I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons (or D&D) in my 30s. My younger self had heard of it, but dismissed it as some nerdy pencil-and-paper dice rolling game. Boy was I missing out. I owe a “thank you” to Joe D for introducing this amazing game to me. Better late than never, right?

If you’ve heard of D&D but never played, you don’t know what you’re missing.

This game has connected me with friends in ways few other experiences can. I’d wager you never really know someone until you’ve played D&D with them.

Cask and Vine introduced Joe D to me and my wife. Spending many late nights at 1 E Broadway, we formed a deeper friendship. This led to us establishing a weekly board game hang out. He and his wife introduced us to many of their literally hundreds of gaming options. Then D&D happened.

We sit down at the table and Joe presents us with a few choices of different character classes to play. Do I want to be a wizard? Do I want to be warrior? I make my selection and Joe slides over a piece of paper, my “character sheet”. It has a whole lot of numbers on it. Ability scores, ability score modifiers, proficiency bonus, initiative. In addition to these unfamiliar terms and associated numbers, I see multiple books across the table. I am told they are the rules of the game. Overwhelmed would be an accurate description of how this game makes you feel at first. Joe, our Dungeon Master (or DM), did a great job of simplifying the game and reminding us how things worked whenever we forgot.

When you have a good group of people playing D&D, you’d swear it accelerates time.

In what felt like 40 minutes, 4 hours later we had delved into the depths of a dungeon besting skeletons and monstrosities. We had righted wrongs, saved the world, and I even found a magical sword. As we were completing the session we were told what has come to be one of my favorite phrases to hear, “you all level up.” You ever go to the movie theater and for 2 hours you feel like you are in a different reality? You feel fully immersed in the world that the film has created for you? Imagine that feeling, but in D&D you get to be one of the main characters and contribute to the telling of the story.

After that first time I was hooked. I wanted to be a part of a “campaign”. In contrast to the “one-shot”, or a single play game, a campaign is intended to be multiple sessions. Each new session is a continuation from the prior session. You play maybe once a week, or every other week. When you sit down at the table as a player, Tony is no longer. Sorin the sorcerer is ready to get down to business. In our campaign, Joe again assumed the role of Dungeon Master. The DM is the person who not only creates the world and presents encounters, but also has the responsibility of playing every NPC (or non-player-character). NPCs are the bartender, or the monsters we will fight. The DM is the lens in which we, the players, see the world we are playing.

So you’ve read this far as someone who has never played D&D before. You still have no idea how the game works. Hopefully the following helps.

You’re told by your DM that you arrive at the gate of a city and the guards won’t let you in. What do you do? Maybe you try to convince the guards to let you in? Maybe you sneak around and look for a different entrance? Or perhaps you turn to violence and choose to attack the guards? Each of these choices will be met with a roll of a 20 sided die (or a “D20”). Your goal is to get a high enough number to influence the outcome in the way that you were intending. Depending on your character’s abilities, you may get to add something to your D20 roll. Let’s say you want to try to convince the guard to let you in. Joe the DM will ask you to make a “persuasion check”, so you roll your D20. You see a 12 and get to add a bonus (let’s say +3) because you’re a charismatic character. You say “15!” back to the DM, unsure if that is good enough. The DM voices the guard and says, “10 gold and I never saw you enter.” So you hand the guard 10 gold. Success, you’ve entered the city! Awesome, now you’re a D&D pro.

Our 4-some (my wife and I, and Joe-the-DM and his wife) spent over a year playing in our first campaign. We even had the pleasure of Andy Day (“Sora the Paladin”) joining us for the 2nd half. Looking back on this experience I realized D&D is more than just a game. It’s more than rolling dice, wearing a costume, or talking in a funny voice. It gives you the opportunity to learn about yourself. For me, I realized that while being the one to overcome a challenge felt great, it was even more rewarding when I contributed to the success of another player. This is something I’ve taken away from the game which I try to apply in real-life. As cliché as it sounds, helping others is a reward all to itself. This is even the case in life despite not being told afterward, “you’ve leveled up”.

Now I play in Insidious. The campaign showcasing Andy Day as Dungeon Master and the inspiration for a series of epic beer releases. If you know Andy Day, you’ll agree with me when I say he has no shortage of passion for life and his projects. You can picture him atop the Cask and Vine bar singing, or as a train conductor opening a showing of The Polar Express at the Derry Opera House, or maybe as the best damn Jack Sparrow you’ve ever seen. He brings all that and more to this campaign. I’m thrilled he is sharing our story with you, a story that is still in-the-making. If the beers are half as good as this Dungeons and Dragons campaign is, I can assure you you’re in for an amazing experience.

– Tony Y. (“Dack Faden”)