List price for each book is $20, and Amazon had each for ~$15 (Check below for current prices).

So, we all finally got up to speed and rolled our characters. The guy who picked up the DM kit studied the Campaign that came with and we were good to go. We grabbed some beer, some snacks, and some music and sat down for our first (of hopefully many) session. It was a little slow going at first, but we were hacking and blasting Orcs to pieces in no time. For a rather small investment we had a blast. We're hoping to make it at least a bi-weekly thing. In all honesty, I can't imagine many ways to spend time with a group of friends that could be more fun.

For veterans of game the Essentials line may be too stripped down, but if you're like me and just stepping into the lands of adventure, dragons, and magic the Essentials books are a great way to go.

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