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Dungeons & Dragons

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Alex Villegas
Dungeon Master Academy: Level 1 Dungeon MasterDungeon Master Lvl 1

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Crossing the line into a World of Dungeons and Dragons

Hello everyone! For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Alex. I’m 22 years old, a huge nerd, DM and player of many TTRPG’s and I love long walks on the beach. However obsessed with D&D am I now, I wasn’t always this way. In fact a phrase i would constantly use was “I’ll never cross *that* line”. Basically I always viewed D&D as this ultimate nerd line, upon crossing I’ll become one of those adults sad in a basement rolling dice. Looking back it was just a silly high school insecurity however, I wasn’t wrong, I think it’s definitively the ultimate nerd line, but it’s one I’m incredibly happy to be over. In fact the only thing that got me to start playing was a podcast by the name….The Adventure Zone.

The Adventure Zone (TAZ) started off as a mini series on a different podcast called My Brother, My Brother and Me. This podcast involved 3 brothers “giving advice” and talking about everything and anything. The three brothers: Justin, Travis, and Griffin, originally started their podcast as an excuse to keep in touch and talk to each other, soon it became a massive hit that lead them to try out D&D 5e on their podcast. They even invited their father Clint to join the adventure. Griffin is set as the DM and their journey began with the players being ran through a pre written campaign *The Lost Mines of Phandelver*. This prewritten story (almost immediately) by episode 2 starts going off the rails to which Griffin begins weaving his own tapestry into the story. This is the reason TAZ was my start into D&D because unlike the many, many other podcast, or shows, it was never intended to be *right*. Not sure if that’s the correct wording but let me explain. TAZ starting never intended to be its own show. It wasn’t made to teach anyone D&D, it wasn’t made to tell any particular story, it’s just something this family tried and ended up falling in love with. From episode 1 throughout the series you can watch as these guys, with premade characters mind you, actively fail at D&D. No one really understood the game, and the rules they do follow aren’t to the book. The players aren’t sure who their characters are yet and so they try different accents, personalities, basically throwing spaghetti at a wall. Even griffin the DM explains he has no idea what he’s doing and constantly messes up. Beyond the story, the way they play D&D is so real it doesn’t feel like a production, it feels like a genuine first time playing. Despite hardly knowing anything…they loved it and it was so much fun to watch, that’s what got me. I didn’t need to learn D&D to play, I didn’t need to know everything about my character, all I had to do is try and be willing to learn as I play.

7 years later I still believe this podcast to truly show what D&D has to offer. I find new players are terrified of the when confronted with the holy bible that is the players handbook. Even if you are using a few pages from it, 5th Edition D&D can be a lot for anyone to digest. I think for people who aren’t coming from a TTRPG background they can feel completely restricted by the rules. Personally, I take a very very relaxed approach to D&D, I don’t even use minis (Theater of the Mind Baby)! This mindset was completely cultivated from TAZ. Then they made the 3rd Arc of the show, ‘Petals to the Metal’, which was inspired from Griffin watching Mad Max one night and thinking “that would be fun in D&D”. Imagine that, from the 1st arch being premade, about 10 sessions later, they made a completely home-brewed system and sub mechanics for a Mad Max style ‘Battle Cart’ racing arch. THIS SPANNED OVER MULTIPLE EPISODES, like how fucking cool! Then after came the next arch, ‘Crystal Kingdom’, a SciFi fantasy adventure involving fights in zero gravity. After a time loop and a horror carnival game arch we arrive at ‘The Stolen Century’, where they dive into each characters forgotten past. In this arch Griffin decides D&D isn’t a good fit to tell this part of the story, so he uses a complete new system (I believe power by the apocalypse), and even home-brews in new mechanics to adjust the system to his story.

I’m not saying D&D is a bad system, nor am I saying to my fellow DM’s to add hombrews for the hell of it. What I am saying is to not be afraid to say when something isn’t working. I can spend so much time here giving examples and maybe in future posts I will, but here I want to impart what I learned most from TAZ and what got me to cross “my line”:

Play. Learn. Adapt.

and most importantly don’t be afraid to fail and keep trying, DM and player alike. Everyone, even the best DM’s and players start somewhere; usually a place of fear and excitement. Being able to handle not getting it right and adjusting your play style mid game, mid campaign, even mid sentence will help you tremendously. Redo, try again, at the end of the day you should never be judged for learning and adapting. So if you are a newbie looking to start, a veteran feeling stale, or anywhere in between, just keep trying and you will make something truly spectacular.

Gerardo Morales
Bridget Irazoque
Ryan Haggerty


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