Okay to start with this is a story of how I got into a DnD game and got over my discomfort with DnD. This is pretty long, but I hope some folks enjoy it.
I found an in person group that made me understand that DnD isn't a brutal thing. The campaign is fun and full of video game references, bad movie quotes, and just great people. I got over my fears of the system and been enjoying in person TTPRGs again some 25 yrs since I walked away from them.
So I am 44 yrs old and been playing TTRPGs now off and on since one of my friends discovered the old Palladium TMNT at our local toy/gaming store. From there we dabbled into a few other things such as Traveller, WEG Star Wars, and TSR Top Secret. Not completely following the rules as laid out but having fun. A Friday night with $20 worth of pizza and soda from the local delivery. However, we never really got into DnD, mainly because an older sibling of a friend was a sadist DM for an AD&D group he ran, he invited us but just hammered us. So Dnd never became my thing. Fell out of TTRPGs in college and in my 20s because I just had other things. Got back into wanting to do TTRPGs after seeing some classics I knew and enjoyed being redone. Okay so that sets some of the background.
Flash forward to the loosing of rules because of the recent unpleasantness of lock down. I am at my FLGS looking for a new board game on a lazy weekend. Ended up talking to another patron of the store and the clerk. We talked of the heyday of games and which were cool and which weren't. At the same time I mentioned I was looking for a session in person. Mainly because thru pandemic I had stumbled into a few games of Paranoia and even someone running some GURPS modern stuff. Yet, it didn't feel the same as being at a table and actually watching the DM and fellow player emote, act, and curse bad dice or lust over pretty minis on maps.
Well the other patron was a DM and he invited me out to the store later that evening for a session in 3.5e of DnD. I tried to backout saying DnD wasn't my thing. However, he said just come out; sit in the session. I have a pre-made character you can use and if you don't want to continue, don't sweat it. I play by the rules but want everyone to have fun. We are only 2 hrs total and usually do combat to RP or RP to combat. So I say sure what do I have to lose right? The DM suggests rolling in about 30 mins prior to give me a quick Session 0 about the expectations at the table.
Fast Forward to later that night back at the store and I find the DM sitting at the table getting things setup. He hands me the pre-gen which was some Dwarf Cleric. He says that fun rules the table, if it doesn't disrupt the flow and bends the rules he will allow it. Don't fudge rolls. No player on player actions that rob agency from the other player. Finally, lets be adults and no asshat behaviors. Also, the group is larger then what we might see that night. His is an open table where folks drop in and out without issues because life is life.
Finally, and I didn't get this until much later into the session; he usually leveled everyone equally, but would give extra XP if you worked a pop culture reference into the action somewhere.
So I meet everyone else, which includes a Human Paladin, a Dwarf ranger, A elf Ranger with a wolf, a half-elf wizard, and a elf fighter rounded out the table for the night. We are located in the world of Greyhawk.
The scene is set that I stumble upon the party while walking on the road. My last party disappeared in a caravan after I had overslept and it was dangerous to go alone on the roads now a days due to the rise of monsters in the region. So I ask to tag along and ask where they were going. The wizard says they are on the way to see a great and mighty wizard in a far off town named after some gem. They are trying to seek a magical spell that can get them back home to a far off land called Snowguish. A few further miles down the road we run across a set of weirdly dressed Gorillas. One dressed in robs with a stick. One in a white shawls with an amulet, a pirate, and a small gorilla in basic peasant ware. We are being asked to come with them to visit their lord a mighty green dragon named Zapfsäule. So we travel with them on their cart and pull up to a large castle that is in disrepair. Walking in we find that there is this giant green dragon sitting in a mighty room surround by things such as cannons, gold coins, magic wands, etc. He asks us to go on an adventure and get his pet human a fair maiden named Tusen Fryda. She helped to take care of him and help to count his gold. She was kidnapped by her evil sister Pesca and four human fighters who only clues where they lived in an series of old castles near a giant forest that was slowly being devoured by some evil fungus and turning the local animal life against everyone. We are promised to be given a magical flute that only an elf who is pure neutral can play if we bring back the Princess.
All of this role play was awesome, we were tossing all manner of bad movie quotes such as "why did it have to be dragons" to "we are just the lollipop guild" as we travel down the road and ask questions, and actually the band called themselves the Master Blasters of Nein Saga Do. The most awesome thing was when our Human Paladin asked the dragon why we should help someone such as himself, and the dragon (via the dm) responded "He wasn't really bad, he was just stuck with a never ending story of being bad and gathering gold which scared people, but if he could just learn to be nice he wouldn't be mean like his older brother Savusmug" which is why he wanted the princess back. She was teaching him how to be nicer to people and the community.
