Many different articles just give a ‘this is D&D and getting started in D&D is easy. Play!’ That is extremely unhelpful and I am here to give you a a decent idea of where to start, what to do, and how to actually get started in D&D.
Getting started in D&D requires that you get the basics equipment (books dice etc), a Dm, players, and an adventure.
This is all you will need to get started in D&D, but there are endless topics. That is why if you have a particular concern just look it up on our search bar at the bottom of the page. We should have you covered for 90% of your questions. This article will cover the basics, but it will also try to be comprehensive and realistic on all the expectations and information that you will need to get started.
Let’s get the basic equipment out of the way so that you can go about getting started in D&D. The basic essentials are as follows:
- Players Handbook
- Dungeon Master Guide
- Monster Manuel
If you look up any of these items online in the second list, you will find sources. For example, anyflip has the PHB (Players Handbook) right here.
For Dice, you can look up an online dice roller like this one.
You can also find online character sheets and other sources for free or generally cheaper than what you can buy in physical form.
Alternatively, you can buy these items from different places to have a physical copy. You might think that having all these tools for free is enough, but it generally isn’t. Most players tend to get physical copies for easy references. Especially DMs. For players, you might be able to get away with using D&D beyond, but it will only get you so far.
The free resources generally have a cap on what you can get, so if you want to get more intricate you will have to buy the books either digitally or physically.
For pen and paper, that is interchangeable. D&D beyond is able to replace every part of pen and paper, but some people like me really love to use pen and paper. It just depends on the person and isn’t a great barrier since pen and paper are usually cheap, or you have them already.
For dice, this can be a bit more complex.
Yes, a whole entry is required for dice because it can affect your game almost more than anything else. You can leech off of others and use their materials to a point, but you will have to get your own dice eventually for most situations.
If you are playing online with a system like ‘Roll20’ you will not need dice. Aside from playing online, you will end up getting your own dice for 2 reasons.
- Players hate not being able to see other’s rolls and the DM generally wants to make sure you are not cheating when you start to get extremely lucky. Cheating can ruin a game, so this is a valid concern.
- The feel!
That feel of rolling dice is just…. you will want your own dice. Tell me now, which sounds better? You roll a d20 online and get a 20, or you roll a d20, feel it leave your hand, and see the result with everyone else after waiting 1 second to build suspense.
Getting started in D&D can be done with cheap dice or even using an online tool, but eventually you will want your own dice.
About 90%+ of players prefer rolling dice in person, but there are some problems that arise. Favorite dice or cursed dice become a regular issue for players. To learn more about these cursed dice, check out our article on why people have ‘lucky dice’ and ‘bad dice’ here.
Luckily, there is a solution if you don’t want to read another article. In short, your dice are bad due to how they are made. That is why you can fix this right away (or later if you don’t have enough right now) by getting high quality dice that look cool and actually roll normally from professional dice vendors like our affiliate Dice Envy. They are currently my favorite dice, and really do look nice in comparison to cheap dice while rolling fairly.
Now that you have your basic equipment, you need people in order to play D&D. Technically you can play D&D solo, but that is like saying you can play poker solo. Is it possible? Yes, but only technically and it won’t be any fun so you will need players for getting started in D&D.
Getting people interested in D&D may be a bit off putting at first, but there is an easy way to do this.
First, have a DM who is interested. These are the people who create the story of the world and narrate it. They do the most work outside of the game in order to create a wonderful narrative for the players to explore and have fun in. If you need any DM help, we have a whole section dedicated to it and will probably address whatever odd question you have if you search for it at the bottom of the page.
Once you have a DM, you need players. D&D changes a lot based on the amount of players. If you only have a DM and a single player, the duet style of D&D is very different from the normal style.
For 2 players, it turns more into a game where you are learning the rules and will most likely be very technical. A great way to learn, but if a player drops out or either one wants to do things differently it can cause issues quickly.
For 3-4 players this is the ideal size for many DMs since there are not too many players and these players can interact with one another. They throw around ideas, and D&D really becomes D&D at this point. Crazy antics start to become more normal, and it isn’t just a struggle to deal with they system by only having a tank and a healer or some other odd combination. Party roles are easily filled, and player can play how they wish.
Lastly, for 5+ players it just starts to get out of control for most DMs. You might be a DM that thrives of 5+ players and are even comfortable with a bigger group size. These DMs are rare since the increase in players means giving the proper screen time to each person and adding time to the campaign to get anything done. These are generally best done with experienced players who are very good at managing themselves.
Getting a group
We have established what people are needed and that a DM is essential to have when you are planning your game. You can be the DM, or a friend can but you NEED a DM first. I cannot stress this enough.
