Whether it be listening to Merle, Taako and Magnus hunt down relics on The Adventure Zone, watching the genius kids of Stranger Things battle a demogorgon, or having to bear listening to “a bunch of geeky voice actors sitting in their mother’s basement and playing Dungeons and Dragons” on Face the Facts, you have already consumed D&D in some manner.
The genre: Fantasy role-playing game; technically, a TRPG (Tactical Role-Playing Game)
The credentials: The single biggest tabletop RPG in existence. Head-writer Arthur McMillan confirmed to Syfy Wire that 2017 boasted the game’s biggest sales year in history, courtesy of streaming. When professionals like Dan Harmon and Felicia Day are paid to be geeks on tape – paid to let loose their over-the-top personality – paid to be themselves – we viewers get to live vicariously through them without ever hoisting up a 20-sided die.
But then the catch is that while watching live D&D campaigns can inspire you to pick up the game, it can also serve the dual purpose of intimidating potential players due to the extreme standard of the pro players. This is very similar to watching professional athletes on television. While we may all fantasise about being in the field like our heroes, deep down we yield ourselves to the fact that we will never be that good… at least until years dedicated to the craft… which ninety nine point nine nine percentage of us won’t be willing to do…
But hey! D&D is not like that. Sure, you don’t become a masterful player right off the bat, and probably you will never reach the pro level of the geeks on Youtube. But it is super easy to get started, unlike professional sport where it generally takes years to get in.
It matters not whether you are a beginner who has just started and found this article by googling, or whether you are a prospective enthusiast looking to begin your journey to absolute greatness, or whether you are an experienced D&D player who still wants to read a beginner’s guide, this guide will cover the fundamentals of all things D&D!
WHY SPECIFICALLY D&D?
True, Dungeons and Dragons is officially the most popular tabletop roleplaying game, but it is by no means the only one. Tons of RPGs exist with a plethora of varieties, some of which may be more your cup of tea.
Dungeons and Dragons lies in the middle of things: the rules are simple enough to grasp quickly by beginners, but there is quite a specific pattern to follow to play. You can let your creativity run free without having constantly to look at the manual for reasonable understanding of infinite rules.
D&D is a great place to start your online RPG experience, from where you can branch out to other specific skill-oriented RPG. Even as an expert player, D&D is always a fun filled ride that always guarantees depth.
GETTING STARTED WITH THE GAME
A copy of the rules
Some pencils and paper
A set of dice
The above are basically all you need to get started with D&D. A very helpful PDF of the basic rules is provided by Wizards of the Coast, and it is free! The aim is “go against the inertia of getting into anything – be it a game, an activity, a research paper.”
The salient features of the essential guide are as follows:
a) the core mechanics and logistics of the game
b) a step-by-step guideline on character creation
c) a glossary on monsters
Into indulging on side quests? Grinding for the easter eggs like the randomly placed oysters in GTA: San Andreas and money packages in GTA Vice City? D&D provides a stack of weird-looking dice, which many a player go after with a “gotta catch ’em all” mindset. For such challenge-seeking gamers, they will find in the game a virtually endless labyrinth of a dungeon with limitless depth. The more casual gamer, on the flip side, will greatly benefit from a standard set of polyhedral dice, available on Amazon.
As the name Starter Set suggests, it provides basically everything you need to get going: a handbook containing essential rules, an introductory adventure of the sort the first few episodes of the podcast The Adventure Zone contains, five templates of character sheets, in addition to a set of dice. Hell, throw in a Stranger Things Starter Set into the mix, a unique adventure about Mike’s homebrew campaign to battle the demogorgon.
The Starter Set is available to buy on: Amazon
Some enthusiasts may have some disappointment over the fact that a Create Your Player mode is missing. In actuality, the available templates reduce much hassle for the more orthodox players (an intensive character creation session is a huge turn off for a large portion of gamers). Anyway, the character patterns to choose from are flexible – the personality traits, relationships, and motivations listed on the pre-made character sheets are diverse.
For the true gamer, the above “limitation” is of course avoidable, for creating a character from ground up is possible through the character creator tool that the website D&D Beyond provides.
Want a handbook which contains all information – both the most basic and also the elusive – along with supplementary character customization facilities? The hardcover Player’s Handbook has got your back. From aesthetic art to reference spells and abilities, all is at your disposal. For the aspiring Dungeon Master is available the Dungeon Master’s Guide, which guides on creating memorable stories. Furthermore, the Monster Manual contains stats of creatures to accurately gauge your enemy.
You can further check out our official buyer’s guide here: D&D Buyer’s Guide to Get Started
MASTER THE DUNGEON
The Dungeon Master (DM, if you will) is basically what is the Game Master (GM) in other games. Thus, The DM/GM is the player who is the narrator, villain, as well as the guide to the rest of the players in D&D. (In non-D&D games they’re called the Game Master/GM.) The brand director of Wizards of the Coast gives away a cheat code for DM, claiming that having to know all the rules in the trade are redundant. Indeed, he echoed the give-away Gary Gygax, the creator of Dungeons and Dragons, once proclaimed:
The secret doorway to being game masters opens upon the realisation that the rules of the game are often restrictive; one does not always have to abide by them!
