Welcome to yet another self-indulgent blog post!
I’ve been into D&D for a while, though I didn’t get the chance to play properly until a few years ago. I got to DM a couple of games for some mates as well, which I enjoyed – but in my heart, I just want to run around and cause as much roleplay-heavy chaos as possible. That’s tough to do when you’re keeping track of all of the NPCs’ character charts and the dozens of possible storylines that the players could choose.
Here’s a brief description of how D&D works (as told by D&DBeyond)
In D&D, each player creates a character who is an adventurer and teams up with other adventurers (played by friends). One player, however, takes on the role of the DM, the game’s lead storyteller and referee. The DM runs adventures for the characters, who navigate its hazards and decide which paths to explore. The DM describes the locations and creatures that the adventurers face, and the players decide what they want their characters to do. Then the DM determines the results of the adventurers’ actions and narrates what they experience. Because the DM can improvise to react to anything the players attempt, D&D is infinitely flexible, and each adventure can be unexpected.
Basically, during a typical D&D game, the DM will describe a scenario and then the players will react to it; actions they take may require them to roll some dice and adjust the number with reference to their character’s various stats. Once they have the final number, the DM will narrate how that number translates into an action that the characters take. Sometimes there are maps and figurines. Right now, I’m playing an online game that uses online maps and character icons.
As a player character, I enjoy characters whose stats match their personality*. This can occasionally make them ‘less optimised’, so they’ll be more vulnerable to combat damage and spells. Some people prefer to make sure that their characters are as well-rounded as possible so that they won’t be knocked out by a low saving throw; I actually find it more fun from a role-play perspective if my character’s personality traits directly impact the gameplay.
It is with that in mind that I created this character. I play her every Tuesday with a bunch of Americans.
Meet Daisy Gardner! The halfling bardbarian.
No, I did not spell that wrong. She is a BARDbarian. It’s a rather common multi-class that mixes bard characteristics (music-magic, high charisma, etc), with the barbarian class (will occasionally go into a Rage that gives her advantage on strength rolls).
Here are what her stats look like in D&DBeyond:
As you can see, she has a -1 in WIS. That means that every time I take an action that is based in wisdom, I have to roll 20-sided die and minus 1 from the number I get. This is sometimes pretty tough to swallow because a lot of spell attacks require a wisdom-saving throw to avoid. Daisy often gets badly hurt during games because her WIS stat is so low.
But the thing is: Daisy is not a very wise halfling. She’s a little chihuahua who is always the first in the door, trying to move the plot forward, and she generally thinks that she’s the best person to take the hits even though she only has 44 hit points.
She is also the one who is most likely to try and deceive or distract NPCs (because she’s a bard), so I play up her low WIS stat by acting like she really, really hasn’t thought through how she is going to approach the conversations. She leans on her higher CHA (charisma) stat to get through those interactions, though that doesn’t always save her.
Also, check out her Performance modifier!
Daisy is a bardbarian, like I said. I gave her the soldier background because I wanted part of her backstory to be that she was always a bard, but became a barbarian during a fight when she had to protect the rest of her party. Daisy is very protective of people because she’s the eldest of seven kids; she has very strong Mum Friend energy, and has been known to get a little condescending when members of her party act tougher than they are or hurt themselves in battle. That’s pretty hypocritical because, like I said, she is always the first one in the door and she has a feat called ‘Frenzy Attack’ which is about as safe to used as it sounds.
It was important to me that Daisy not have a sad backstory**. She had a happy childhood and joined the army because her friends joined. She thought it would be a good chance to get inspiration for her music. Despite some dangerous situations in the war, she’s not traumatised and she’s generally very cheerful. Except when she’s angry. Then she goes into a Rage. This usually only happens when she’s protecting someone – she’s never gone into a Rage protecting herself.
So that’s Daisy! I really enjoy playing her with my current party, but I have a couple of other characters rolled up because, to be honest, the way I play her means she’s always on the edge of dying in a blaze of glory. She’s not wise, after all, and she doesn’t have the constitution to withstand the heavy hits. It’s rare that I go more than a week without doing a death save (when the character is at 0 hit points, they are functionally unconscious. Succeeding at death saves will stabilise the character until someone can heal them; failing three death saves kills the character).
With that in mind, allow me to introduce the three characters I have in my backpocket in case Daisy dies:
Gizmo, the goblin artificer.
The smartest goblin in the world, and she knows it. Big Tony Stark energy. She had a good upbringing; her family loved her, they just thought she was a little weird because she spent all her time trying to invent things. She left the Underdark because she wanted to learn more about tinkering and mechanics. She is ‘good’ in the sense that she protects people and cares about folk beyond her own race, but she’s more interested in trying cool stuff and is just very chaotic in general.
Tempest Eskedottir, the fire genasi fighter
Tempest is a fire genasi, but she is also a pirate. Because I said so. She likes to be a little bit contrary in general and she’s an excellent fighter because her mentor was a kind of Robin Hood of the seas. She’s not a big thinker, but she has street smarts built from years at sea, and she enjoys trading folkstories and morality tales with other sailors – that accounts for her WIS score. She’s happiest with a clear goal to work towards and a strong ‘why’. If she has a goal, she’ll pursue it until she reaches it.
Aster Crane, the goliath wizard
Aster was the runt of the litter. Goliaths are very focused on being strong and the best of the best, so she was only briefly trained in fighting before the head of her clan yeeted her off a mountain. She was found by lesbian witches on a hiking trip, and they took her back to their forest cottage to raise her as their own. Therefore, Aster the goliath was raised with unconditional love and kindness. When her mothers died (peacefully, in their sleep) she decided to travel and see more of the world. She is not Rapunzel straight out of the tower, but she does have hippie homeschool energy.
If you’re interested in D&D, I recommend watching/listening to actual-play podcasts and YouTube series, because that will show you how different games look with different combinations of players. Here are my three favourite D&D podcasts:
Realms Apart – played by a crew of immersive experience content creators (LARPers, Cosplayers, etc). It has audio-book vibes and the games are edited beautifully so that they are as immersive as possible.
The Adventure Zone – played by three brothers and their father. This game is less rules-heavy because they’re more focused on making each other laugh, though they consistently manage to pull off gut-wrenching and tear-inducing finales.
Critical Role – played by several famous voice actors who bring their acting chops to create strong characters. They’re converting their first campaign into a cartoon for Amazon Prime, and they just started their third campaign, so now is a good time to get into them.
Once you’ve gotten a taste of different games, if you want to actually play one I recommend trying sites like Meetup. Facebook has D&D group finders, but those can be competitive because people are basically putting their hands up for games in the comments – and it’s usually first come, first served. You might also try having a look at your local game shop. Maybe they have a weekly campaign, or know some people who are putting something together. Also, I recommend you check out Ginny Di on YouTube, because she has a lot of videos about how to get started in D&D (everything from character creation to roleplay).
Anyway, thanks for letting me indulge myself in chatting about my strange little children!
PS – I love writing and I love eating! If you want to help with the latter (and ONLY if you want) you can maybe buy me a coffee? 🙂
* Big shock. The guy who DMs my current game clocked me as theatre kid within MINUTES of hearing me speak on the discord.
** I’m not a big fan of tragic backstories for myself. I want to play D&D as an escape, so giving myself reasons to be miserable is just a good way to drain the fun out. If someone else in my party has a tragic backstory, Daisy will usually adopt them.