The reason I love Dungeons and Dragons so much is because, although there are rules, the main goal of the game is to imagine an adventure with friends. There is no prize, no real end goal. The way the party “wins” the game is by playing the game. I love it because it is the most versatile tabletop game, in my opinion. Where other games like Warhammer and shorter games like Arkham Horror have specific characters, sides, and goals, the vague nature of D&D helps people focus on just having a good time with a good story.
You can play with just your imagination. Sort of like chatting around a campfire telling ghost stories you can just have a conversation with friends that evolves into an adventure. My brother in law and his friends play that way. There are no planned encounters, dungeons, or even quests. They just go around creating the story as they go. They have battled zombies and raided camps just letting the game evolve organically.
There is the original pen and paper way, with extensive notes, math and well planned story. There are usually planned encounters and a specific story to follow but there is still the theater of the mind at play with only written notes for reference. I like this play style because there is less stress on presentation and more on the adventure itself. You don’t have to have maps or handouts just your words and their pens or pencils.
Then there are the maps. You can use paper maps, they sell 1in. gridded paper in most office supply stores or laminated maps that are already gridded for gameplay and all you have to do is write on them with erasable marker to tell where everything is. This is a great way because it provides visual focal points on the map for the players to follow. You can see what is going on clearly and can use colors to delineate characters, npc’s, and enemies.
You can go all out with 3-D terrain. You can actually have physical mountains, dungeons, and temples for your team to traverse. These set ups are usually using miniatures to go with the 3-D aspect of the game. So you can see every detail on your adventure and add a sense of realism to your game. Some players can be more visually inclined and tend to prefer seeing their game play out. This type of game play can be done with self made terrain which is fun to make but time consuming. The other option is to buy terrain and that can get pretty expensive.
Regardless of the choice, all roads lead to Dungeons and Dragons. None is more legitimate than the other. I have tried them all and they are all great! This is why I think D&D is the best game to play. The limits of your imagination are the only walls on your adventure. As long as you are with friends and your goal is to have fun, your possibilities are endless.