"all i get is a :d"
That's exactly what you should see.
The forum software then translates those keyboard characters into the graphical representations you see in the pane to the right of the "reply to thread" window.
Once you get familiar with the keyboard strings needed to create each smilie, you can simply type in the characters rather than click the smilie face that you want.
One way to make sure that you're actually getting the smilie you want is to click the "preview post" button to the right of submit reply.
That will apply all the formatting and translate the keyboard characters to graphics.
Just remember to hit "submit reply" when you are ready to post your message.