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You. Me. D&D.

Some people are blessed with extroverted personalities and active social lives, but some of us … aren’t. In any case, it’s always possible to find yourself needing friends.

You may have recently been broken up with, or perhaps you just moved to Irvine for work. Maybe you need a change of scenery. It doesn’t matter why you need friends – you just do. Where do you start?

One of many manuals that can be used by a Dungeon Master – Photo Credit to Dungeons & Dragons

How about Dungeons and Dragons?

Yes, the goofy fantasy game the kids from “Stranger Things” play in the basement. The one with the mindflayer, the demogorgon and the 20-sided dice.

If you’ve seen those scenes in the show, you probably remember the shouting, the excitement and the frantic battles. That’s one way to play, and it can be fun and intense. However, there are other ways you can go about it as well.

Maybe you prefer a relaxed dice-rolling game over a round of beers. Perhaps you’d like a serious, military strategy-focused game. Or maybe you were a theater kid and want to show off your improv skills and some silly accents.

You can pretend to be a wizard named Kevin McMagicMan, or you can narrate a high-fantasy game about famed adventurer One-Eye Grathlakkaz. You can be a gritty computer hacker saving the world from doom, or a loudmouthed cabbage vendor who was framed for the murder of the Queen.

D&D is exactly what you make of it, and there’s no wrong way to play.

“Sounds great! But how do I play?”

Glad you asked! A Dungeons and Dragons group, or “party,” usually consists of three to eight people, with one person running the game who’s known as the “Dungeon Master.” They’re responsible for managing the game and narrating the story, along with carrying out non-player character actions.

The remaining players, called party members, make characters and play the Dungeon Master’s game in those roles, either acting out their actions or narrating them.

A game can be played in one session or in many, and they may take anywhere from 30 minutes to 10 hours, like it did in “Stranger Things.”

The goal of the game is defined by the Dungeon Master, and the party has to work together to reach it.

Playing Dungeons & Dragons – Photo Credit to Philly.com

Perhaps the king has been possessed by demons and must be overthrown, or maybe there’s a Voldemort-type villain that your Harry Potter-type character must defeat with the help of his plucky friends.

Maybe you’ll face off with a royal heiress who controls a fleet of dragons. Maybe you are that royal heiress and want to conquer enemy land.

There has to be a purpose behind the goal of the party, regardless of what it is; this can be a great chance to give life to the game. Each player must figure out why their character wants to help accomplish the goal or is willing to work within the party.

The players can be aligned morally, or not. Good men can have evil goals, and evil men can do good – if they have a certain motive. A black-hearted pirate or evil ghoul may decide to save orphans from certain death, if, perhaps, money is involved.

A benevolent priest may turn on his comrades and murder someone if he had adequate motivation. Perhaps the victim had killed his family, or was a demon in disguise. Characters with radically different pasts and desires may well team up to accomplish the same goal.

What matters most is letting the story unfold and allowing each character to shine. If your party is able to accomplish their goal, that’s always rewarding. Keep in mind, though – the real destination is the journey itself.

The appeal of Dungeons and Dragons, beyond escapism or having a creative outlet, is the fun of working on a team. It’s a cooperative game where you get to make new friends or work with old ones to help each other succeed.

I tend to run casual, come-if-you-want weekend games for about 2-3 hours with plenty of snack breaks. After a year or so of DMing (being a Dungeon Master), I’ve been able to build a consistent group of  party members, some of whom have started running games themselves.

I invite about nine people, and whoever is able to show up (usually about four people) comes with food. We sit down, we chat, we fight some fictional goblins and we eat fajitas. It’s a great way to spend a lazy Saturday.

If you’re intrigued, but want to see a party in action first, you’re in luck. Popular podcasts and TV shows like “Critical Role” or “House of Bob” are there to give you a peek into a campaign from the comfort of your own home.

If you’re ready to play, you can jump straight into an exciting new adventure by joining an existing game on Roll20 (think Google Hangouts for games), joining a friend’s game, or starting one of your own. Alternatively, there’s also ancientquests.com and fastcharacter.com.

Finding your party is as easy as posting on the /r/LFG (“Looking For Group”) subreddit, checking your local Meetup.com listings, infiltrating the secret library at Blizzard HQ, or showing up on D&D nights, known as the Adventurer’s League, at Alakazam Comics in Irvine.

For those who want to venture into DMing, good news – it’s as easy as purchasing a D&D Starter Kit. If you’re in Orange County, Marco at Alakazam Comics in Irvine can show you the way.

Speaking of Marco, we had the chance to talk with him and get his thoughts on the iconic game’s potential to bring people together.

“I’d say that the majority of people that come to the Adventurer’s League games are people in their 20s looking for friendship or companionship,” Marco shared. 

“Board gaming & D&D are fun ways to get together and hang out,” he continued. “You’re all doing something in common, but you don’t have to drink if you don’t want to. In the old days, people got together and went to bars, and this is just a new manifestation of that.”

If you do want to bring drinking into the equation, Marco mentioned that there’s a new gaming brewery in Laguna Hills called GameCraft Brewing. We talked about it, and it’s likely we’ll be talking about them a bit more in an upcoming article for Irvine Weekly.