Sunday, March 14, 2010

How To Play The Game

ZAK: Ok, so tell everybody about your character.

KIMBERLY: Wait, why? I just want to kill shit.

ZAK: Because it's an example. What are you complaining about? You're not even here, this is all just made up to use this to explain the game to people. So, like, if you're trying to explain role-playing games to a new player you can just link to this page.

KIMBERLY: Fine, whatever. character's name is Rookia...

ZAK: Because characters have names.

KIMBERLY: Duh. And also because my character is a Rookie so I called her Rookia. Anyway...

ZAK: I'm just explaining, ok?

KIMBERLY: Anyway, her name is Rookia and she's really strong and fast and...

FRANKIE: Not as fast as my character!

ZAK: That's a good point, in the game you have a character and the character has stats--so that if two different characters--or a character and a monster--are trying to compete in some way you can figure out who's more likely to win. So the basic characteristics have numbers--in Dungeons and Dragons the characteristics are called Strength and Dexterity and there are others, too, like Intelligence. Basically, this set of numbers says how good your character is at different things. You roll dice to figure out the numbers--called "ability scores". In some games you can pick which numbers go with which characteristics and in some games you just have to play what the dice give you.

CONNIE: I suck at rolling ability scores.

ZAK: True, but you survived the last adventure when everybody else died.

CONNIE: Good point.

ZAK: Your ability scores might suck, but this isn't some fascist propaganda game--biology isn't necessarily destiny in D&D. Being clever and lucky often counts more than being born with good scores.

KIMBERLY: Anyway--Rookia is a half-elf.

ZAK: In D&D you don't have to be a human. If you're a different race, then you get bonuses to certain things and minuses in others. Like if you're an elf you're less likely to be tough but you're quicker than the average human.

KIMBERLY: My guy's tough!

ZAK: That's true, but that's because she's a barbarian. That's her class--in D&D, every character has a job, or a set of skills that represent what kinds of things they're trained in doing, which we call class. A barbarian has one set of skills, a wizard has another, a knight might have another, et cetera. You get to pick whatever class you want for your character. Because Kimberly's a barbarian she has skills that make her a more dangerous opponent in combat than the average elf. Like she has the ability to "Rage" which means she can temporarily make herself stronger and more dangerous once a day by becoming blood-crazed.

MANDY: In some role-playing games, you don't have "class" you just pick a lot of individual skills and talents and make up what kind of person your character is from scratch.

ZAK: Yeah, that's true, but I'm trying to keep things simple. Anyway, Kimberly...

KIMBERLY: I'm done.

ZAK: Ok, well what else do you know about your character?

KIMBERLY: Ummm...she's got an axe.

ZAK: In the game your character's got a name, some scores representing his or her abilities, a race, a job or class, a set of skills that come out of this class (or sometimes simply from being a certain race--like elves are good at finding secret doors) and then you've got some equipment. Kimberly's got an axe, a torch, some rations, some armor. The kinds of things you'd need if you were exploring. Also, anything you want to fill in about your character's background, you can---like if you want to say she has an aunt who died of leukemia or only eats beets then great, that's part of your character. Sometimes that stuff will come up in the game.

MANDY: In some games, that background stuff is provided for you.

KIMBERLY: Can we fight things yet?

SATINE: I want to find out what's in that weird tunnel we saw last game.

ZAK: Yeah yeah, ok, let's actually start playing. So you're in a dark tunnel, the walls are made of a smooth, shiny black rock that you've never seen before. Mandy, you light your torch.

MANDY: Don't tell me what to do! You can describe what's going on but just because you're the Dungeon Master it doesn't mean you get to tell us what we do. I'll light my torch if I want. If I feel like it I'll just sit in the dark.

ZAK: That's true.

MANDY: Then why'd you say it?

ZAK: To give you the opportunity to explain that to the newbie who's reading this.

MANDY: Well that's annoying.

ZAK: Anyway the point is I'm the game master or Dungeon Master or referee and I tell everybody else--the players--what's going on. So you're in this tunnel...

MANDY: I light my torch.

ZAK: when you do that, you see a horrible blue goblin in front of you. It has hook-like fangs and black teeth and tentacles coming out of its ears and it's riding a giant frog.

