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In Gravity Falls, a Disney cartoon, there's an episode “Dungeons, Dungeons, & More Dungeons” where characters Dipper and Ford play a fictional RPG called Dungeons, Dungeons, & More Dungeons (a Dungeons & Dragons parody, if I'm not mistaken). We see them planning the dungeons and strategies with pencil and paper, throwing dice while playing and so on.

However, since I've never played D&D (nor any RPG, for that matter), I don't know how accurate this representation is. In the actual gameplay, we see them throw the dice, but then summon any powerup they can imagine (with the craziest ones coming from Mabel). But I always assumed that the result of the dice actually tell you what can you summon from a predefined set of rules.

So, is the gameplay of DD&D representative of real RPGs? Or is it just played for laughs?

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Reminder: comments are for clarifying content, not posting small or incomplete answers. Please use answer posts to submit answers instead. Prior comments containing answers have been purged. – SevenSidedDie Jan 19 at 23:37
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if you are interest in how a evening of RPG can look like, check out Titansgrave on youtube.com/… - they edited stuff like looking up rules out of the session, but beside that it gives a good overview about what roleplaying is :) – CAA Jan 20 at 16:17
    
@CAA, thanks, I will check it. – Arturo Torres Sánchez Jan 20 at 18:12
up vote 35 down vote accepted

So I watched Dungeons, Dungeons & More Dungeons today, and I took notes on what I saw about the game. Here's what I thought was relevant.

Use of a 38-sided die
Dungeons & Dragons uses 20-sided dice (called a d20), other Platonic Solids (d4, d6, d8, d12) and d10. There are other, more unusual numbers of sides you can have on a die, but they are generally novelty items and are not used in D&D. A 38-sided die is largely unheard of for any roleplaying game.

Math
There is math involved, but the rules try to keep numbers low, and the math you do need to do is addition, multiplication and subtraction. Maybe dividing by 2.

Uses a Narrator
Yep! Dungeons & Dragons has one player act as a narrator, called a "Dungeon Master", who runs the world while the Players do things in it. Outside of Dungeons & Dragons, the term "Game Master" is commonly used. Other systems may have their own terms (e.g. "Storyteller").

Overly Complex Rules
D&D attempts to provide rules for the most common things you could want to do, so that you have something to refer to. Generally they try to strike a balance between being too complex and being too broad or unrealistic.

Because the creators of the game can't possibly think of everything, the Dungeon Master is given the authority to make a ruling to cover something not defined in the rules (usually, they will ask for a die roll and tell the player that the action will succeed if their roll equals or exceeds a certain number).

Graph Paper
This is used (Depends on your group, though)! People use graph paper in D&D for mapping things out, either as the Dungeon Master, to keep track of where things are, or as the players, to keep from getting lost.

Game Board
During one scene, it appears that they had some sort of dedicated game board in front of them. While graph paper might be used, game boards are unusual. There are dry erase mats that are sold, though.

Preparation Outside the Game
This is a thing. Game Masters usually want to be prepared so that they aren't making everything up on the fly.

Not-Vancian Magic
D&D has a style of magic called "Vancian Magic", named after Jack Vance's Dying Earth fantasy novels. Generally speaking, wizards must prepare spells at the beginning of the day so that they can be cast later at a moment's notice. After a wizard casts each of these spells, they cannot cast them again until they are once again prepared.

That said, there are games where you can cast magic all day long. Still, it's much more common for magic in RPGs to have built-in limitations of some kind for the sake of game balance.

Eating Brains to Gain Intelligence
Thankfully, D&D doesn't do this. There are Mindflayers, which are monsters that eat brains and have mindcontrol themed powers, but they don't gain Intelligence when they do.

Die Roll Determines What Occurs
Not usually. A player first says what they want their character to do, then they roll to see how effective their planned action was. The dice do not indicate which of several actions might occur, just whether the planned action succeeded.

Related to that, it's considered bad form to roll first and then announce what the planned action was (some less honest players have a bad habit of rolling, seeing a poor roll, and then saying they were "just playing with their dice"). Many Dungeon Masters would tell you to roll it again if you do that.

F(something) Cardboard Legitimate Outdoor Role Playing
This wasn't part of the game they were playing, but Live-Action Role-Playing is a real thing that people do. Usually not with cardboard, though.

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While it's unusual, there are official D&D game boards. I haven't seen the episode in question, but my very first experience with tabletop RPGs was with something like this, although it was for AD&D 2e, not 4e. – MichaelS Jan 21 at 6:19

Accurate parts:

  1. Some people don't want to play because it's too much homework for the fun
  2. Some people want to LARP instead
  3. It has weird dice (though not 38-sided) and maps on graph paper and dungeon creation
  4. The period in the 1990s where the game creators tried to make the game "cooler" to poor effect

Not accurate parts:

  1. Wizards and monsters coming to life (usually)
  2. The emphasis on higher math

Undetermined:

  1. Everything else about playing the game that isn't actually shown in the episode

But seriously, they show like 5 seconds of what could be considered actual gameplay (when Dipper bests Probabilitor the Wizard while Stan is Dungeon Mastering in the basement lab). That 5 seconds is reasonably accurate D&D gameplay. All the part once it's in the "real world," of course not. Rather than go into the minutiae of that, I'd recommend you watch 5 minutes of a video of someone playing D&D from the helpful related links provided by GMJoe above.

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