Until this week, my experiences of Dungeons & Dragons consisted of confusion, ramshackle groups and poorly organised sessions that quickly crumbled under their own weight. That’s no fault of my companions. To kick off a good session of D&D you need to be dedicated, imaginative and have boundless energy. My own circumstances had never been quite right to enjoy a game and have personal investment in it — but after a recent D&D event, I’m totally on board.
To celebrate the upcoming release of the Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons crossover card set, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, the Wizards team recently invited a bunch of journos to try out a hybrid D&D session with custom-created characters.
I made a lazy tiefling blood hunter named Aleister, mostly because they sounded cool and I’m a big fan of the wrestler formerly known as Aleister Black. To make the session more fun, the Wizards team actually commissioned artist Will Kirkby to draw everybody’s D&D characters, and they had a miniatures artist create tiny figurines.
Here’s my boy, in all his glory:
i was invited to a fun d&d/mtg event tonight and in the lead up we had to design our own characters
— Leah J. Williams (@legenette) July 21, 2021
While not all Dungeons & Dragons session require this level of detail and finesse, it was a great touch that really helped with the visual side of imagining our epic D&D adventure.
In this case, I and four other journos (including Kotaku Australia’s own Chris Neill and former contributors Steph Panecasio and Amanda Yeo) were sent off an a grand quest to rescue two dwarves from the clutches of deadly orcs and claim the power of a mystic treasure trove. It was aided by a miniature dungeon set depicting every room, creature and object we’d face.
It was my first time playing D&D with a model set and honestly, it made all the difference in the world.
I’m a visual learner. I love seeing what’s in front of me, rather than imagining it. So my experiences with Dungeons & Dragons so far have consisted of major struggles to really understand what’s going on, who I’m facing and where to explore. If you’re in a similar boat, a drawn map, illustrations or dungeon set may help you really get into the ‘mood’ of the game. It sure helped me.
Once I had my orientation, I had an absolute blast with this session of D&D.
As we ventured through the Lost Mine of Phandelver (one of the new locations included in the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms), the Wizards team used Magic: The Gathering cards to determine RNG monster encounters and items found, while D&D Beyond tracked our progress and lost hit points.
Between the visual aids and the simplicity of D&D Beyond, gameplay was so enjoyable I wish I’d had this version of Dungeons & Dragons to introduce me to the game in the first place. While the inclusion of Magic cards was more to show off the new set than anything else, they added a great sense of adventure and randomness to our journey. Plus, they also feature awesome, slick art.
It meant when our party encountered a Baleful Beholder, we could see it in all its slimey, eye-filled glory. It also made the experience that much more satisfying when I successfully used a Thaumaturgy spell to disguise myself as the creature’s ancient master and convinced it to abandoned its 500-year post with a good D20 roll.
I still have a lot to learn about Dungeons & Dragons, but this event gave me a taste I want more of.
It also helped me hone my tactics.
It appears to me the best way to play Dungeons & Dragons is to be as lazy and creative as possible by using every trick and tool in your arsenal to avoid head-on combat and defeat monsters.
In one instance, a Gelatinous Cube was described as “slug-like” by our DM, so I used a meal kit to pour salt on my sword and attempted to dissolve it just like a slug. In another, I put Thaumaturgy to good use to impersonate an Orcish god.
Once you really get into Dungeons & Dragons, there’s a creativity and excitement in the game you can’t really get anywhere else. In the hands of a good DM, your unhinged creative energy can be turned into a wild and twist-filled story.
While I was initially hesitant to get involved in a new D&D adventure after having such shaky experiences in my first few rounds, my latest adventure has me completely sold on the game. In fact, it has me baffled as to why I didn’t get into it earlier.
As it turns out, I’m rather good at D&D and it’s something I very much enjoy. While it took a formal press event to make me realise that, it’s knowledge I will carry gladly into the future.
I’m ready for my next adventure.
This article has been retimed since its original publication.