I fell into Dungeons & Dragons Online this weekend – and am overwhelmed.

For the first time ever, I am overwhelmed in a game.

While one of my friends used to start his ramblings with “Look, I drink…” But that doesn’t really apply to me. If you ask my friends, they generally say “Look, he enjoys games that are nothing more than spreadsheets.”

And it’s true. The more complicated it is, the more I enjoy tearing it open, snuggling down in its guts and just figuring it out. This is why I’ve stayed away from Eve Online for all these years – I’ll lose my family and job.

But here’s the deal. I LOVE playing D&D. And not just D&D, but ANY tabletop RPG. It’s time well spent with friends. But there are no D&D groups in San Francisco. What you say?

It’s true. Go check Meetup, I’ll wait. Back? Good. What you probably saw were a lot of Adventurer’s League games (which generally have very little RP and are more min/max Hack and Slash). There are very few fixed-person games (and when there are those, they generally have long waiting lists). OR conversely there are 1000 games in the bay area, which take between 45 mins to 2.5 hours to get to and $25 to $50 in public transportation costs *each game*.

So, I’ve been a little disheartened. I love pen and paper RPGs. I especially love D&D because it was the first I ever played, at a ripe age of 9.

So I’ve been in the area for close to two and a half years now; I need me some D&D, but what’s a boy in the city to do?

I could go on steam and play some Divinity: Original Sin 2. It’s great! It has a GM Mode. But it’s too restrictive; and doesn’t *quite* feel right for this. Let’s buy NeverWinter 2 Deluxe King Kamehameha edition. Ooh, there are RP servers. Let’s do it! Multiplayer isn’t seeming to work? Hrm.

Dungeons & Dragons Online… wait, I remember one of my friends played this a while back. I don’t remember what he thought. Whoa, there’s 12 *years* worth of content here? Ok, let’s download it and give it a whirl, it’s free and I have a little free time.

3AM later… repeat next day 3AM later… 1AM on Sunday…
I’m level 10 now. When it comes to games like these, I don’t generally go in with a plan.

In this case, I wanted to recreate the character I’ve been playing for almost 20 years through different systems and genres – Balth, the Elven Ranger who is an entertainer/Bard and a bit of a mage and rogue. Balth has been separated from his brother, Torm (a Dwarven cleric) and is now traveling the planes searching for him. Every time he enters a new plane, it seems he has to start from scratch and build his power and knowledge up again. So this time, I found a really comprehensive build guide on the official forums for an Acid Arrow Ranger (with mage-type qualities) that literally walks me through every level’s worth of choices, what to do and where to do it. (If you’re curious, check here: https://www.ddo.com/forums/showthread.php/469213-quot-Strimtom-s-Acid-Arrow-quot-Maximum-Bow-DPS-F2P-new-player-Friendly )

I was worried about player-base issues with a game as old as this one, so I took to reddit to find what servers would be best. I settled on Ghallanda and applied to an active Guild, Tyrs Palladium. I actually had to apply. So I did that and set out to explore the world of Eberron (one of my weakest planes of knowledge).

DDO is based on the 3.5 edition of D&D, and as such offers a lot of flexibility, but a ton of chances to royally screw up your character by making silly choices along the way. Then I found out at level 20 you can reincarnate. Or you can go into epic levels and at level 30 you can Epic Reincarnate, which does different things than True Reincarnation at 20. OR you can Iconically Reincarnate —which does something else?

And you don’t have a couple inventory slots, you have slots for EVERYTHING. Head, neck, armor, hands, belt, boots, goggles, rings, trinkets, cosmetic armor… and there are stacking properties and nonstacking properties so you have to watch the naming conventions because if they are the same, they don’t stack.

And then there are close to 3000 currencies…. and different maps with extremely different layouts.. not to mention learning common dungeons, challenges and raids.. and now I just learned there is a ‘permadeath’ mode that some pen and paper folks play and wipe their characters manually if they die.

At this point, I’m four days in now. And while I am enjoying the hell out of it, I’m also super anxious. I JUST learned about challenges last night. Every time I learn something new, it’s related to two-hundred more things.

And I love it.

I’ve never been so overwhelmed. 3rd party character creation mapping tools, strategic key leveling route mappings; so much more to learn… to that end, I’m going to be starting a ‘Starting DDO’ series in which I will help new players figure out where to start. It will also serve as a bit of a journal of my time with the game. This is the first time (that I can recall) that I am playing a 12-year old MMO with no knowledge going in – usually I’ve read everything I can get my hands on in advance of picking up a robust MMO.