KIMBERLY: I wanna, like, slay, all that which is in my path.

ZAK: Goblin first or frog first?

KIMBERLY: Goblin I guess.

ZAK: Ok, if you want to hit the goblin you've got to roll a certain number on a certain die. The number is determined by me, the Dungeon Master, by comparing your character's skill at hitting things with the goblin's armor number.


ZAK: I'm explaining the game to the newbie.

KIMBERLY: Yes, exactly and I rolled that so I hit it and now I roll another die to see how much damage my hit does and it's a big number so it's dead and his face comes off.

ZAK: Well it's pretty tough actually, so you hurt it and did a certain amount of damage but it's not dead. I am marking off exactly how hurt it is secretly over here, but I can tell you that it looks like it's in pretty rough shape from your axe blow and its teeth are bleeding. It rolls some dice to attack back.

KIMBERLY: Oh, fuck this guy.

SATINE: I'm gonna check the hallway to see if there's any secret doors.

MANDY: I'm gonna cast a spell to make the frog all greasy so the goblin falls off.

ZAK: Ok, Kimberly, the goblin [roll, roll] hit you. It rolls a 12 for damage. You're unconscious. Mandy, since you cast a spell the goblin has to roll a 17 or better to not fall off the frog--it doesn't. He falls off.

CONNIE: I'm gonna pet the frog.

KIMBERLY: Guys, that goblin just knocked me unconscious, don't you think you should take care of it before fucking around?

MANDY: We can't very well have a very good example if all anybody does is fight--we need to show that a character can do anything in the game that they'd be able to do if the situation was actually happening.

FRANKIE: I guess I'll shoot the frog--I mean, goblin--with my crossbow.

ZAK: Ok, Satine--(rolls dice)you find no secret doors. Frankie, roll a 13 or better to hit the goblin.

FRANKIE: Did it.

ZAK: Connie, you pet the frog. It licks you. Its tongue is sticky but rough, like a puppy's. Frankie roll some dice to see how much damage your crossbow bolt does.

FRANKIE: [roll roll] 7 points.

ZAK: The goblin dies. The frog's taken a liking to Connie, it says--"Thank you for saving me from that awful goblin! There's a room full of treasure due south of here."

CONNIE: Holy shit, a talking frog.


Adam Dickstein said...

Awesome. Simply awesome.

Thank Mandy for the interjections about other kinds of RPGs for me will ya?

AGCIAS said...

Wonderful. I had forgotten what rolling with newbies (or being one) was like. "I'm gonna pet the frog." Perfect. Thanks for brightening my night.

JimLotFP said...

Trying to tell me something? :D

Norman J. Harman Jr. said...

KIMBERLY: Oh, fuck this guy.

Ha! The most accurate player response I've ever seen in any example of play.

Missed, you admonishing Kimberly for talking/advising while she's unconscious. I guess it's DM's/Players choice if they really care if people do that or not and not fundamental to RPGs. Still, something about your character can be knocked out/whacked but that doesn't mean you've "lost" would be nice.

Props on pointing out groups of gamers have different rules (even for same game). "We use/make up rules that work for us." is something new players find hard to grasp.

Unknown said...


Absolutely brilliant!

- Neil.

mordicai said...

It isn't really talking. When the frog licked you, certain chemicals with a suspiciously steroidal structure got into your pours & you are tripping balls.

Anonymous said...

Sometime this week, I'll be posting on my blog a thing I'm writing for my incoming newbs on what I think D&D is. I believe I'll be linking them to here to show them how it happens. Thanks as always, Zak.

Anonymous said...

Oh please...

KK would have totally gone after the hippie frog before the goblin!

I'm mean the frog's doing acid, right?

Anonymous said...

Nice. Reminds me how, despite all the various trappings of various games, RPGs are, at heart, really simple, and simply fun.

"Holy shit, a talking frog."


palinode said...

Remember the Ravenloft modules? Those were bad-ass. No talking frogs there.

Unknown said...

ROFLMAO! The only way it could've been funnier is if you had actually taped a session of them all actually saying all that!

Anonymous said...


SamwiseSevenRPG said...

Hehe, that was great. :)