Sunday, February 3, 2013

Our first D&D Encounter or "Wizards NEVER wear armor!"


This story is from back in 2011...
To get the real flavor of D&D you need to play with more than just 2 people. I find 3-5 players is the best with a DM. At home my son and I could only accomplish so much. We needed to find a group so we arrived at our local gaming store to play our first session of D&D with strangers. We live very close to 2 gaming stores, which is quite convient. Even back in NYC where I grew up there was no gaming store in walking or biking distance. 

So for our first D&D Encounters game we went to the one of two local store that does not have cats. I'm allergic to cats so I had to go there by default. When we got there we went upstairs to the gaming area and waited for the DM to arrive. Day one was supposed to be for character creation, something I found maddening as explained in the current 4e players handbook. I spent days reading it and found it so poorly written that I sat down and step by step rewrote out the basic rules and character creation simply for my son and I, while I deciphered the players handbook bit by bit. Still we arrived with just dice and some blank character sheets so we could get help from the DM. This was our first mistake as the DM was not one for helpful instruction. The worst teachers are the ones who hate explaining themselves and this guy was the ultimate epitome of that. With me and my son clearly explaining we were new and needed help we were barely given any. Any questions we had were met with hard exhales and quick curt responses. Not fun. This was supposed to be a game right? We muddled through character creation. To make matters worse there were twin brothers there, delivered by their mom, who had a vast mnemonic understanding of D&D. When my son gave his wizard armor one of these kids yelled out–"Wizards NEVER wear armor!" I was like, "OK relax, we're new, give us some slack." The DM helped a bit but all in all it was only slightly better then a disaster and there was nothing game-like about our experience. No real role playing at all. Very mechanical, devoid of what made me want to rediscover D&D in the first place, and entirely not fun. I kept my thoughts to myself and remained positive but my son experience what I was experiencing and he let me know he did not enjoy it when we left. 

Now the last thing I wanted to do was show my son that quitting after trying something for 2 seconds is an option in life so after we left there that first night I explained how it was not entirely fun, not the way I remembered playing as a kid, but that we'd give it another shot the following week. We could read more during the week and hopefully get up to speed. So to make a long story short we went a few more times. Each time was pretty much the same as our first experience. Not good. The DM did not even seem like he wanted to be there. I almost asked him why he was running the group as it seemed like he hated it, or us, or both. I kept my thoughts to myself and we decided not to go back. Worst D&D experience ever. 

Eventually we hit the gaming store with the cats, and despite my allergies we wound up finding a great group of people, a fantastic DM, and a game that we played for weeks on end until the end of that Encounter session in the spring.  Miraculously the cats barely bothered me. I must have had a +2 allergic shield or something just for playing there. 

In conclusion... follow your gut. Play with a group that is accepting of your level of game play. Play with people who are nice, not elitist, and above all make sure you are happy and enjoying yourself. D&D is a game, not an insurance seminar. If no good group exists to play with do not dispair. Reading the books can in and of itself be fun. Many of them read like novels and can aid you with your own adventure creation. Also, like this blog, getting online can serve to connect you to like minded people and aid you in your quest to find a good group. If no group is close enough to play with, it is possible to play online with web cams. Technology is your friend. 

Keep on gaming and always enjoy yourself.