Learn How To Play Dungeons and Dragons In 5 Easy Steps - For Beginners

learn how to play d&d

This is a guest post by Ryan Friant from Nerdarchy and this is a guide to Dungeons and Dragons for beginners.

When Easy Roller Dice, one of the premier dice manufacturers, asks you to explain how to start playing Dungeons & Dragons, you say yes! A few of you may know me from the Nerdarchy YouTube channel and website, but to the other 99% of you, here's a brief outline of my roleplaying game experience:

I was introduced to 2nd edition Dungeons & Dragons, that legendary grandfather of all roleplaying games, at the age of 11 by my eldest brother and since then I've played in various types of RPGs, editions, and campaigns for the majority of my life as both a Dungeon Master or player, I've been a part of hours worth of discussions on RPGs on the Nerdarchy YouTube channel, self-published a few adventures for the latest edition of Dungeons & Dragons as well as written some supplementary gaming materials.  

Dungeons & Definitions:

A basic definition of a roleplaying game like Dungeons & Dragons is that it's improvisational acting that also has rules and game mechanics that help determine outcomes by rolling polyhedral dice.

You can read an expanded explanation of Dungeons & Dragons here. Do you have an active imagination? Do you have access to pencils and paper? Can you perform basic arithmetic? Can you afford to spend less than $30 on dice, once? Well, you have everything you need to start playing D&D! Like learning anything with a level of depth, it takes time to learn how to play D&D, but once you learn the rules set, you can have a life-time of adventure.  

How to Start Playing Dungeons & Dragons in 5 Steps

Step 1: Finding a Gaming Group

While the easiest way to learn how to play Dungeons & Dragons is to learn from more experienced players, which you can do at a friendly local gaming store (FLGS) that usually have weekly organized play games such as Adventurer League, but if that's not be an option or you may want to begin by sharing the game with a group of your friends.

If your friends already enjoy RPG shows such as Critical Role, Force Grey, or Acquisitions Inc.- if they're familiar with any these, chances are that the roleplaying bug has already bitten them! And if not, show them episodes of any of these entertaining D&D shows; I recommend to starting with the shorter Force Grey or Acquisitions Inc.- a 3-4 hour episode of Critical Role could be intimidating to those that are RPG curious!

Any fantasy related media that your friends are a fan of is an invitation to see if they are up to trying roleplaying games- do they read fantasy themed novels, enjoy fantasy trope-ful action/adventure movies, play video games or MMOs, or like anime that has wizards, elves, or other fantastical races?

In all of these instances, you can invite your friends to be an active participant in creating stories yourselves that you'll remember for years to come.

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Step 2: Learning the Roleplaying in RPG

We've all play acted as children, but somewhere along the way society told us it was wrong to daydream and fantasize, but RPGs give your mission to bring back this vital play element in life as frequently as your gaming group chooses to get together. One of the players in a gaming group has a larger responsibility than the other players and that's the Dungeon Master. The Dungeon Master's typically the player with the firmest grasp of the rules combined with a degree of

The Dungeon Master's typically the player with the firmest grasp of the rules combined with a degree of story-telling panache who serves as an impartial judge for the rules of the game and is most often the catalyst to the adventure and stories that all players will end-up collaboratively telling.

It's generally a good idea for a group of players to have a get together, referred to as a "Session Zero", where they can generate characters together and create a band of adventures that will have good group cohesion (i.e. a group of individuals that will readily ally with one another), discuss what level of maturity of game they would be most comfortable playing and any other sore spots to avoid, while some might be ok with graphic depictions of violence and other scenarios, it might be upsetting to others, and lastly, hammer-out logistical details.

It's generally a good idea for a group of players to have a get together, referred to as a "Session Zero", where they can generate characters together and create a band of adventures that will have good group cohesion (i.e. a group of individuals that will readily ally with one another), discuss what level of maturity of game they would be most comfortable playing and any other sore spots to avoid, while some might be ok with graphic depictions of violence and other scenarios, it might be upsetting to others, and lastly, hammer-out logistical details.

Some of the questions you'll have to agree on as a group are:

    • Where is the game's location?
    • How often do you game and what days?
    • Does the adventure you're playing have to end by a certain duration?
    • How many hours do you devote to gaming sessions?
    • How do you handle player absences?
    • Are electronics, that could possibly detract from the game, permitted?