After getting a DM, you can recruit players to join fairly easily. There are different groups where you can find people to join you locally. I guarantee that your local game shop that dabbles in D&D will have a group you can join if you ask them. This is the best way of getting started in D&D without going through the hassle of having a DM, and probably the best way to try D&D out for yourself. But you might want to play with your friends.
When trying to convince other friends to play D&D, this is where you need a DM first. We talked about needing a DM and then pointed out the only time where you don’t need one. By asking around and trying to find a game at your local store or surfing the web on sites like roll 20. For convincing friends, it usually isn’t very hard.
Your approach is what matters, and you have to be ready to accept them not wanting to play. This is okay since some people are initially put off by rolling and learning a system, but once your other friends are enjoying it they might want to join. So save these friends for later.
The friends that you would want to recruit are those who enjoy fantasy games, or RPGs. Very broad, but that is your target friend group. Sell them on the idea that they get to play their favorite character and customize it. That is what probably sold you on D&D, but you can incorporate why you want to play into your pitch. Just make sure they are enticed by making them think of something they want in the game and then offering it.
If you do not have enough friends or just don’t want to play with lower numbers, once again there is generally a local game store or the ability to find a group online. Playing with a friend is usually best, so try to bring a friend if possible.
Picking an adventure
This section is mostly for DMs since they will be picking the adventure for the group.
There are many ways to pick an adventure. You can choose to find an adventure for your group from the already pre-established adventures. If you want to check those out, you can look up an adventure/module and find the most current ones here. This is the easiest and most structured way of getting started in D&D.
These are pre-made adventurers, but you might want to make your own adventure. This could be because you have an idea in mind, or you just don’t want to pay for a module. This is understandable, but you should first try a module or see someone else DM and ask how they made their adventure before you make your own if possible.
You don’t want to figure out everything on your own and make the same mistakes as others. That is why these modules are a great start to teach you how to create your own adventure. Why reinvent the wheel when you can just steal the basic designs from someone else?
Creating your own adventure
For whatever reason, you have decided to create your own adventure. It could be due to modules costing money or the fact that want to create your own world. Whatever the reason, congratulations on this decision, but know that you are in for a lot of work.
Why are you in for a lot of work? Well, modules provide an easy avenue on getting started in D&D worldbuilding. They tell you what you need to know in order to make the world function, and have established factions, groups, etc.
For making up these factions and groups, you might run into some issues. Players will ask about things you didn’t consider, and you will have to create puzzles that are probably going to be terrible at first or riddles which can stall a campaign since you don’t know how to handle them.
For these issues, we do have some articles on each section, but you can get tools to help make your life easier. Personally, I use Dungeon Vault’s materials on creating traps when I need to physically make interesting traps. They can also help you make your own political system that helps make world building easier, and have a bunch of other tools that you might find useful.
Why am I recomending all these things?
World building and making your own adventure is hard!
You will most likely spend hours outside of game creating an adventure for your players. In addition to this, you are creating a world that will naturally have holes in it. Players will ask odd questions, and make you unsure of reality itself by their bizarre idea of what is logical.
Creating your own adventure is difficult, but what should you do to make your adventure work well?
Filling in the gaps
The most important idea keep in mind when creating an adventure is to have fun, and make sure everyone else is having fun. You want to play D&D and DM for people because this is a fun experience for all. Never forget that and you should do well.
That might mean stopping and asking for a small break to make up something new because the players surprised you. Asking for a small break is fine, but ending the session should only be done if it has already gone a decent length of time. You can’t cancel the game after only 40 minutes after all. That would be a waste of everyone’s time.
That is why there are so many sidequests or adaptations. When making the plot, you will have to be ready to adapt to your players. We talk about this more in the article on creating a plot if you are interested, but there are other ways to fill gaps.
If you are ready to play, but are unsure that you will have enough content for your group you can add in sidequests. These are great additions to your game if done well, and can help you take more time on your plot.
If you are unsure about sidequests since they still require some work, we do have a document called The Cube that gives you a whole campaign of sidequests. It is a mini campaign that can be incorporated into your game, and gives you an template of how to make your own game. You can even use it as inspiration to make a whole campaign, but it will give you extra material if you have trouble getting started in D&D.
Final words for new players and DMs
You are about to step into a fun hobby that can create great memories and deepen bonds with others. It will teach you many things, and challenge you in many ways, but you will have fun doing so.
Getting started in D&D isn’t too hard, but getting started AND doing it well is an entirely different matter. That is why this article was so comprehensive. There are other articles dedicated to new players and new DMs, but if you have any specific questions just search and we should have you covered.
Now all you need to do is get your stuff, find people, and play this awesome game!
This has been Wizo and keep rolling!