Wednesday, May 12, 2010

First time D&Ders

(Note: Through out this post, I use "he" and "she" interchangeably when talking about a character.)

I roll a what? A d20? Which one's that?? Ok, I got a 4. What do I add? I didn't hit? Why not? But I have a bonus to hit I thought? I do? But I missed? Can I roll again? Why not? When can I roll again? Ok.

It's your first time at the gaming table. You've heard your friends talk about the game, and you understand what they're saying when they talk about the foes they've fought, but you get a little confused when they mention their critical misses and failed saving throws. Testing the waters of D&D is somewhat involved and the first game you play may seem like a hurdle.

For the best scenario, try to get close friends or family members in your gaming group. As the new player and new group member, you may feel intimidated. If you're surrounded by folks you don't know, you're more likely to avoid asking questions. This is only going to make the learning process longer and more difficult. If you can't find people you know to play with, let your group know that you're new, and ask a lot of questions!

First, don't rush out and spend a lot of money. Pick up maybe a set of dice for yourself, but do your best to borrow someone's player's handbook and get familiar with it. See if you can get that and a character sheet, and have one of the folks from your group sit with you during character creation.

(Oh, and if you need a 3.5 character sheet, click the link at the top of this blog!)

Character creation can seem difficult due to all of the necessary decisions. Start with deciding on race and class. There are probably races and classes in some of the non-core source books that are allowed in this campaign, but stick to the core book for your first time. Ask your GM what kind of campaign this is going to be, because depending on the environment, you may want to play a different kind of character. A Human Fighter can be frustrating to play in a subterranean campaign, since they cannot see at all in the dark!

In your off-time, you could make good use of resources such as the forums at,, and posting comments on this blog will certainly get you some answers!

Your character's attributes are the next step. These numerical values will determine things like how smart your character is, how fast he heals, how hard he swings his sword, and how likely he is to succeed in skill checks. There are many different ways to generate these numbers. Check with the GM on how they are asking players to come up with these numbers. It's very common for a GM to not bother going by the rules in the book for this.

Following the attributes, you pick your feats and allocate your skill points. This can be confusing so make sure you've got someone around to guide you. If you can't, just stick to the source books, and you should be okay.

Now that you've got your character fleshed out, you know what he wants to do and what he's capable of, you're going to need some equipment. Once again, there are different ways to figure out how your character gets his equipment so check with your GM. In some cases, the GM will say go by the book, in which case, there's a chart for each class that tells you how to determine how much starting gold your character has, and then you can spend it as you see fit. The equipment section of the Player's handbook has prices for all the gear in there. Make sure you've got yourself a weapon, and whatever armor suits your class. After all that's done, I like to spend my remaining gold on things like flasks of oil to keep my armor from rusting, a length of rope, perhaps a tinderbox for starting fires, and maybe torches. They're all pretty inexpensive things, so even if you never end up using them, at least you've got em!

With your character created, you can look forward to your first gaming session. As a first time role player, you may find yourself getting distracted at the table. If you're lucky, your gaming group won't cause too much trouble that way, but there are sometimes those who would rather check the score of whatever game is on, or read a magazine. Do your best to listen to the GM, and think about what he's saying. Don't get caught up stacking your dice either. I know it's fun, but you've got learning to do!

Another thing that you will notice around the table is that the people in the group do different things to "get into" their characters. A player might wear a certain piece of clothing, or even a piece of armor. The person might talk with a particular voice that they only use for their character.

You may also notice that your fellow players' personalities might be vastly different than those of their characters. One of the wonderful things about role-playing is that you can be anyone you want. If you usually shy away from conflict, for example, then you can play as someone who always gets in the face of anyone who crosses your path.

For your first game, though, do not worry too much about your character's personality. The easiest (and most common) thing to do for your first game is to play yourself as far as personality goes. If the situation would make you afraid, then let it make your character afraid. As a player, you have to learn to pay attention to a lot of things going on at the table. Focus on rolling the dice, accumulating experience, keeping up with all of your combat abilities, and other such game mechanics. Once you feel comfortable with the mechanics of the game, then you can think about how to make your character's personality unique.

By your second session you should have at least a fair grasp of the game's mechanics: things like how to deal with combat and what to do with your experience points. Depending on the campaign, you may even have gained a level or two. Now that you understand the game a little bit better, you can think about making some changes. Your GM might allow you to change your current character or substitute a new one. This might be a good opportunity for you to try a different character class, perhaps trading a spellcaster for a fighter, or vice versa. Alternatively, you might make the same type of character, but distribute the numbers differently; trade a higher strength, for a lower constitution, perhaps. This would make for lower hit points, but a more damaging swing of the sword. I would recommend sticking with the same character though, for at least five or six gaming sessions. Give yourself a chance to get to know him!

Watch what happens when your fellow gamers change characters. Watch for changes in their new characters' personalities, tendencies, habits, etc. The player might have a different voice, or different shirts that they wear, or perhaps a different set of dice.

Gaining a little confidence in the game mechanics? Try to add some personality quirks. Pick something that does not conflict with the group or hinder gameplay. For instance, giving your character an aversion to clothing might draw a lot of attention to your group, most of it negative. You do not want your character to get his or her group in trouble with the local authorities. An example of something minor that can add to your character's personality is a musical instrument. If your character plays the flute or harp, it adds a dynamic to the character's personality, and it just might earn you and your group a free room at the local inn or a little extra spending money.

You might also want to experiment with adding a small character flaw. Again, avoid choosing something that would hinder your group or the game play like a severe allergy to sunlight. You want your character to seem unique, not annoying. Make the flaw something small: a minor stutter, a slight nervous tick, maybe a fear of heights. Be creative.

Soon you will have a solid handle on the mechanics of the game and a decent understanding of your character's station in life. At this point I suggest thinking about some larger undertakings, such as generating a background for your character.

Where we came from and what we've done goes a long way in explaining why we are who we are. We wouldn't be who we are today without our background. Why is your character a fighter? Obviously something in his background afforded him the opportunity to learn how to use a sword, what was it? This is your chance to tell a story, and it can be as detailed or as vague as you'd like. Beyond simply being a story though, this is your chance to give the GM some ideas as well.

Your character's background will be wrought with this that the GM could use in the campaign. You're a fighter now because your father was a fighter, perhaps. Well, maybe your father had some enemies in his day, and they're coming back to look for the +2 sword he won in a tournament. They've been training for all these years, and they want a second shot at that sword your father had given to you, all those years ago.

Our characters are our chance to play sides of our personalities that we don't always get to explore in real life. Your devious mind might sometimes say it would be nice to have some more money, but you know you can't simply take it. (right!?) So why not roll up a rogue who might not be quite so worried about right and wrong? Whatever you choose to play, always remember the goal was to have fun. Make sure you've got your bases covered, and the sky is the limit!

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