Your Dungeon Master can either run pre-published adventures (the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set is perfect for those that are new to the hobby: it's inexpensive at under $13 and it takes a lot of the intimidating decision-making out of the hands of new players) or they can write their own adventures for the group.

If you're creating your own character, first just imagine who they might be. One great way to be inspired for character creation is to think of characters from mythology and pop-culture. Are they like Gimli from Lord of the Rings, Arya from Game of Thrones, or Geralt from The Witcher?

Next you would choose a character race, class, arrange your ability scores (the class section of the Player's Handbook suggests how to arrange your ability scores), and choose a background for the character you've imagined. If you were to make a character like Gimli, he'd likely be a dwarven fighter with the soldier background, Arya could be represented as a human rogue with the urchin background, and The Witcher, Geralt, would translate well as a human warlock possibly with the outlander background.  

Get Your Basic Dungeons & Dragons Supplies Here

With the exception of dice (Easy Roller Dice has a great beginner bag of 105 dice that should supply your whole table!), paper, and pencils, you can get access to an official free download of most of the core game for Dungeons & Dragons here.  But once you've decided this hobby is for you, you'll probably want to at least pick-up a Player's Handbook and at this point, your dice addiction may have kicked-in!

If you're a Dungeon Master, you'll likely want to purchase the Dungeon Master's Guide, Monster Manuel, Player's Handbook, maybe a Dungeon Master's screen that has a lot of useful charts and cool art that faces your players, and you may also have a firmly established dice habit... sorry, it comes with the hobby.

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Step 3: Learning the Game in RPG

To new Dungeons & Dragons players, there's no getting around it, the rules are somewhat daunting. It's ok, you'll make mistakes, misunderstand rules and abilities, you'll learn and get better and become a master of the rules set. Just try to grasp the basic concepts of the game and the capabilities of your character class.

At it's core, D&D's as complex as: there's a 20 sided die, you want it to roll equal to or above a target number when you try to accomplish an attack, keep your balance on a lurching ship, or kick-down a wooden door or want it to roll less than a target number when the Dungeon Master rolls the attack of some horrible beast or you engulf your foe in an epic fireball.

The Dungeon Master should have a pretty good understanding of the rules and will tell the players what kind of roll is required to do a task, but even so, unless a rules call is a life or death situation for a character, they should make a judgment call in the moment, note what the rules question was to look up later and move on with the game. Is everyone having fun at the table?

Guess what: you're playing Dungeons & Dragons right.  

Step 4: Dungeon Master Prep

Unlike other players of the game, the Dungeon Master has work to do in-between gaming sessions. If you are using a pre-published adventure, you should have a fairly thorough understanding of the adventure or at least what parts of the adventure your players are most likely to interact with during an upcoming game session.

Here's a great tip: simply ask your group what they want to get up to for next gaming session and you can read-up on that part of the adventure. Writing your own adventures or building your own worlds can also be a rewarding creative exercise, but it's highly advisable to focus on what you absolutely need for the next one or two gaming sessions instead of making copious notes about the trading treaties and histories of your world, while having no idea what your players' adventure will be next session!

Once you have a firm grasp on the rules, you have a wealth of resources past Dungeon Masters didn't in the early days of roleplaying games; between forums like Reddit, tons of blogs, and YouTube channels making RPG content to help you make your game as enjoyable as possible and answers are usually just a Google search or question in a forum away.  

An Example of Dungeons & Dragons Play Via Google Hangouts

 

Step 5: Leveling-Up Your Game

While a lot of people start gaming in what's called a "theatre of the mind style" of gaming where you use nothing but your imagination or using simple tokens like dice or coins to represent characters or terrain, if you feel that this hobby has firmly taken hold, you may want to add elements that enhance you and your friend's gaming experience.

Gridded, dry or wet erase mats (like these) make it quick and easy to sketch-out a room the players will battle a goblin horde, you can buy terrain set pieces and miniatures that add a new dimension to the table, you may want purchase fancy dice sets or a dice rolling tray (like this), and there number of Dungeons & Dragons books and products that can expand your gaming options.

Welcome to the roleplaying game hobby that has entertained so many for countless hours- now go forth and start playing Dungeons & Dragons!  Hopefully you've enjoyed our guide on How To Dungeons and Dragons For Beginners!

Stay Nerdy!

Ryan from Nerdarchy

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