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The first time I played DnD, I was shocked. I’d heard people in my high school talking about playing it here and there, but had never really gotten into it myself until I graduated.

 It was always in the back of my mind, mentally bookmarked as something I’d be interested in, but I just never had the community to play it with until later on in life. When I finally did get around to playing, I was…overwhelmed, to say the least.

I can’t say for sure what I had expected, but what I can say is that I wasn’t expecting complicated character sheets with dozens of fields to fill in, like some convoluted tax form. I also most certainly wasn’t expecting all that math that goes into character creation.

While I can’t speak for the experiences of the other two members on our team, I can say this: I know I’m not the only one who walked away from their first session asking themselves…why is DnD so complicated?

TL;DR Explanation: Why is DnD so Complicated?

Think about it: in a game where players can feasibly do anything, there has to be rules. There needs to be an established world to play in, and there needs to be guidelines to keep players in line, otherwise you’d end up with sheer chaos…which still happens a lot of the time, anyway.

At the same time, the game needs to be flexible enough to suit a range of playstyles and interests. When you consider how it needs to have defining rules and flexibility simultaneously, it makes sense that it’s exhaustingly detailed.

Plus, all those nitty-gritty details help each and every player create and play as a character that’s tailor-made for them. If DnD were too simple, this wouldn’t be possible.

The World of DnD: A Very Brief Introduction for Beginners

Unlike some people, I was very fortunate to fall into a group of experienced DnD players. They worked tirelessly to integrate me into their campaign, showing me the ropes and helping me every step of the way.

To this day, though, I still wouldn’t call myself an expert. But I know enough about the game to tell you that the sheer breadth of stuff it covers makes it impossible for the game not to be complicated.

Nevertheless, I’ll give you a very, very quick and basic introduction if you need some background info.

Dungeons and Dragons is best characterized as an interactive story. One person in the group assumes the role of the Dungeon Master (commonly abbreviated to DM), and tells the story that the other players’ characters will interact with.

Each player who is not the DM makes their own character. This character’s information is marked down on a character sheet like this one.

Characters are broken down into a stunning number of characteristics. These traits, including stats and skills, dictate what the character can and can’t do.

This might sound limiting, but trust me when I say it isn’t. If characters weren’t in some way restricted, every player would be a god, and that would disrupt the integrity of the game.

Through a combination of dice-rolling and role-playing, players work their way through adventures. The DM, like a choose-your-own-adventure book, talks them through the consequences of their actions.

As for the story the DM walks players through? It can be literally anything – the only limit here is the DM’s creativity. However, most DnD campaigns take place in a fantasy setting, much like Lord of the Rings.

Many will take the rules set forth by Dungeons & Dragons and apply it to different settings, though. An imaginative DM could easily turn it into cyberpunk or horror setting with a little effort.

How Do You Make it Easier to Understand?

Even when it’s oversimplified, like in the description above, DnD can be frustrating if you have no experience with tabletop RPGs. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, don’t fret – there are tons of resources out there to help you acclimate to the game.

As an example, I’ll show you one of the best breakdowns I’ve found. The video below goes over some of the most basic DnD elements in under seven minutes. Click the thumbnail below to watch.

Wrap Up

If you’ve ever tentatively decided to play DnD, then been scared away by the rules (so many books!) involved, I implore you to give it another shot. Yes, it can take some getting used to, but you don’t have to play the game perfectly, especially in the beginning.

Assuming you’re playing with a group of more experienced players, your group will function as a resource to help you learn the game. And if you make a few missteps along the way, a good player in your group will have no problem teaching you.

If you’re playing with a whole group of novices, then there’s still no need to fear. There are countless free resources online that will teach you how to play the game – some which can even give you a grasp on it in nothing more than a few minutes.

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