So this is it, you’ve finally decided to take the plunge and try your hand at D&D. We can’t blame you, the call to the dark side is strong. With so much information, podcasts, videos, and livestreams out there it can be hard to know where to start, but fear not brave adventurer. We’ve got you covered.
Watch and Learn
There are a whole host of games being streamed online right now, and before you do anything why not watch a few of them? Watching seasoned players in ongoing games is great for getting a feel for the general mechanics, and while your first time playing may not be a smooth or exciting as ones you’ve watched, you’ll give yourself a good head start if you already have a basic understanding of checks, rolls, and interactions between the players and the DM. These things are all covered in many guides, and handbooks but watching the game in action is more fun and you get to experience them in practice rather than just in theory.
As well as familiarising yourself with the game, it will build your excitement for the game itself!
What do I need to play?
Despite how complicated Dungeons and Dragons can seem, you don’t actually need much at all. As long as you have a basic understanding of play, a character, and your imagination the only other thing required is a group of people to play with (more on this later).
Let’s start with your character. We strongly recommend that for your very first time playing, you play a pre-made character. But that’s soooo boring! No, it isn’t. Trust us, while making a character can be a fun task it can be complicated, very complicated. Deciding on a race, class, rolling stats and deciding where to put them, backstories, traits, what you happen to have in your pockets at this very moment, can get very overwhelming if you haven’t even experienced a world.
A pre-made character has all this done for you, so you can just jump in and play. There are many to choose from and they give a great idea of the kind of characters that are possible to play. Don’t like the one you picked? Choose another, at least you haven’t wasted several hours in creation and invested time into something that you don’t want to be any more. Even if you only play the character for one session, use it as your introduction and create a newer, better, more you character when you’ve got to grips with things.
You can download pre-made character sheets from Wizards of the Coast.
When you’re ready to create your own character, go wild!
If you’ve watched D&D being played you’ve probably picked up some of the rules already. As a player you don’t have to worry about this as much, if there’s something you’re unsure of, you can ask your DM or someone else in your group. It’s best to have a skim through at least some of the rules beforehand, particularly the ones that might relate to your character specifically. Wizards of the Coast have a handy downloadable PDF that goes through the basics of creating a character, game mechanics, how magic works, and even some tools for those brave enough to take on the role of the Dungeon Master.
Your character and all their details will be on your character sheet. You can download and print it so you have a physical copy, or use an online version through an app. The online versions can be handy to calculate things, but if you’re old fashioned then nothing beats a physical copy with all the endless scribblings that inevitably come through gameplay!
Dice. Oh the many dice. You only actually need one set of polyhedral dice, though the dice goblins out there will disagree. Having more dice sets can help if you need more that one of the same for a particular roll, but it isn’t actually necessary. And again, as with all things these days you can find apps and online versions of dice rollers (or ask Siri or Alexa to roll them for you if you’re really stuck), but there’s nothing quite like throwing a physical die and hoping you get a good roll.
A notepad and something to write with. While this isn’t strictly necessary we recommend taking notes as you play. Depending on the length of the campaign and how many things your DM expects you to track, this could come in handy. You can also jot down inspiration for future campaigns or characters as you play or memorable moments to reflect back on.
How to find a group
This may well be the hardest part. As many DMs know, organising people is about as easy as wrangling cats. Maybe you’re lucky and already have a group of friends that are eager to play, or already know a local group that would be happy to have you. If so, excellent! Skip this section.
For those of you that are on your own, fear not, where there’s a will, there’s a way. The Dungeons and Dragons community is vast, expanding, and global. Who you play with can also depend on your own preferences, we’ll discuss what kind of game you may want to play in a different article, for now we’ll just focus on the physical. Would you prefer to play in person, or online?
The traditional way, because the internet wasn’t around back then. When most people think of D&D they imagine a group sat around a table, with maps and mini’s and Doritos etc. A physical group is great if you can find one. Nothing quite beats the atmosphere of being there in the moment.
Ask your friends if they want to play, look for local gaming shops or gaming groups in your area, chances are they’re already hosting a game, or at very least know someone who is and can put you in touch.
Yes, what started as a tabletop game has evolved into its own beast and is able to played online. Roll 20 and D&D Beyond are perhaps the most well known platforms for this and have many tools both for players and DMs. We’ve even played over Google Hangouts, it is possible. Being able to play this way means that if you can’t find a group locally you can play with others anywhere in the world. Roll 20 even has it’s own game finder.
Other suggestions for finding groups are checking Facebook groups, the many D&D subreddits, or discords. Somewhere out there is a group for you and you will find it.
Starting Your Own Group
Perhaps you have friends that want to play, but you’re all new to the game. So you’ve decided to take on the responsibility of being the DM. This is totally fine, generally we recommend being a player for your first ever foray, but it isn’t always possible, or maybe it’s just your calling. It’s definitely more complicated being a DM, but there are plenty of resources out there to help you out, inspire you, and help your campaign be a roaring success. We’ll try and link a few, but this would be better suited to a post all of its own.
Hopefully we’ve imparted some helpful advice and haven’t put you off! If we’ve missed anything, feel free to reach out to us on our socials and let us know what we’ve forgotten.