A Dungeons & Dragons Primer

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How do you slay an Owlbear? What is an Owlbear? If you’ve heard of Dungeons & Dragons, but never played, it, you might find yourself asking these questions. Have no fear. I’m here to help with a quick primer on D&D. An Owlbear is exactly what it sounds like, by the way, and it’s far from the weirdest creature a player might encounter.

What is D&D?

D&D is a tabletop roleplaying game. Players create characters, a fighter or a wizard for example, and sit down together to create a story. The Dungeon Master, or DM, should have a basic plot outlined, but the way it plays out depends on everyone. Don’t worry if the roleplaying aspect sounds intimidating. Some players choose to speak in-character, but you don’t have to. The extent of your roleplaying is up to you.

What are the dice for?

Dice are an important element of the game. Many actions are based on chance, like hitting an enemy with your weapon or picking a lock. Rolling dice is the method used to determine success or failure.

What are the papers and books for?

Players have character sheets to keep track of stats (for example, how strong your character is). This is also where you would write down what equipment you have and track injuries, etc. The books contain everything you need to know about the game, from how to create a character to what kind of damage a dragon’s claws do.

Strategy guide

So, how do you slay an Owlbear?

That’s where combat rules come in. Players and NPCs (non-playable characters, like that Owlbear) take turns performing actions. In this case, you might try to hit the Owlbear with a sword, arrow or spell. Your goal is to do enough damage to get its Hit Points down to 0. At the same time, you want to keep your own Hit Points above 0.

How do you win?

That depends on the story (campaign) the DM is telling. It will usually take place over multiple sessions. My own D&D group has been meeting for years, playing through various campaigns. Completing a story arc and accomplishing your goals is how you win, together. D&D is not competitive but collaborative.

Are there really elves and dwarves?

Yes. You can play a human, but you can also be an elf, dwarf, gnome and many other fantasy races. You’ll find yourself battling creatures from ogres to dragons to crazy floating eyeball monsters call Beholders.

Can the library help me learn to play?

Yes! You can borrow the books you need, but you can also attend a program. This is a great way to get started with D&D. Hopefully soon you’ll be slaying dragons (and Owlbears) like a pro.

Megan is a Children’s Library Assistant at CLP – East Liberty. When she isn’t reading fantasy, magical realism and/or pretty much any children’s book, she enjoys gaming, watching movies and writing fiction, some of which has been published.