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OK, I'm making this topic to try and answer many first time (or returning) Descent players' questions in one place. I'm going to try to get this topic stickied if I can...

1) I just bought Descent from GOG. What do I need to know first?

The first thing is to download "The Definitive Collection". (This is how D1 and D2 were originally sold) here.
It includes the Descent Mission Builder 2 for D1 and D2 and the "Levels of the World" collection for D1. It also includes the Vertigo expansion pack for D2.

The next thing I would suggest any Descent player do is download a source port. There are two source ports in existence now: DXX-Rebirth and D2X-XL
To see some information on both of them (and to see the ridiculous flame war that happens every time they're brought up in the same topic) look here.

For the Rebirth Windows installer see 4. For info on Rebirth on Mac see 5.

2) OK, I understand that everybody uses a source port these days, but I just really want the original experience [with bugs and all that jazz]...

In that case by all means use DOSBox. Be forewarned, however, that there may be issues with getting it to run optimally on modern systems.

3) I'd like to build levels for Descent. How do I do that?

You'll need a level editor. The two original editors used were the Descent Mission Builder 2, and DEVIL. You can download the DMB2 from the link in question 1 and you can download DEVIL (and many other useful development tools) here.

Both of those editors have been ported and improved for modern systems.
The DMB2 port is called DLE-XP and can be downloaded here.
The DEVIL port is called SDLDevil and can be downloaded here.

There is one other level editor that is in the works, but probably won't be ready to be used for a while: a built in editor for DXX-Rebirth. It's in pre-alpha stage right now though, and not at all usable.

4) I tried installing Rebirth, but I'm not sure where to unzip the files or where to copy what files. What should I do?

You can download a .exe installer for the latest official release here.
It will fully automate the install process for you.

5) I have a Mac and I'm not sure how to get Rebirth working

The location of the data files are in "Descent (1 or 2).app/Contents/Resources/game/Descent (2).app/Contents/Resources/Descent (2).boxer/C Descent (2).harddisk/"

For a bit more detailed tutorial see here

I have an issue with Rebirth, or the installer, or a level editor, or something else related to Descent. Where can I get help?

Well for general Descent help, you can post here and I'd be more than happy to help if I can.

Rebirth and SDLDevil share a forum for help or bug reports here.

The D2X-XL and DLE-XP forum is here.

If you have an issue with the installer, you can post in its thread here on GOG.

7) How do I fly this thing??

Well here a couple links that may be helpful:

Various Control Configurations

General Descent Flying Tips

8) I have another question that you didn't answer!

Feel free to post below and I'll help if I can! :)
Post edited September 23, 2015 by A_Future_Pilot
Like Lord_Kane said, Anarchy levels are Multiplayer-specific. Basically anarchy is a mode where there are no robots and all the players are just fighting each other. I believe some older versions of Descent (and/or level editors) wouldn't allow a level to be made without a reactor, so many anarchy levels have reactors even though they're never used (and they may not have exits).
So Descent Series is coming to soon again? Thanks.