We’re going to start at the beginning. Dungeons & Dragons is a group activity, like many board games and card games. It’s a game that includes a fair amount of imagination and social interaction. The game shines in how it allows a group of players to improvise a story based on disparate pieces of popular culture and sharing the players’ collective understanding of reality.

Let’s assume that every player has a “turn.” The game master may have more than one turn, but every player has at least one turn. That turn has a beginning and an ending, and during that turn, the player may do any of a number of things. What the player is allowed to do during that time is what we’re going to determine here. We’re going to continue to assume for a game master because it’s a convention of the game.

Now, why turns? Turns are a way of signifying the passage of time or the occurrence of events. However you want to look at it, taking turns is useful for organizing people. We’re going to assume, until we have a mechanic for determining who goes first and in what order, that we go around the table clockwise, one player at a time.

Each time turns have gone all the way around the table, we’ll call it a “round.” Though we may limit the actions of a particular player through some means (let’s say their character is rendered temporarily unconscious or unplayable) we will never, ever skip a player’s turn. It’s a cooperative game, and skipping a player removes opportunities for cooperation. A player might opt out occasionally, but that’s their choice.

We’re going to call a collection of rounds in which play occurs an “encounter” or “scene.” They may last any number of rounds, though we may eventually want to determine a limit of some kind, to keep play moving along. Five is a good number. People have five fingers, five toes, five limbs (head, arms, legs), so let’s keep the number five in the back of our mind in case we need a number.

Much of the action of the traditional Dungeons & Dragons game takes place in a dungeon or group of dungeons and may involve one or more dragons. One of its apparent failings in recent years, is the inability for its stories to easily take place in other locations. It’s intended to be a “fantasy dungeon exploration simulator,” more than anything else, but that’s just a type of roleplaying game.

We’re going to assume that to be interesting in this storytelling game, each action the game master takes builds tension, until it reaches a point of ensuing conflict. The players work together to stymie the rising tension and resolve conflicts as they come up. An encounter may include the building tension, or it might be composed solely resolving conflicts, but I don’t know yet.