Dungeons & Dragons: How to Get Started
Unless you’ve been living under a particularly large rock since 1974, you’ve certainly heard of Dungeons & Dragons. If you have ever played a fantasy RPG video game, it’s very likely it has been influenced by D&D. If you have ever played a turn-based combat game, you’ve probably experienced systems based on the classic tabletop. One of the most influential and far-reaching games ever created, recent years have seen a huge resurgence in popularity for Dungeons and Dragons, and for tabletop RPGs in general.
Maybe you’ve been bingeing Stranger Things. Perhaps you’ve heard of a game going on near you. Maybe you’re just curious and want to give it a try. In any case – you’ve come to the right place. Today, we’re going to walk through the first steps in finding, joining, and playing your first game of Dungeons & Dragons.
Step 1: Partying Up
If you have a group of friends all eager to try adventuring with you, then you’re solid. Elect one of you – probably the one reading this article, am I right? – as your Dungeon Master, the one running the show, and skip to Step 2. If you don’t have a group, read on.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks that prospective new players cite is the difficulty in finding people to play with. It can be frustrating, but once you find a group you’re happy with, you’ll never look back.
Before you start looking, you need to decide; do you want to play in person, or online? Many players prefer playing around a physical table, for the social aspects or feeling more in the moment; some prefer online play for its ease and comfort. Decide what works best for you, and search for your group accordingly. See below for tips!
Finding an in-person Dungeons & Dragons group
So, you’ve decided to play in a traditional game, around a physical table. Great! Time to reach out to like-minded individuals, and find a table to sit at!
- Check your local game shop. You know the kind – they sell board games and accoutrements, usually comic books too, and often have space in the back to play. Ask staff about D&D events or if they have a notice board for groups.
- Look on Warhorn for gaming events in your locale. It’s a great resource for finding games!
- Check Facebook for groups in your area. Just search “Dungeons & Dragons [Your Area Here]”. If there is no such group, why not make one?
- Reddit is a great resource – check out your area’s subreddit (for example, r/Dublin), and post looking for a group. r/LFG is the Reddit for finding gaming groups, but assume most posts will be looking for online groups.
- Meetup.com is for finding people in your area with a mutual interest and, well, meeting up – check there for local RPG groups!
- If you are a student, check your school’s clubs and societies. It’s very likely they have one for gamers!
- If you are employed, there are probably people in your workplace who would be up to give a game a try. Don’t be afraid to start that conversation.
Finding an online group
Either offline play is not an option or you’ve decided you’d prefer to play from the comfort of your home – either way, you’re one of thousands of people looking to get your roll on online.
- Roll20 – probably the most popular online tabletop game site. It can match you up with people from all around the world to play with! They also have community forums for hand-picking your group from like-minded individuals.
- Fantasy Grounds is a great alternative to Roll20, and also features a forum for building your party
- As mentioned above, Reddit is an awesome resource. r/LFG and r/Roll20LFG are both chock-a-block with people eager to play online.
- Facebook has any number of Dungeons & Dragons and general tabletop groups. Most, if not all, allow for posts looking for groups.
A quick note: finding people online to play with is easy; it’s almost too easy. Finding a group to play with regularly, who you gel with, for longer-team play – that can be harder. Perseverance is key!
Step 2: Do Your Homework!
It’s all organised – you’ve got a group. You’ve got a date. What have you got to do to prepare?
“Prepare?!” I hear you cry, aghast. “It’s a game! Why do I need to prepare?”
I know. I hear you. But Dungeons and Dragons is a game with a lot of rules. They’re not difficult, but there are a number of them. Picture playing Monopoly with a group of friends, only one of the friends doesn’t know how to play – no problem, take 10 minutes to explain the rules.
The Monopoly rulebook is 6 A4 pages long, including the covers. The Player’s Handbook, D&D’s rulebook for players, is 320 pages long.
“But Darragh!”, you gasp. “I don’t need to read all of that just to play a game, do I?!”
No, you absolutely do not. There is a huge amount of content in the rules you do not need to know for your first game, or even your 10th. But there is a certain amount that you should know before going into your first game, if only out of courtesy to the rest of the group.
Skim the Basic Rules
The Basic Rules is a heavily abridged version of rules for Players and Dungeon Masters. You don’t need to read the whole thing – it’s still 180 pages – but read enough to get a sense for the flow of the game. It’s enough to know the very, very basics going in. If you don’t want to mess around with magic, only the first two sections of the Rules are relevant to you – “Creating a Character” and “Playing the Game”. Speaking of which…
Create Your Character
Unless you’ve explicitly been told otherwise, it’s best to arrive with your character already made! The Basic Rules will provide instructions on creating your very first D&D character, from what race you’re playing, to what class, to your life before adventuring. A lot of people find making their character to be one of the most fun parts of Dungeons & Dragons, so enjoy it! If possible, try to know what your characters abilities are before playing, in a broad sense.
DnDBeyond is an official, endorsed website that provides tools for many things, including creating a character! If you don’t want to get involved with all of the numbers and maths, DnDBeyond is the way to go for creating your first character.
In this guide series on GamEir, we’ll be providing more detailed articles on creating your character and on playing the game, so watch this space! For the time being, focus on getting the basics.
Step 3: Play, and Have Fun!
You’ve got your group. You’ve got your character. You (kinda) know what you’re doing. So, what do you need to bring?
- Your character sheet! The D&D website provides these for free, or print directly from DnDBeyond if applicable.
- Dice, if you have them. Dungeons & Dragons uses a set of polyhedral dice – D4s, D6s, D8s, D10s, D12s, and the crucial D20. An alternative is an app for dice rolls for your phone.
- A notepad, pencils, and an eraser. These are for notes and for annotating your character sheet.
- Your imagination. Dungeons and Dragons is all about wild and wacky scenarios in a world where you can do whatever you want. As such, a sense of fun and imagination is crucial.
For the absolute beginner, Dungeons & Dragons can be intimidating. The most important thing to remember is that it is a game, and the ultimate goal is to have fun, whatever that means to you. Don’t be disheartened if you forget the rules, or make mistakes. At the end of the day, if you had fun – it was a success.