Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tabletop Tuesday! Adventures of a D&D n00b

Hi everybody! This is a new series I'm working on called Tabletop Tuesday. In this series I will review new (to me) board games, discuss game systems, detail my new D&D adventures, and generally talk about almost anything to do with gaming.

For my second post, I will discuss my newest adventure in tabletop gaming... Dungeons & Dragons Expeditions.

D&D is a tabletop role-playing game (RPG). Players make characters according to the rules of the game and create backstories and personas that they may act out or use to determine how their character will behave in a situation. Using either a pre-made adventure or one created by the Dungeon Master/Game Master (DM/GM), the players take their characters on quests, exploring dungeons, solving puzzles, and fighting monsters and non-player characters (NPCs) controlled by the DM. Dice are used to determine character stats, decide if a player's action is successful, and how much damage is caused by an attack.

D&D Expeditions
I had been wanting to play D&D for a while now and was very excited when we learned that our favorite local comic book store hosted D&D events. We were invited to join a group that will meet up every few weeks to play through the newest season of D&D Expeditions.

D&D Expeditions is a series of pre-made adventures that tie-in to a larger story and take place in the Moonsea region of the Forgotten Realms. In this season, we will be exploring the city of Mulmaster as we fight the cults of Elemental Evil. The season, titled Elemental Evil, is scheduled to run from April to August, with new adventures being released throughout that tie into the larger story.

Saturday, April 4th, was our first gaming session. We started by making our characters according to the 5th Edition rules. My character is Lavinia Underbush, a halfling rogue. Along with the backstory I created for this character, I determined her stats (the numbers we will use to determine how powerful she is in her attacks, how perceptive she is of her environment, etc), and selected other important skills.  I will detail how I made my character in a future post.

Lavinia is being joined this season by a dwarf paladin, a half-orc cleric, a human cleric, and a genasi ranger. The Expedition stories can be completed in a couple of hours, making it possible to rotate in different players based on availability.

Our first session lasted 8 hours! After we made our characters we spent the remaining time playing through the first three parts of the City of Danger expedition. City of Danger is the first round of the Elemental Evil expedition season. There are five parts, and we played through: Hatred Like Clawed Wind, Greed Like Fathomless Water, and Envy Like Crushing Earth.

We met up again this past Saturday to play through the remaining two parts of the City of Danger storyline, Love Like Raging Fire and Fear Like Dark Oblivion. Each of these stories should take about an hour to play through, and we are taking about 90 minutes. Next weekend we will be meeting up to play through DDEX2-2 Embers of Elmwood, a longer story told in a single four-hour long session. I can't wait!

My name is Kate and I'm a D&D n00b...
While this was not my absolute first time playing D&D, this was my first time making a character from scratch. Last summer I joined a demo at San Diego Comic Con - the demo was focused on the new rules for D&D Edition 5 (released that summer), but I figured it would be a low-pressure setting to learn more about tabletop RPGs. I had a lot of fun at SDCC and my experience there definitely made me more comfortable asking questions and understanding when to use the dice during our first Expedition session on April 4th.

So far I have learned a lot about what numbers/modifiers are used for what attacks and skill rolls, how to make my character stronger by selecting what skills she is proficient in, and when to use certain attacks based on an advantage, distance to enemies or allies, or what weapon/dice are used for the attack.

My confidence was much higher during our second session - not only with the mechanics of the game, but with the role-playing aspect. During our first session I was very quiet, over-thinking what questions I should ask NPCs and deferring to more experienced players. But this past weekend I got really into it, taking on my role as Lavinia, the thief. I was still pretty quiet, but there were a couple of moments where she shone, suggesting how our group should proceed or using her abilities. I was even awarded an Inspiration Point for suggesting that we steal a cloak to hide the identifying features of the woman we were escorting across town! Inspiration Points are new to D&D Edition 5. They are awarded by the DM for role playing and being in-character, and can be used to boost future dice rolls.

At times it was difficult to keep in mind what my character would know about a situation and how she would respond, and separate it from my own personality or curiosity. This is a skill that will build with time and practice, just like remembering when to apply a modifier or when a special skill can be used.


I brought my own copy of the Player's Manual to the game, along with a notepad, pens and pencils, a folder to keep my player sheets in, and my dice bag.

The Player's Manual is the rule book for players. There are other manuals, such as the DM Manual and Monster Manual that a DM can use to create or run a game. Inside the Player's Manual are lists of character races (elf, halfling, human), classes (warrior, rogue, cleric), backgrounds and other traits to help create an interesting character, magic spells, and equipment. Rules about character stats, combat and movement, and spellcasting are also included in this manual. From my experience, it seems like it is a good idea for everyone to have their own manual, or at least have a couple handy to reference.

Players keep track of their hit points and equipment, so it is necessary to have paper and pencils to write down notes and fill out player sheets. It is also useful to write down names and story details as the DM gives them, too.

And it is a good idea to have a variety of dice. Since D&D relies heavily on the d20, I have three of those in my bag, along with two each of: d4, d8, d10, d10%, and d12. I also have six d6. As a rogue who likes to STAB ALL THE THINGS, I mostly use a d20, d4, and d6 for my combat rolls. What dice you rely on will vary with what attacks you use and what class you play.

The Game:
All of the City of Danger chapters follow a similar story model - our player group is hired to investigate some shady doings in the city. In three chapters we were hired to investigate the disappearance of a person. In another we were asked to find the source of some vandalism. And in the last, we were hired to escort an ambassador across town after a party. This format, while formulaic, lends itself well to the episodic nature of the Expedition season. Players are not limited to long gaming sessions or a single group of players, since

We fought small groups of baddies in each part of the story and learned that the trouble was linked to a mysterious source of magic (the Elemental Evil), though we did not learn much about that yet. There were logic puzzles to solve, differing alignments and interests among our group that we had to account for, and lots of combat to keep us busy. We had to interrogate prisoners and barkeeps, rescue NPCs, persuade city guards, and at one point, my character was eaten by a giant frog.

No, really!

As we were fighting a group of giant frogs and humanoid bullywugs, one of them bit my halfling rogue. Because she was so small, the DM decided that it had half of her body in its mouth, and I decided her legs were sticking out, kicking and looking pretty funny. She pulled her daggers and began stabbing, injuring the frog but not stopping it before it could swallow her whole!

I asked the DM if she could cut her way out of the stomach, since she was still conscious and in possession of her daggers, and he said I could roll for it. I rolled high, a definite hit, and did a significant amount of damage.  It was enough to cut her way free and kill the frog. It was a hilarious and triumphant moment for my rogue!

Thank you for reading!  This was just an overview of the game and my first time playing with this group. In the future, as the group continues to meet, I will discuss successful role-playing moments, character strategies, and other tips I learn as a new player.

If you have any topic requests or questions, please leave them in the comments.  I'm not sure how frequently I will post - I'm going to try to post weekly for now.


  1. Ooooh I've really wanted to play D&D lately, but can't find anyone to play with! It kinda sounds complicated, though... And what's this about giant frogs? Lol. Maybe I'll do a search in my area for groups :)

    1. Funny enough, the giant frog battle was the hardest one for my group! We managed to get through everything else pretty easily, but half the party died fighting the frogs!

      Have you played before? I thought it was hard at first, until I realized almost every roll I made was using the d20. I'm still learning and forget some things (like my bow attack is a d6, while my daggers use the d4), but the notes I made on my character sheet help me a lot.

      My next post is all about how I found my group and other resources for finding tabletop RPG groups - Wizards of the Coast has an event locator, if you want to check that out! http://dnd.wizards.com/playevents/organized-play

      Thanks for commenting! :)