As some of you older tabletop veterans may know, and as many of you younger tabletop fans will learn in time, it gets hard to maintain a consistent gaming group as the years go by. It’s an unavoidable fact of the gaming life, that things change, and people come & go.
It happened to me in about 2005. That was the last summer where I still had enough of my gaming buddies in the area (more or less) who could get together once a week to play. Eventually, that D&D game unfortunately fizzled. I sold off my books and my miniatures, and have spent my time between then and now reminiscing about adventures of the past. Again, you older tabletop gamers probably still do this and you younger fans almost certainly will. It’s the best part, actually.
Anyway, fast forward to about 4 months ago. A friend mentioned that they were interested in starting a homebrew game of 5th Edition D&D. Out of a desire to have something to do on the occasional free weekend, I agreed to join; and (if I’m being honest) to also enjoy a monthly potluck supper rather than indulging in nostalgia in the form of dropping any money on new books that I may use a handful of times. You can imagine my surprise when I was told that I wouldn’t need a rule book. The DM (Dungeon Master) had a subscription to something called D&D Beyond which meant all the required rule books could be shared with the players. Ok, I get it. I’ll check out some PDF’s.
Boy, was I wrong!
Honestly, I was a bit overwhelmed in my first read through. My experience with previous editions was helpful in that I understood the terminology, I had the foundation of an understanding of the D&D rules in general but I also knew there would be changes. I wasn’t able to easily gauge the learning curve before me. It didn’t take long to pick up the new rules, as the old saying goes it is just like riding a bike.
I was happy to discover that despite my time away from the table, I had not returned to a system of stacking numbers (Looking at you 3.5 & Pathfinder) nor one that was a stripped down MMORPG played with pencil and paper (Looking at you 4th Edition!) I think in the back of my mind, I felt some apprehension about picking up another rulebook. I didn’t want a bad experience to spoil my memories of the years of fun I had. It’s similar to going back to watch your favorite show as a child through adult eyes and realizing how unremarkable it truly was.
I was able to slip right back into the rules with only a bit of re-education. I don’t make recommendations often but to those of you considering giving Dungeons & Dragons another shot after having spent quite a bit of time without dice in hand, I think this is worth the effort of trying. It’s easy to pick up and you don’t need a lot of time dedicated to creating a new character. You can have a full character generated literally with the push of a button.
When he gave me the link I was shocked to see just how much material there was to take in. I’m not just talking about official products and product support. No, the D&D Beyond platform has made manifest something that I, who was almost the DM, could imagine only in my most fevered dream: a nearly inexhaustible fount of official and homebrew material. Finding homebrew material on the web was nothing new, of course. You had to have some search engine savvy to find it but it was there.
What D&D Beyond gives us tabletop gamers is a central repository for the rules that shape and govern the imagined worlds of the hobby’s collective imagination. In a simple, clear interface players and DM’s can import and make available to anyone who so desires it, what amounts to countless hours of hard work into a simple, flexible rule system. It’s beautiful. I recently wrote about my love of the old TSR campaign setting boxed sets and how the time has come for Wizards of the Coast and the Dungeons & Dragons team to give serious consideration to their resurrection. In the best possible way, that time has arrived.
I’m only 3 games deep into our 5th Edition game and my love of the system has been reignited. The ability to keep game material online and perhaps best of all, the players character sheets immediately accessible is nothing short of a miracle. Especially the character sheets. To me, anyway. We had a guy who I’ll call Dan… because that’s his name, that played in all of the RPGs I’ve ever run, D&D, Star Wars, Legend of the Five Rings etc. etc. and he ALWAYS forgot his character sheet. Without fail, he would never bring it with him. When I started collecting everyone’s character sheet, damned if his wasn’t the only one that somehow vanished from the folder. To see that all anyone needs is a smartphone, tablet or laptop to access literally everything needed to play brought me to the brink of tears.
Though it’s unlikely I’ll ever actually ever run a game of my own homebrew campaign again, I feel an overwhelming compulsion to import 20 year of homebrew material into D&D Beyond. Call it my way of adding to the collective and sharing my work with my dice rolling comrades as a ‘thank you’ or maybe because I don’t like the idea of all those years of working languishing in a stack of dusty spiral notebooks. I can’t wait for the next game. I suppose we all feel like that, though. Once the dice are put away and the rule books are back on the shelf, we’re already craving the next adventure.
The saga continues…