Playing the Game

Role playing games are just board games in disguise. The story itself is much more loose and player driven, but fundamentally it is about narrating what your character does and rolling dice to see what happens. Everyone playing sits around a table with the Dungeon Master at the head. The Dungeon master is typically behind some sort of screen to shield their dice rolls and information from the players and the players sit together, usually within reach of a big bowl of chips, a pile of polyhedral dice, pencils and note paper.

The overall game play is a cooperative story telling experience. Players are not in competition with each other, and ones that are will find their characters defeated very quickly.  The mechanics (aka dice rolling) exist to add randomness, complexity, limitations and determine the outcome of challenges. Players will learn to manage resources, time and weigh their luck to achieve their goals.

You won’t find battle maps or miniature requirements in this game. Most everything should take place in the “Theater of the Mind” with people describing actions and situations through the art of language. No one is saying you can’t use props and battle maps, just they are not required to enjoy playing.

“The theatre of the mind” comes from radio jargon, where the term indicates the collected ability, styles, tools, and techniques by which radio performers conjure vivid imagery in their audiences’ minds through sound alone.

Player Roles

There are two roles that players can fill in the game. Each role must be filled as a story cannot exist without a story teller and characters to partake in the story.

Dungeon Master (DM) – A Dungeon Master serves as the game’s referee and storyteller, while also maintaining the setting in which the adventures occur and playing the role of the inhabitants. They lead the players forward, act as the monsters and enemies, fudge the dice, and keep the peace. As a DM you are placing the bread crumbs that the players are following to fame and glory. See Dungeon Mastery to get started as the Dungeon Master.

Player Character (PC) -They are the brave antagonists of the story. They are the ones exploring lost ruins, hunting down outlaws and battling the monster hordes! The characters form a party that interacts with the setting’s inhabitants (and each other). Together they solve dilemmas, engage in battles and gather treasure and knowledge. In the process the characters earn experience points to become increasingly powerful over a series of sessions. To get started, each player should select or create a character.

infoIf you are new to Role Playing Games, here are some tips to help you in your journey: New Role Player Tips

How to Play SimpleDnD

The Dice

One of the first things a new SimpleDnD player may puzzle over is the weird dice used in the game. SimpleDnD uses six polyhedral dice, with four, six, eight, 10, 12 and 20 sides. They’re what you use to figure out if what you’re trying to do works.

From left to right: d4, d6, d8, d10, d100, d12, d20

In SimpleDnD the dice are identified by a lowercase “d” followed by the die’s total number of sides, so a 20-sided die (an icosahedron) is a d20. This shorthand also tells you the number of times the die needs to be rolled: 2d8 would mean you need to roll the eight-sided die twice (or roll two eight-sided dice) and then add the numbers.

Dice are very inexpensive and can be purchased from a Local Game Store or from Amazon for less than $10.

How To Use The Dice

When playing SimpleDnD checks are only used in a very narrow scope. Checks are only made when the players want to do something (non-combat), and only after the DM decides what the check, if any, would be. It is first and foremost about determining HOW something is being done and WHAT the result is intended before any checks can be setup.

bullseyeSpecial Rules Concerning Dice

Rolling Advantage / Disadvantage: Advantage lets you roll 2d20 and take the better result, disadvantage takes the worse. This can be used anywhere that a player rolls d20 – saving throw, attack, or difficulty check.

Teamwork: Attempting an action collectively allows for one check, using the highest player’s ability bonus AND advantage

Natural 20:  In addition a roll of a natural 20 against any check always succeeds.

Critical Hit: Any player rolling a natural 20 in combat always results in double damage (double rolled damage). Some classes can score critical hits on 18, 19 or 20

When you roll, you and your DM will be comparing your result to a Difficulty Check (DC). If you the result of your roll equals or exceeds the DC what the player is trying to do will succeed. It’s up the DM to drive the party forward and if the DM wants them to hear something, see something or open a lock, then they should – this is the fudging of the dice.

For example, your player party is exploring a dungeon. The Dungeon Master would describe the room you are in:

“You are in a dark hallway. You can see light shining faintly down the hallway. To you right there is a wooden door. It is locked. Would you like to pick the lock or continue toward the light?”

The player’s discuss what they’d like to do next. The party decides that the thief will attempt to pick the lock. The DM announces that it is a normal lock (secretly setting the difficulty to 17). The thief rolls d20 and adds his pick locks bonus:17! The DM says, “door clicks and it now unlocked.”

Carefully the party’s thief leans into the door and listens for sounds, again he rolls a d20 and the DM determines whether or not they hear anything.

How do you figure out what happens?

1) the players tell the DM what they are trying to do.

The players tell the DM what they are trying to do.  Examples could be: Climb a wall, pick a lock, deceive the guards. Specifically what they’d like to happen.

Note: Players should never ask IF they can do something. They need to say what they are trying to do and then it’s up to the DM to make it happen (or fail miserably).

