That sentiment echoed throughout my teenage years. As a classic tabletop role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons (commonly referred to as D&D) always seemed like the pinnacle of nerdy exploits and all things fun, a perfect amalgamation of board games, acting, and epic fantasy.
But that sentiment stayed just that: a sentiment. It was not as if I didn’t have friends who shared my interests—we all agreed that it looked like something fun we should try. Yet we just … never did.
Then came the day I decided I’d had enough.
We were at an event for Magic: The Gathering. (A guy who plays Magic writing an article on D&D? Shocking, I know.) The walls were lined with nerdy paraphernalia, including, of course, D&D merchandise. We’d noticed this, and once again I heard a friend utter that tired line:
“We should totally play D&D sometime.”
And we all agreed and went back to our card game, but something snapped in me right then. I took my friends aside the moment that game ended. Asked them if they were seriously, actually interested in trying out D&D. They responded yes, of course they were.
“Okay then,” I said. “We’re doing it. My place. Two weeks from now. Who should we invite?”
I tapped my brother to run the game as he had the most experience out of us all, having played it once before. My girlfriend was excited to join, as was another friend of ours, and before long we had seven people crammed around my tiny dining room table for our first game.
It was an absolute mess. We barely knew the rules, many of us didn’t have dice, and the riddle sheet my brother downloaded for the one-shot adventure didn’t print properly. After four hours, all we managed to accomplish in the game was to (barely) win a fight against a single goat.
And we loved every second of it.
Some of us caught a bug that day. An indescribable, inescapable obsession with the limitless storytelling possibilities that had opened up before us. I gladly took over running the game a few sessions later, and I’ve never looked back.
The point, I suppose, is that there are countless people out there exactly like who we used to be. People who have seen the game played on shows like Community or Stranger Things, or listened to it performed in podcasts like Critical Role or The Adventure Zone. People who would love to try out the classic game for themselves. Chances are that you’re one of them. Interested in the concept and wondering how on earth you could ever get started.
The answer? To quote a certain shoe company, just do it.*
If you’re comfortable with running a game yourself, plan one and spread the word. You’d be surprised by how many people will pop out of the woodwork. And if you’re not comfortable, ask around. Chatting about the hobby with some guests at a recent engagement party, I was shocked to find just how many of them had their own little D&D groups. D&D is not going to be for everyone, mind you. You might gather some friends and they’ll decide they don’t like it or can’t make consistent commitments.
And that’s okay. Today, the group of five I play D&D with only includes two of the original seven people present at that first game. But you know what? We found others (in the strangest of places): a friend of a friend I met online, an acquaintance I hadn’t seen since elementary school, and my girlfriend’s best friend’s younger sister. These are people I probably never would have even talked to otherwise—but now count as some of my closest friends. And that’s perhaps the other lesson: be open to whom you sit around a table with.
So, whether you’ve always wanted to (but never got to) play the game, or you managed to play it once or twice before the group fizzled out, go for it. Set a time and place, grab some friends, pick up your dice, and just play. It might be hard, but you might also be surprised to find just how easy it can truly be.
*Yes, it’s Nike.
Two bonus tips
D&D rules can seem daunting, especially when you’ve never played a tabletop role-playing game (TTRPG) before. To build confidence, you can try the ideas below:
1. Start out with simpler TTRPGs
You don’t have to dive into D&D right off the bat. Here are some alternatives that are easier to learn and prepare:
- Goblin Quest (gshowitt.itch.io/goblin-quest), my top recommendation—it’s fun, it’s simple, and it doesn’t require a Game Master or any planning to run!
- Quest (adventure.game), a version of classic D&D that cuts down on the math in favour of narrative
- Lady Blackbird (ladyblackbird.org), offering a free PDF that supplies you with everything you need including characters, rules, and a story that takes one to three sessions
2. Find a group
In case your friends aren’t cool enough, you’ve got options:
- BCIT Board Game Club (bcitsa.ca/clubs)—like most schools, there’s a club right here that occasionally runs D&D
- Vancouver D&D Collective (meetup.com/vancouver-dnd-collective), a club of just under 500 people that regularly organizes open games
- Adventurers League (dnd.wizards.com/adventurers-league) where you can join Wizards of the Coast’s official public games, run in collaboration with local game stores