Dungeon Calling: Returning to Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeon Calling: Returning to Dungeons & Dragons
It has been 15 years since I last played a roleplaying game and around 17 years since I last played Dungeons and Dragons, but this weekend I’m dusting off the dice, hunting down my favourite dungeon master’s screen and poring over monster stats, as this weekend I will be returning to one of the games that marked the start of my journey into gaming, Dungeons and Dragons.

The reason for this return to dungeoneering didn’t come from me, even though I’ve been looking longingly at all the RPGs I’ve missed out on in the last 15 years. Instead, the idea came from two of my really good friends who are also into board games. They had seen a couple of episodes of the Big Bang Theory were the geeks play D&D and wanted to try it out for themselves. To say I got excited was a bit of an understatement.

The first hurdle to overcome is to decide on what system we are going to play. It’s already taken that I will be the dungeon master, so I’m going to have to learn the rules and find a suitable adventure to run. I already have a small pile of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition books and modules, and a bigger pile of D&D Classic rules that have been rescued from my parents’ attic. I also have a copy of the starter book of Shadows of Esteren that the designer insisted I take after last year’s interview. What about the newer systems? The general buzz I am hearing gives a lot of credit to the latest, 5th edition, of Dungeons and Dragons but I’ve also heard a lot of good things about Pathfinder.

It seems a shame not to use my old AD&D 2nd edition books
I was lost, there were just too many options, and I didn’t know what would be best. So I did what everyone should do, I went to social media and consulted the wisdom of the masses.

It didn’t take long for a consensus to be reached, although a couple of people suggested using AD&D (mainly because I already owned the rules) almost everyone sang the praises of D&D 5th Edition. When I quizzed people about Pathfinder, I had a few people respond that the game easily gets bogged down in numbers and it wouldn’t be suitable for players new to roleplaying games.

So I’ve decided to start a D&D 5th edition campaign, looks like it’s time to fork out on a brand new copy of the player’s handbook, dungeon master’s guide and monster manual, or is it? We have to bear in mind that my potential adventurers have never played a roleplaying game before so they may not like the experience, so handing over nearly £100 for a set of rulebooks seems like an expensive venture. This is again where D&D 5th edition got a lot of its praise, because not only does the game have a very highly regarded starter set but the basic rules are available for free, yes that’s right free!

Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition starter set

For the last few weeks I have familiarising myself with these new rules and carefully studying the Mines of Phandelvar, the mini campaign that comes with the starter set. I must say that so far I am very impressed with the starter campaign. Not only does it introduce many of the main concepts of D&D in a logical manner but it’s also open enough that it allows the players to approach the adventure in the order of their choosing. In a few places it feels like a dungeons and dragons safari, with various monsters appearing just so you can see them (the worst offender appears to be a green dragon, who’s there just because you can’t play a game of Dungeons and Dragons and not have at least one dungeon and at least one dragon), but on the whole the story and dungeon layouts are fairly logical.

The whole thing has sparked my imagination, a say sparked, more like exploded. Should I start looking at where to take my party of adventurer’s after Phandelvar? The module does have a few seeds that can link it to other events in and around the Sword Coast; however the big one for me is the similarities between this adventure and the Night Below, the last campaign I ran back in 1998. I don’t want to spoil too much of either campaign, but the setting and local characters bear enough of a similarity that I could run both campaigns back to back, combining the locale from both boxed sets. Should I merge some ideas from Night Below into Phandelvar? It would give me a massive campaign that with a little tweaking could easily fit into this region of the Sword Coast.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, and I’ve realised I only need to absorb enough information to give Neverwinter, and the surrounding countryside, enough character to feel real.

Roleplaying games dungeons and dragons D&D

The starter set also comes with a selection of five characters for the players to take on. These are a well-rounded group covering all the major fantasy races and class types. We do have one issue that the cleric in the party is a dwarf but the player who wanted to play a cleric has no interest in running a dwarven soldier. This is where the free player’s handbook came to the rescue and I was able to make a very similar character, a human cleric of Selune, with more than a passing resemblance to Lagartha from Vikings, which my cleric player is more than happy with.

We are now all ready to go, dice are on standby, I’ve sourced some large pieces of gridded paper, I’m also keeping my copy of Descent close by in case we want to use miniatures, pencils have been sharpened and notepads are on hand.

My party are all ready to go, and a cart loaded with supplies makes its first steps out of Neverwinter into the wildness of the Sword Coast…

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