2) the players narrate how this is to be accomplished

The player then goes into detail about what they character does. “I use my grappling hook and attempt to climb” or “Using my thief abilities I use my lock picks and pick the lock” or “I pull the guard aside and I tell him this big long story about …” this is the role-playing that the game is all about. Check out ideas on how to use other ability scores to accomplish the same tasks.

reminderNotice: Notice is a passive ability (always on) that the DM uses to roll against the players for things like spotting secret doors or ambushes. The character’s notice number is their Wisdom + Ability Focus (if focused in Wisdom) + 10

3) The DM decides if the action is actually possible, if a check is necessary, and what ability score to use.

Depending on the what and how of the action the players want to take, the DM uses their common sense to answer these three questions.

  1. Is this possible at all?
  2. Do we need to roll to add some random results to the outcome?
  3. What ability score bonus would apply for that scenario?

reminderHeroic Points

Each session that a player attends earns their character 1 heroic point. The points add up and remain with the character. (We track them with RPG coins or glass beads)

The players can then choose to trade their Heroics for the following:

  1. Re-roll of a dice roll and keep the new roll
  2. Add advantage to any roll
  3. An additional action point in a combat round
  4. Healing Surge (roll your hit dice and recover that many Hit Points)

Extra heroics can be awarded by the DM for the playing doing something special or innovative in the game. I’ve been know to award these for a great plan, being in character, and even for and awesome battle result.

bullseyePlayer’s characters should use these points at times of drama (or whenever they want), but we’ve found that they add a great BOOM just at the right moment. Something like that critical attack that slays the dragon or talking their way out of trouble with the city guard.

4) Roll dice and add bonuses

If the action is possible, the DM will determine the Difficulty Check for success, then players (or DM if it is a secret check) roll d20 and add their bonuses. Compare the roll to the Difficulty Check (see below) to figure out what happens to the players.

bullseyeDifficulty check: This is either a passive check with a set difficulty (DC) or and active check where the player and DM roll and compare numbers. You must meet or exceed the number to succeed.

The Party

The players work together as a team known as the “Party”. The party collectively solves challenges and create a story together. This is more than just individuals loosely working together. This is a team activity. Each party should select one player to be the “Caller”, one player to be the “Cartographer”.

The Caller – one player that speaks for the party. When the DM asks, “what will the party do next?” the player characters should talk among themselves and come to an agreement on the next move. It is the callers job to relay that message to the DM. The caller is NOT the leader of the party, but the one that relays information. It is common for the characters to all discuss their actions and plans, but the caller will be the one to convey the final actions to the DM.

The Cartographer (mapper) – one player that keeps track of the player characters in the location. This player can use graph paper or just bubble maps to track movement and important information for reference later. It’s easy to get lost if you don’t have a map.

Encumbrance, Movement, and Time

mule-chargeePlayer’s have to choose what to bring with them into the adventure. This is important for players to know what is important and what can be left behind. It also effects characters in how fast they move and what they can take with them. Do you have any idea how much a gold chest can weigh?!? 

Player’s movement, like time (and effected by encumbrance),  is used to see where you are in the adventure or even what happens when you go into a new area. Who goes first? Who goes last? Who get’s hit by that trap first? All up to movement!

Time is tracked by the DM in the game. All effects – from spells to torches have a time limit to them. This can effect all parts of the game. Imagine being deep underground and having no way to see because your lantern ran out of oil.

Leveling Up

As the character’s explore the dungeon, all of their actions result in a combined score, known as experience points (XP). The DM is keeping track of your experience points and at the end of the game session each player will receive a number that will advance their character forward with better bonus, health and strength.

Sounds exciting, right? Everything you need to play this game is on this web site.

Next Steps


Dungeon Masters.

Questions? Comments? Post a Comment below!

4 thoughts on “Playing the Game

  1. Hi

    I expect this must be somewhere in your rules, but I can’t see where your hit bonus and DC scale with level, all I see is how your ability focus scales.

    For example a 10th level fighter with ability focus in strength of 5, will roll d20 + STR + 5 to hit with their sword. But with their bow they don’t get any better, it is still d20 + DEX. However the thief, with with +5 in DEX ability focus, uses d20 + DEX + 5 to hit with their bow, much better than the fighter. Mean while the poor 10th level cleric still attacks as a 1st level one!

    Also, how do the DC scale? For instance a CON DC is used for save vs poison, but if CON isn’t your ability focus, your CON DC will never get better? So a 10th level fighter will save vs poison as well as a first level one?

    Thanks, I must be missing something!


    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt – you’re not missing anything. The ability focus is the only bonus that improves over time outside of skills. A fighter will be better with a sword at 10th, a thief better with a bow and the sad cleric would have a large amount of mana to cast with (making them spiritually powerful).

      That being said, a poison check (vs CON) would be the same for a first level fighter as with a 10th, so you should be careful with poison 😉


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