Here's one more for your social distancing entertainment arsenal ...
Tabletop roleplaying games are somewhat unique in the world of gaming. They're one part board game, one part acting exercise, and one part collaborative storytelling. There are over 400 different tabletop roleplaying systems in circulation now, but Dungeons and Dragons has consistently remained the most well-known. In recent years, podcasts like Critical Role along with the release of the game's 5th edition have seen a massive renewed interest.
The game is typically played in-person (with bonus authenticity points for playing in a musty basement in the suburbs), but recent social distancing rules have made these kinds of meetings challenging. While this may seem discouraging to new players, this is actually a great time to get into the game. Renewed interest means that there are crowds of eager players and plenty of resources available!
Although the game is fairly intuitive once you start, the sheer number of moving parts that separate it from other gaming mediums can be daunting at first. If you're curious how to get started, look no further!
Find a Group
The first (and most important) step in starting any Dungeons and Dragons game is finding a group. Exact group sizes can vary, but the general consensus is that having 4-5 players and one DM (or dungeon master) is a comfortable, manageable amount. Fewer players can mean difficulty ensuring enough turnout to run games, while having more can slow down the speed of things. Make sure that whoever wants to DM understands that their role is unique. We'll touch more on that later, but participating as a DM means doing significantly more work than the other participants.
If you've already got a group in mind, it helps to create groups on messaging services like Discord or Roll20 (you'll hear us mentioning this one a lot). Not only do these offer a way to swap resources and keep track of schedules, but both clients have built-in voice features that let players run games remotely! Perfect for running gaming sessions while still observing social distancing requirements.
Otherwise, there are several online communities centered around helping players form adventuring parties. The Looking For Group subreddit is a great place to search for potential players. Additionally, D&D Beyond offers several forum resources designed to help players network.
Learn the Rules
This is the time to narrow down which system you want to play. As noted earlier, there are countless different tabletop settings that vary in theme and complexity. Some (such as D&D itself) are largely fantasy-themed while others might focus on cyberpunk sci-fi, gritty realism, or abstract horror. If you're uncertain of where to start, D&D 5th Edition is beginner-friendly while offering all sorts of advanced customization for long-time players.
Players are advised to grab a copy of the D&D 5e Players Handbook which contains almost everything required to start a game. Additionally, it's also advised that someone in each group owns a copy of The Monster Manual, along with an optional copy of The Dungeon Master's Guide. While there are dozens of additional supplements, these three books are enough to start a full D&D Campaign!
Find a Platform
While playing remotely presents a slew of challenges, there are several digital clients that make hosting a breeze. Each comes with unique advantages and disadvantages, so don't be shy about shopping around until you find the software that best meets your needs.
First up is D&D Beyond. This is an official platform created by Wizards of the Coast, the parent company that produces Dungeons and Dragons. Within this website are a slew of supplementary rules, character makers, and tools for encounters in games. Additionally, it features forums full of robust content and several plugins to other software to make running games as painless as possible. If you're a first time player and curious where to start, you can find everything you need to start running games on this website.
Next is Roll20. This web platform is loved by veteran players for its open-ended interface and near-limitless customization. In addition to Dungeons and Dragons, it contains plugins for hundreds of other games, along with user-generated assets and options for players to create their own game modules. The sheer number of options may be daunting at first, but the client is in a class of its own for hosting more complex games or utilizing more elaborate rules. While signing up and hosting is free, it does contain several monthly subscription packages that offer additional functionality.
Finally, if you feel like playing old-school, consider using video conferencing software such as Zoom. While social distancing rules make in-person games prohibitive, using video conferencing is the most effective way to replicate the feeling of playing pens-and-paper games. Be prepared to do some extra prep work, however. Video hosting software doesn't come with the same gaming platforms or asset libraries, so your group's DM should be prepared to run games with similar materials to what would be present in a live game.
As with any other game, the most important part is to have fun. D&D is a great social activity, and a chance to form some truly memorable experiences. While your first few games might feel a bit difficult, unintuitive, or daunting, don't lose hope! Learning the ins-and-outs of tabletop gaming is long, long practice. Make sure to communicate openly with your other players about your expectations for the game, along with any concerns or cool ideas you come up with.
This is an important time to keep in contact with your friends, and playing Dungeons and Dragons is a great way to do that!
Have you been playing any tabletop RPGs remotely? Let us know about any interesting experiences you've had!