Dungeons & Dragons in Eau Claire: How to Get Started

Kensie Kiesow

Images: 1, 2, 3 (CC BY-NC 4.0)
Images: 1, 2, 3 (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is a tabletop roleplaying game (RPG) which encourages its players to not only do a lot of basic math, but to really indulge in their fantasies and imagination to create a world of magic and combat all their own. As part of the character-building process, players are told to pick ideals and flaws that their characters have, as well as what their own personal goal might be outside of the main campaign created by the all-knowing dungeon master (DM). D&D has become more mainstream in recent years, possibly due to the downfall of the Satanic Panic of the '80s (and definitely because of its emergence in beloved pop culture franchises), and more people than ever have started unraveling the secrets of the fantastical world of Faerûn. Nowadays, D&D isn’t just for dark, damp basements. 

James Johonnott, Volume One's listings and resource editor and a seasoned DM, would explain it to the “non-dice-rolling public” as “a group of people sitting down to imagine a story together.” And, those stories you make with friends can be dramatic, hilarious, or heroic, and they stick with you. Making plans with friends, especially as an adult, can be very challenging. At any given time, adult life is absolute chaos, but Johonnott says setting time aside every week helps him to “foster and maintain adult friendships.” Not only does D&D allow for a fun break in the chaos with friends, but he adds, “Imagining another person and their personality, goals, and ambitions is a great way to connect with other people at the table, and explore other identities.” D&D is all about imagination, adventure, and problem-solving, but it’s also about friendship, as corny as that sounds, and building memories that will last a lifetime.

That's Great, but ... How Do I Play?

If you’ve been wondering how to get started, have no fear because Eau Claire Games and Arcade is here (315 Graham Ave., Eau Claire | website). Eau Claire Games and Arcade has set aside scheduled times for players to meet on Sundays from 3 to 8pm as well as Mondays and Wednesdays from 6 to 10pm. Here you will be able to find players and DMs to help you understand the rules and mechanics of the game, as well as find other groups to join if you’re alone, and believe me, you are never alone in searching for a D&D group. You can even privately message the store on Facebook if you need help forming a group, and they will help you contact other players around the Chippewa Valley. If you’re a newbie and you feel intimidated by the seasoned players who seem to know everything about the game, that’s okay, but know that these people are a great resource and the employees are there to help you.

D20 Gaming (2158 Eastridge Center, Eau Claire |Facebook) is also a great place to get involved with the D&D community, and it’s a wonderful place to get your starting equipment. I recommend every player invest in the D&D Player’s Handbook and a set of slick new dice, and every DM should have a copy of the D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide to help them build their world and lead a positive gaming experience.

However, these rule books can get a little pricey. When I asked Johonnott what advice he had for someone who’s interested, but is also on a budget, he recommends checking out wizards.com/dnd to find free rules, and purchasing the newly released D&D Essentials Kit is “the best way to get in on the ground floor.”

[UPDATE] Another longtime local resource for D&D supplies, gameplay, and instruction is Clairemont Comics (2215 Fairfax St., Eau Claire | website).

5 Tips for the New Hero

1. You do not have to use real figurines. Figurines can get expensive, and painting them can be annoying and time-consuming, so just forget the whole thing and use some extra dice lying around. Honestly, as long as it’s small, you can use anything to represent your character on the map. Random baubles from around the house, pieces and figures from other game sets, or even painted rocks from the yard work perfectly.

2. You don’t even need a map, either! DMs need to prep and think of so many different scenarios for their players, that making combat or setting maps can get really time-consuming, but if you have a small party with a good imagination, maps aren’t necessary.

3. Playing for four hours straight can be exhausting. Mentally and emotionally. Be kind to yourself and take a break in the middle of the session, or start off with smaller sessions of one or two hours to get yourself used to using your brain at full throttle for extended periods of time. Snacks and fizzy drinks are also great to have on-hand during a session to give your brain the extra boost it needs to explore an abandoned castle.

4. If you don’t know how to play, or you think you’re playing it wrong, don’t worry about it. The beauty of D&D is that every party and campaign is different. But, if you still want some examples, there are plenty of podcasts out there to listen to, such as The Adventure Zone, which is available on all podcasting platforms, and Critical Role, an online series which can be found on Youtube, geekandsundry.com, or their own website at critrole.com.

Important Note: Not everyone is as professional or talented a story-teller as Matt Mercer! Sometimes, you just gotta be a McElroy, and that’s great fun, too.

5. Lastly, and this is the most important part, don’t be afraid to get silly! I know it’s hard in the beginning, and you’re going to feel stupid, but making up fun accents or voices and throwing yourself into something is so much fun and rewarding. Sharing such a powerfully imaginative experience with your friends makes those friendships so much stronger, and it allows you to fully immerse yourself in that world.

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