Here’s Everything You Need To Know About D&D

Today’s Nerd Corner post comes from a Dungeon and Dragons’s player! This is a game ubiquitous in all our lives, but do any of us actually know how it works? This post will answer all your questions.  – C 

Being nerdy has gone mainstream – no longer is it a thing you have to hide for fear of being judged or picked on. In fact, most wear it as a badge of honor! I know we do and that’s exactly what we are teaching our kids to do as well. Our family loves gaming. Our house is adorned with paintings of our favorite video games, prints of our favorite gaming webcomics, and a large bookcase that contains all manner of Dungeons and Dragons accessories. We have fully immersed ourselves in D&D for more than a year now.

The absolutely marvelous thing about Dungeons and Dragons is the openness of it. Wizards of the Coast has done such a lovely job of providing players with core rules and then giving them options. If you are interested in playing you have the option to purchase a “starter kit” which will come with the base rules and a starter adventure module. This is what we did. The amazing thing about it is that we played through it and later I listened to The Adventure Zone podcast do the same module and the way they played was so different than the way we did. Same game, so many options!

There is a core set of books any player should own: Dungeon Master’s Guide, The Players Handbook, and The Monster Manual (click through for links to Amazon!). Wizards of the Coast provides many additional books available for purchase in addition to these core books. Currently our family is playing Storm King’s Thunder. My husband has used that as a base for our adventuring while also interjecting his own flavor and small adventures as we journey along. There are several like this and other books that provide more race and class options, more monsters, and more ideas to enrich the world you are building.

But these are optional. Once you grasp the general idea of how to play, all you need is your character sheets and your imagination. There are a number of websites where people share their “homebrew” (a Dungeon Master creates and shares their story). A site called The Dungeon Master’s Guild allows DMs to share their stories, resources, homemade lists, created character classes and races, and whatever else they’ve created.

Many who have not played D&D before can view it as really silly. Yet, I will say this: it is what you make it! My first exposure to D&D was listening to a podcast version of our favorite webcomic. The creators from Penny Arcade play their characters from Acquisitions Incorporated. I was immediately pulled in for the humor. I later went on to watch Geek & Sundry’s Critical Role in which the story telling and role playing are rich and involved. My husband has gone to a local “Adventurer’s League” to play and these groups tend to focus more on the combat and rule element of the game.

There are so many ways to play and myself, my husband, my 9-year-old son and my 4-year-old daughter attempt to incorporate a mix of humor, combat, rules, rule bending, and immersive role playing into our at home games. We have even been playing one continuous campaign with my best friend from college, Craig (who joins us via Google Hangouts from many states away), for around a year and a half now. When we first began playing, my daughter was not a part of the game and my son was highly reluctant to role play or get creative with his character at all. Over the last year and a half this game has added so much to our lives and has helped us grow as people.

D&D is a great game for teaching and reinforcing simple math skills. There are several sets of stats you get on a character sheet and you are consistently forced to add these numbers to different dice rolls. The infamous D20 dice is both my friend and enemy (I have total mom brain). Luckily, my son loves math. Recently, my level 9 rogue/sorcerer hybrid rolled a critical hit with some Short Swords and I needed to roll eight D6 dice, double that and add my modifier. This broke my brain( editors note, this broke my brain too). My 9-year-old quickly added them all up and reported to the DM. Bam. Math skills at the gaming table.

My 4-year-old joined us and as she has become more familiar with 1-20 as well as adding 1-5 to whatever she rolls based on what stat or damage we are rolling. My daughter’s character, Cupcake Sprinklesprocket, hails from the fabled Candyland. Candyland has been laid to waste by her evil dog Noony who now sits upon a throne of poo. Their next adventure will take them there to reclaim her homeland and overthrow Noony. This story was inspired by talking to my 4-year-old about where her character came from and what happened in her past. Kids!

As I mentioned, my son was hesitant to Role Play when we first started. My husband DMs for us and my friend, Craig, and I decided to use accents to distinguish when we as players were speaking and when our characters were speaking. I didn’t force my son to do this.  Every now and then though, he will pop into a slightly different voice for his character! Over the past year and a half, he has become much more willing to take the lead. He will talk to the NPCs we encounter, and will negotiate and problem solve instead of just rush into combat encounters.

He’s gotten very creative and started thinking through things as his character would. He has learned empathy as we encounter all manner of different kinds of characters and has cried when he thought an ally might be dead or when NPC friends have left us to go onto bigger things. What began as a silly thing he couldn’t really connect with has become something he’s emotionally invested in and loves to do. My children get to encounter all manner of different people and creatures, all types of environments, and interesting situations where they have to problem solve, improvise and be resourceful.

Playing D&D provided has given us more family time without media, without judgement, and without interruption. It has provided my kids and my long time friend a chance to interact on a weekly basis. We move a lot and it’s not always easy to find stability. This ongoing game gives our family just that. A safe place to be creative and have fun. And has it taught me patience! Have you ever tried to get two kids to sit kind of still and focus for a few hours? It doesn’t always go as well as you hope.

I wish to thank Gary Gygax for creating a game that has given us so much. I want to thank Wizards of the Coast for expanding his vision and his fantasy worlds for all who would pick up a D&D book, sit down at a gaming table with family, friends or complete strangers and create something wonderful of their own. – Holly M.




I am a military wife currently living in my own personal Tartarus that some call Alabama. I am a gamer, creator of people, and artist who runs on coffee and kindness. I enjoy second breakfast, pajamas and fuzzy socks. When I grow up I want to own my own gaming tavern where the conversation is good and the drinks are plenty.





Links to Amazon are non-revenue generating. All links to other websites are also non-revenue generating. All pictures provided by Holly Miller. 

Sharing is Caring, but Stealing is Bad MMM’Kay? 

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