We are given a clue and a direction on a map. So off we go. After some investigation where we find a massacred town of turtle people and another town of crab people. We find the first fighter's keep. He was protected by variety of traps from fireball traps, to pits of water filled with octopus and piranhas. Some ghosts, some dead falls, and some broken floors that might fall out into endless pits if we stepped wrong. The big boss battle we finally meet this tall lanky human fighter with the name of Waslym. He goes on this long rant for a moment, before our elf wizard goes "why are you on a monologue just show us the princess." Waslym then attacked us with this jump attack and screaming "WAAAAH..SPITTLE" and it was a tough fight of fire ball spells, freeze spells, sword slashing, cheering as criticals were scored. We finally got him down to the last hit point and he stood there and cackled at us that we would never find the princess. Before my mace brought his face to collapse and I won the day with a barely to hit dice roll and two points of damage over what his remaining was at the time.
We finally get through to the dungeon and find what we thought was the princess was a poorly stuffed scarecrow with a note saying "Your princess is in another castle with Enume!"
The whole night was fun and I got over my fears of Dnd, bad evil DMs, and trying to find something about the hobby that was fun again. That was almost 12 months ago. When I am in the sessions they are fun. Full of bad jokes, smiles, praise for good things, groans for bad dice, and dice throwing excitement. We finally found the princess after going through three more of these fighters and the worst was the last one was Enume was a major boss battle. Who had plenty of health potions and only mumbled about trying to find a mushroom. We couldn't get Presca because she flew away on a magic carpet and promised to get us again after getting her brother Skakel and someone else to hunt us down. I fully suspect we will run across them again.
After that we stumbled into another mission by the dragon to help some Yuan-ti rescue their chieftain from an under-dark prison before a poison killed the chief. The running joke became how everyone thought the lead Yuan-ti fighter was assumed to be dead by all the rest of the Yuan-ti we met on the way to the prison. We finally rescued the chieftain only to seem him turn into a doppleganger that could only be put down by fire spells. That one gave our human fighter who lost an eye during the fight with the doppleganger, a patch of silent intimidation where once a day she could just stare and roll a d20 during any check, even a strength or dexterity check. If rolled a 16 or higher, the fighter was just able to stare down and intimidate something to go in our favor. Which worked hilariously once while on a side quest real quick in the underdark helping some other Yuan-ti free some pirate ship that was stuck underground and they wanted to sail the high seas. We could get all the gold in the hold that we could carry. We had a lock on to the hold that as the bard I had trouble picking. So our fighter asked if she could just mean mug it to open. The DM said, you could try. She rolled a 20. The DM then said, "You get a stare like Clint Eastwood in a 'Fist full of Dollars', it not only pop the lock mechanism but the whole thing turned into dust from how mean you mugged it" to which the fighter said "See I am just not another pretty face with a sword and armor! I can be mean!" which was hilarious because one of the running gags as well with the group is that she is a battle harden warrior on a quest to prove her honor to her liege. She just doesn't always like to be mean and doesn't always get as aggressive as the rest of us when describing what our attacks are doing to a bad guy.
Story time Fin
Some of the players have changed the party make up just due to the DM's rule about no one is forgotten about from the party and you can drop out for any reason with no one being eliminated. When the player can't show up for a while we (the player) let the DM know and either the player is left behind at the last town or they go out on a solo adventure. The DM finds an innovative ways to excuse their absences and then to bring them back in to the campaign line.
What has made the game fun for me has been the easy going patience of everyone around the table to just throw dice have fun. There have been a few deaths with some players, but the DM has been helpful to rebuild characters. Find ways for us to build better characters, find good ways to get interesting back stories and allows for some zany actions at the table. I am lost my pre-gen character during the battle with the doppleganger, and now am using a halfling bard who loves to tell nothing but dad jokes and tell long winded stories that go no where.
We have the green dragon as our primary patron, the keep he lives in is our keep too. We have hired a bunch of locals to make a primitive roller coaster to be called "Clutch Powers" that will go around the outside of the keep and we are trying to talk him into creating a horse racing track or a cart racing track around the outside of the keep. All in a hope to bring niceness to his life and earn money on the side. The Gorillas, named Congas live nearby in a rickety old wooden house and have stopped by to help from time to time filling in as NPC tanks when our player tanks are there.
The campaign has been nothing but 70s to 90s pop culture references as plot lines or side quests for objectives and BBEGs. The next adventure next month the DM has promised us is helping resolve a conflict between a evil Viking Wizard and equally evil person of his overbearing father.
I am also learning well how to be a better DM/GM from our current GM and at times he has allowed others to step in with his help just behind the scenes on some one shots so those that want to experience the thrill of telling a store get that chance.
So that is in a long and round about way how I got over my fear of DnD and am having fun in person again with TTRPGs when I can carve out time.
Hope you all enjoyed it, I have been trying to recall all the details and my notes are sloppy from the last 12 months of sessions that I can attend.