A Beginners Guide to Dungeons & Dragons
Dungeons & Dragons, or DnD, has become mainstream. Popular culture has been spreading the love for this classic tabletop role-playing game like wildfire. DnD has finally reached a fever pitch to the point where local high school football teams have Dungeons & Dragons parties.
With the popularity of the game at a higher level than ever, more and more players are looking to get into it for the first time. Given that there is a lot involved in starting out, it might seem a little intimidating at first. But, if you are a beginner looking to get into it, rest assured that you are just the most recent in a long line of players who were able to learn and understand how to play the game.
It is entirely doable, and now is a better time than ever to become versed in what is likely the most popular tabletop role-playing game of all time. Here's a quick beginner's guide so that you can immerse yourself and your friends into this beautiful fantasy world from creator Gary Gygax.
Get your supplies!
First off, you're going to need the supplies. This may be the most intimidating part for most, fearing that just the basics will set them back a pretty penny due to all the parts and pieces they'll have to acquire. It's not going to be totally free, but it's not actually that expensive to get the basics you'll need to start playing and get into the game. Here's what you'll need:
- The Players and Dungeon Masters Handbooks (most people prefer the 5th edition because it's the most intuitive and most accessible to learn)
- One standard set of seven dice:
- One four-sided die (called a D4),
- one six-sided die (called a D6),
- one eight-sided die (called a D8),
- two ten-sided dice (called a D10 and a D%),
- one twelve-sided die (called a D12), and
- one twenty-sided die (called a D20)
- Character sheets (available to download and print off of the internet)
- Writing utensils (pencils are a good idea)
- A whiteboard to draw your map and dry-erase markers
- One of many D&D adventure books (preferably a one-shot)
Once you've acquired all of these items, you have pretty much everything you need to go on your first Dungeons & Dragons adventure. A pro-tip is to go to a used bookstore or game store and look around for used adventure books and Players Handbooks. You will likely find plenty of second-hand books that will cost a fraction of the price of a new book.
For dice, be sure to take a look at our collection of both metal and acrylic dice. Metal dice are going to be more expensive than acrylic dice, but they will last longer and feel amazing in your hand. Just be sure to role your metal dice in something like a dice tray to protect your table and other players. Use your judgment and take your budget into account.
In addition, for your first adventure book, most beginners are advised to make sure they pick a one-shot adventure that can be completed in one sitting. There are one-shots, and there are full campaigns that may take multiple plays to get through. For your first time, go with the one-shot just for the experience, so you don't get overwhelmed.
You can also pick up the Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Kit (D&D Boxed Set), that comes with all the materials you'll need to get started for as little as two players. The box set includes an adventure, a collection of dice, character sheets, and a simplified Player and Dungeon Master Handbook.
Other things you might want to pick up are some snacks and pizzas. Maybe even some sodas! Some D&D players (21+ obviously) like to enjoy alcohol while immersing themselves in a game, but we recommend first-timers stay sober. There's going to be a lot to keep track of on your first playthrough!
Familiarize yourself with the rules
It’s best to sit down with the Players Handbook well before you ever get into your first playthrough. If you're new to tabletop role-playing games, there are going to be a fair amount of concepts that you are going to want to familiarize yourself with. There are many classes and races of characters that you can create. They all have their specific advantages and disadvantages that will be catered towards specific players and playstyles.
You are also going to want to familiarize yourself with the basics of gameplay and combat. Have a firm understanding of the different skills and abilities available to different players. How different weapons work (melee and ranged weapons have different uses and rules), and how movement and navigation of the map are handled. It's not that complicated, trust me, but the game is going to be a lot more fun if you aren't pausing every couple of minutes to read several pages worth of information.
Take it upon yourself to be the educated party amongst your friends that knows how everything is going to go beforehand and can help out with learning and communicating the rules.
While the Players Handbook is certainly a lot longer than the instructional booklet you'll traditionally find in a copy of Monopoly, rest assured that it looks a lot more intimidating than it actually is. You can read through the entire Players Handbook in one extended sitting, and you will pretty much know everything you need to know going forward. The more you know before you start the game, the more fun you are going to have when it comes time to actually play.
Always be sure to keep the books as reference, though, because there are going to be times when you forget. Just like with anything, practice makes perfect, and the more you play, the more that playing will become second nature. Take it easy and do what you can. Luckily, as we said in the materials list, the 5th edition of the Players Handbook is the easiest to follow, which is why it has become the most popular.
Now, the most important thing to remember is that the rules are not set in stone. They are there to get you started. If your party decides to make some adjustments to smooth gameplay, then do it. It's just important to stay consistent.
Find a group of friends to play with
You may have a group of friends that are already keen on the idea of playing DnD with you, and you may even have some that are already familiar with it. In fact, if you try hard enough, you might find a group of experienced players who would be willing to take you under their wing and show you the ropes. While the books will give you all the information you need, nothing communicates the basics like some hands-on experience under the wing of people who know what they're doing. There are a lot of subtle things that a book can't tell you.
Whoever you decide to play with, you are going to want to make sure that they are just as invested in the game as you and know what they're getting into. Dungeons & Dragons is a very social game that requires each player to be equally invested to keep up the illusion and create the perfect atmosphere for fantasy and immersion. If one player isn't into it, that can ruin the game for everyone.
Don't try too hard to convince skeptical players to get involved in your game. You will always be able to find people that are into it and are going to be right there with you on the same page. This is doubly true given the increasing popularity of Dungeons & Dragons in particular. In fact, you'll likely be hard-pressed to find someone who isn't down to play the game with you.
You are going to want to find at least 3 other players, traditionally. A small and well-invested group is perfect for learning. If you can't find anyone to play with, you can even give in and be your own Dungeon Master, playing the game alone for a session to familiarize yourself with the basic concepts and the rules. However, playing alone isn't going to be nearly as fun as playing with friends.
Set aside the right amount of time
This one is pretty important. You aren't going to be able to play a complete game on your lunch break. If one of the players has to leave the game halfway through, then, that's going to ruin the experience for everyone involved. That's not a great first experience to have with the game. You are going to want to set aside a full night in which every player is fully invested and has nothing else going on so that you all can experience the game in it's total and complete glory without any interruptions. Once you're ready, get into it! Don't be afraid. There's always a learning curve, but the more you play, the easier it will be. And it's worth the effort, trust me!