TO CREATE A STORY FROM SCRATCH OR NOT TO CREATE
As the DM, it’s like a blank slate and you are the only one with the chalk. Do as you wish, however you wish it, with whatever setting you deem necessary. However, this creation from the ground up may sound daunting and extremely time consuming for many. D&D provides a solution for even that! A DM can always run a pre-existing adventure rather than coming up with a unique story. In fact, this scenario is what is encouraged for the amateur DM to get comfortable before they go for the creation process.
Griffin McElroy, the current GM on The Adventure Zone who was previously a Polygon producer, says that “one of the premier strategies for up and coming DM’s is to choose from the plainfield, basically anything that catches your eye, and run with it… and keep running until you get a feel for the run to monitor it yourself after a while.”
On the flip side of the coin, creation from scratch is not rocket science. There are tons of helpful material both on the web and also built into the game. The limitless array of options will keep you at your toes but also make the ride not seem like a fruitless endeavor (unlike grasping at straws in a pitch black stable). The game is your friend, providing you with a wide range of easy-to-understand guidelines. While you will always feel you are in control, the game also nudges you forward. Oh, the paradox! Both guiding the game and being guided by it!
The Starter Set itself contains an adventure – Lost Mines of Phandelver – which provides a good intro to how stories, settings, and lore come to fruition in D&D. Periodical publishing of entire campaigns, both stand-alone and parts of a series, courtesy of Wizards of the Coast, facilitate group players. Such players who have a group on standby for D&D are most suited for such long campaigns which may take months to complete. Of course, there are separate and stand-alone dungeons to tackle which can be conquered in one sitting. Such one-off dungeon campaigners will find the anthology Tales from the Yawning Portal to their taste.
The Tales from the Yawning Portal is available to buy on: Amazon
Such official adventure entries only scratch the surface of D&D , for the game is a passion, a viral one at that. In the age of the mainstreaming of the internet, it is very common to see fan-created content with over-the-top plots. What’s more, several of them are free! One haven of a platform for such “goodies” are DriveThruRPG, reminiscent of Steam, but for specifically RPG. The particular D&D site, Dungeon Masters Guild, is another such “site haven.”
INTO THE DUNGEON
Decide on your adventure
Assemble your players
What else? Nothing, because that’s all you need to get started.
The website Roll 20 can help with the second step. It contains a matchmaking-type service dedicated to virtual groups. If you had not selected the default characters from the Starter Set, your first session will be creating your characters. You should spend a considerable amount of time discussing what, how, why the characters you create are the way they are. This includes the relationship between the characters and also preparing the setting for the adventure.
What kind of game you want to play is another hot discussion topic. It’s totally your call: a serious, intense, and methodical campaign is fine and all, but a fun approach with bending the rules and being all silly is also popular. One is not necessarily better than the other, just like how some gamers opt for stealth while many others go full throttle. You will probably like both approaches. I would advise a consensus among your group on which route to traverse.
At the beginning of your adventure, you’ll find yourself having to reference the book constantly. Don’t fret, though. This is natural and does not mean the game is too complex. You are not expected to have learnt the gazillion names of enemies and spells (obviously!). One thing that helps is a Dungeon Master’s Screen, which serves the dual purpose of hiding notes and die rolls from players and also containing useful references to the most common rules and stats in the game.
The moment you start on your journey, you are bound to realise that visual aid is of utmost importance to your adventure. The “maps and minis” trace combat simulations really well. Unless you are okay with having to draw the maps yourself, a dry erase adventure grid is quite economic to have, coupled with dry erase markers.
N.B: In case of running a virtual game, Roll 20 consists of a marketplace brimming with digital maps and tokens for sale!
IT’S THE JOURNEY, NOT THE DESTINATION, AND THE JOURNEY’S HAPPINESS DEPENDS ON THE PARTY
The initial frictional inertia is strong.
Practice makes perfect.
Both the above statements are universal truths. Not only D&D, any game and actually any habit formation whatsoever has to battle lethergy. Once victorious over lethergy, it is now difficult to give up the activity – habit. In plain terms, getting into D&D is tough, but so is leaving it. Thus, the team members you have are integral for the journey. A supportive and open minded group is an essential key to success and, more importantly, your satisfaction. More so than fighting monsters, it is about the relationships you form with your party that makes the dungeon lit.
Most of the online community of D&D players are extremely considerate and helpful. Especially for the new players will be tips and strategies on the comment section worth their amount of letters in silver (saying gold would be an exaggeration!). Don’t be insecure about your queries no matter how silly they might seem. After all, “are dnd dragons immortal?” is the most searched D&D question! To clarify, no, even though they have a long lifespan, they are not! Some informational websites for any and all kind of queries are r/dnd and r/dndnext. and our subreddit r/AllThingsDnD
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The D&D universe is vast and can in no way be explained on a single post. I have just outlined the rudimentary details, only scratching the surface. If you have any questions regarding the fundamental rules of the game, sound off in the comment section below!