Dungeons & Dragons; a name synonymous with ‘nerd’ culture all around the world and the go-to nerd joke for many unfamiliar with the fictitious world of wizards and monsters.
It has always been a tough ride for D&D players since its inception in 1974, facing joke after joke at their own expense for the simple crime of enjoying a board-game that requires just that little spark of imagination and a twenty-sided die.
Though unbeknownst to popular culture, the game has certainly gone through a vast transformation over the years, thanks to the advancement of technology. While the core principle of imagination, a detailed board and plastic counters are no longer required to adventure with your friends. Now there is Roll20.
In an ever evolving world where friendships no longer require face-to-face contact, it appeared that traditional board games were going to be forever consigned to dusty, forgotten shelves. That the simple fun someone could have rolling a die with their friends and battling dragons would be lost to being pre-set by a modern video game.
Perhaps this is why table top simulators has been a revelation for many who still wish to have their own personal adventures, and immerse themselves in worlds that no one else has ever seen. One such player is Angela Hynd, a Boots UK pharmacy advisor, who has been playing D&D using Roll20 with a group of her friends for over a year.
Hynd said: “We were already a group who used to play board games on another online table top sim when our Dungeon Master suggested we give D&D a shot.
“Our DM had played a couple of sessions themself using the service before we began our own campaign. Everything is much more streamlined using the service since two members of our party live down in Nottingham, England; it makes things so much easier to continue to play semi-regularly.”
For many prospective board game players over the years, none more so than D&D, it has always been a terrible hassle negotiating the perfect time in order to all meet up and crack on with your game. Not through lack of trying, of course, but there was always something or other that would hinder your progress and force you to delay your session (and I can speak from my own experience for that).
This is where services like Roll20 have made such a difference for players around the world, including Hynd’s own old university friend group, as the game is easier than ever for novices to discover. Hynd said: “I’m definitely not the most tactical of D&D players, myself, I’d say maybe joining a couple of forums and doing a bit of light reading on how the battles work would help you get into the game.
“Remembering what to roll, and when, can be a little daunting since there are so many different things you need to roll for in the game. Roll20 is excellent since it sets it all up for you, so you can just click on whatever you want to roll, though there can still be an information overload!”
Despite a little bit of the magic, and the imagination, being lost from the game being converted to a simplistic online format, it is clear to see that there is still plenty of fun to have from such an old playground. Hynd went on to describe one of her most recent encounters in their adventures, when her self-described “squishy little bard” became trapped in a room face-to-face with a group of dangerous wyverns.
Instead of attacking them, being no use in combat, she decided to befriend them, miming out actions that they would copy and ultimately free the group from their prison: “Now our group is free, and the wyverns have flown away and covered the sky above the town we are in. I’m not entirely sure what’s going to happen next, I feel like we may have bypassed a huge chunk of our DM’s plan but this is sort-of a regular thing to happen for us!”
This unpredictability of the game is what has been its appeal for years now, offering a new experience every time you sit down to venture into a new world. While the huge books of lore, guides, and negative ‘nerdy’ stigma around the culture can certainly be off-putting for any newcomers it is definitely a game that is worth trying, a sentiment echoed by both Angela, and her merry band of adventurers.
Sarah, a member of Angela’s group, said: “Yes, I really recommend trying it, it’s just really fun. Maybe find a Discord group who are into D&D meet-ups, or ask a friend group to jump into it with you.”
The group’s Dwarven Paladin suggested: “You can look for groups advertising new players online, or offer to DM as no one really wants to do that, but yes I’d recommend it.”
While their Dungeon Master simply said: “Heck yes.”
So why not get a couple of friends together online and give Roll20, or any other table top simulator, a try. After all, you never know, your new favourite pastime could be just a roll of the dice away.
By Daniel McMillan.