Dungeons and Dragons is something that we look forward to playing again as soon as we put up our dice. Everyone in the group gets excited about the next session. We got started playing 2 years ago as a birthday celebration for Trey (Captain Kraken). He had never played, along with others in the group and wanted to try it out. Brian offered to be the Dungeon Master (DM), sometimes called a Game Master (GM), and the addiction began. After the first session, everyone was hooked and we have been playing as often as allowed ever since.
Dungeons and Dragons is a classic role-playing game that has become hugely popular over the last 4 decades since its introduction. It has gone through drastic transformations in its rules, but the core of the game hasn’t changed. The game consists of one player setting the stage as the DM and everyone else playing along. The DM is in charge of crafting and narrating the world that the other players can explore. It can seem daunting to get started playing, but once you understand the core of the game and the rules you will be slaying goblins and questing for treasure in no time. All you need are a few books, pencils and paper, some dice, and a few hours to get started.
The first supplies you will need are the core D&D rulebooks. These are:
The Player’s Handbook – This contains the rules for the players and how to begin building characters. This is an essential guide when building out characters or if a question about a rule comes into play. We started with only a couple of copies that we all shared, but eventually we all bought our own copy.
The Dungeon Master’s Guide – This is a guide that can help a DM better craft the world of the players. It gives tips and shortcuts for creating a world on the fly and has loads of premade content and tables for generating randomized features. This book is a good asset for an aspiring DM.
The Monster Manual – A compiled list of terrible creatures that can attack the players at the DM’s whim. This is helpful in populating dangerous encounters with creatures of appropriate strength and where you will find them. There is lots of great artwork that accompanies these descriptions to help your players visualize what they’re fighting.
After that you are going to need a dice set. There are all sorts of dice sets out there and some can get crazy in price. I’ve seen dice made from wood, metal, and even bone, but a good plastic starter set will only run you around $12 or so. Dice are also very personal and each player will have different preferences and styles. I recommend Chessex, they have good quality dice with tons of different patterns.
There are some supplements to D&D like adventure modules and expanded rulesets, but these are optional and we are going to keep it simple today. The only other thing you need are some pencils, paper, and imagination… unless you’re Charles (Keef).
First thing, read through the rules and options in the Player’s Handbook and familiarize yourself with how creating a character goes and how combat works. Combat is usually more strict with rules than normal playing, so this part of the game is important to understand. Also, making sense of combat will help you follow along in the class descriptions and give you a better idea of how a class can play the game. Some character classes are more complicated than others, specifically a few of the magic classes. You don’t need to understand every class to be able to pick one and play, so it is fine to skip over a few that you don’t find interesting.
The order that I like to follow is picking my class first, because this will allow me to choose how my character will interact with the world and can usually set a tone for the rest of the character build. After that, I think about how the character came to that point in their life where they have acquired these skills and are seeking adventure. This helps me pick out the race and background of a character as well as nailing down the details of the character’s personality. Once I have a good idea for the type of character that I want to play, I take the standard array for my ability scores and start building my level 1 character.
However, if that is too much reading for you and you just want to get started, pick a race and a class at random and take the standard array of ability scores. Follow the “Quick Build” suggestions for the class and you are on your way! Fast and easy.
Getting started right away playing the game is tempting, but I would suggest having a “Session Zero”. This is your first gathering of all the people who want to start playing. All of the players make characters together and build their adventuring party and the DM discusses with the players where the story will start. Having a starter session like this can allow the players to make their characters more attuned to each other and can help a party get along in the adventure. This helps prevent frustrations down the road by allowing players to align their characters with each other and the DM.
Also, this is a great time for any unfamiliar players to ask questions about the rules of the game.
Crafting the World
This is seen as mostly the DM’s job, but the players do help out. If each player creates a backstory for their character it can help the DM better understand the world to be created. From that point the DM can arrange the obstacles and challenges that the players will face going forward. The DM guide has tables and guides for quickly creating locations, non-player characters (NPCs), dungeons, and villains of the game.
Knowing the player backstories also allows the DM to tie these origins into the game at hand. Perhaps one character fell out of favor with a local gang and now is being hunted by mercenaries. Or maybe a character was once a faithful servant to a deity and recognized as a prestigious figure. Or a character could be an escaped slave that is hiding from his captors. There are endless possibilities for backstories and character concepts and each one helps build the world.
The real thing you have to remember when playing is to have fun. Sometimes there will be disputes over a rule, or someone will do something dumb, such as rousing a horde of disembodied hands while the party is resting. Just keep it lighthearted and enjoy the game with your friends. Just remember that the DM has the final say so, and the dice gods aren’t always on your side.