The First Day of the Campaign

Over the last week, Roll Play Lead has welcomed 14 kids to their first days of their September after school program.

A handful of those kids are returning–they started summer camp with RPL back in July, experience the benefits, and enjoy it so much, they keep coming back. This group is familiar with one another, the game, and the ‘rules’ (no screens, don’t talk over each other, D&D, etc.) so starting up was a more of a beautiful reunion after a two week break than a stressful series of introductions.

Still, 4 classes ago for them, and for the other classes who started this week, there was some anxiety involved, so here at RPL, we wanted to talk about the first day of class for those who might be curious about Dungeons & Dragons, but too nervous to join our social skills groups.

Notebooks, folders, dice, pencils, a map, and the Dungeon Master Screen cover the table each class

Entering in our classroom is all about entering a safe space–in our rooms, as long as you’re being kind, you are encouraged to be yourself! For some kids, they walk in and are excited to talk about their ideas/character with others at the table. For others, the anxiety is high because it could be a little noisy or this is their first time playing D&D and they feel overwhelmed. For those who are just beginning their adventures into D&D, RPL has special sheets that make it easier to jump in and we always have them available as we work together to develop a new character. No matter what you’re experience level is, RPL will be there to support you.

Looking through the Player’s Handbook for character ideas is one way to get started–premade characters are also available.

The process of building your own character from scratch does take time, patience, and small sense of discomfort if you’re unfamiliar with basic rules of Dungeons & Dragons. Using that patience and trust in the process, though, RPL will help you build an awesome character. In addition, RPL carries some prebuilt characters around, which are just as fun and sometimes help ease the anxiety of jumping into a new game.

The first day of class is always the slowest, so don’t be discouraged if you’re not as hooked as you hoped after our first day, though getting your first set of dice is a fun bonus we like to smile about. Still, building a character does take a little bit of time, as does getting to know your new adventuring party (the other players at the table and their characters). Since this game takes place in the imagination, RPL makes sure the players have time to share how their characters looks, talk, feel, etc. It’s not always as thrilling as a battle, but it’s important that everyone gets to express themselves, and it helps build our collective story as we carry forward.

Some adventurers who continue on with us bring in their own dice, spell cards, Player’s Handbooks, dice trays, etc. They fill our table with knowledge, support & a joy for the game!

Once guidelines have been established, characters have been created, and player and character has been introduced we jump into the game. Unlike some board games where there are strict rules, Dungeons & Dragons is a game where you can try anything–the roll of the dice determines whether they succeed or fail–which is another thing that can sometimes overwhelm our new players. To help alleviate that feeling, we start small: entering a town square in the evening with lights flickering from only one building. Rain is pouring down and the characters are incredibly hungry from a few days of traveling. The sign on the building quickly establishes that this is an inn.

The first dice roll is exciting, but can be intimidating until you’re comfortable with reading your character sheet. RPL & our experienced players are always there to help!

This helps limit the amount of options available to the players, while still giving them a chance to see the mechanics of the game in action. As they go to open the door, it is swelled shut from the rain and they must figure out, together, how to get in as the delicious smell of food entices them. They’ll make initial dice rolls, learning what bonuses to add from their character sheets. This helps them feel more comfortable with who their character is and what their character does well versus where they need support. Another support structure that players learn about on day one is the initiative tracker: the order in which players talk/battle. The tracker lets a player know where their turn is so that they can figure out what they want to do or say.

Popsicle sticks with character names serve as our turn order tracker–easy to read, color coded & keeps track of when it’s your turn.

From there, the story grows–they learn more about this small town and the mysteries that envelop it. Though they generally do not get to their first battle on the first day of class, players learn enough to know one is coming for the next class. By session two, players will have learned the mechanics for both social and combat interactions, with RPL always there to answer questions that come up along the way.

So, if you know of an adventurer interested in learning Dungeons & Dragons, but is feeling nervous about not knowing how the game works, RPL has built a program to support them. For both new and experienced (and anywhere in between) players, RPL’s campaign is designed to support social skill development while encouraging players to be themselves.

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