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Getting Started with Dungeons & Dragons

Hail and well met! I am your host Dungeon Master Kenneth, and without further ado let’s sink our teeth into this post aimed to help with getting started with Dungeons & Dragons. I’ll be addressing one of the most common questions I’ve personally received since becoming a full-time Dungeon Master.

getting started with Dungeons & Dragons new D&D players

Lost Mine of Phandelver is a terrific adventure to get you started with playing Dungeons & Dragons. [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]

New D&D players questions

“I don’t know how to play” or “I don’t know how to get started. What should I do?”

Well, it can be really intimidating. I will admit getting started can be a mammoth of a task. Admittedly, it’s nowhere near as much once you get into the swing of things. This may seem like a silly question from some perspectives for sure, but looking at this from the perspective of an outsider I can definitely see the difficulty in getting into tabletop roleplaying games in the first place. There are so many books and so many editions, and so many premade modules and adventures.

This alone can make starting an insanely difficult process. Let’s look at fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons for example. With this edition, there are nowhere near as many books. We have the Dungeon Master’s Guide and the Monster Manual. Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes and Volo’s Guide to Monsters are two other books mainly be used by the DM.

In addition, we have the base Player’s Handbook, Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide (SCAG for short), and finally Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, which sold like hotcakes. Keep in mind, fifth edition D&D has only 7 books, if you count the digital “living document” Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron. You really only need three of them. For players, I recommend Xanathar’s Gude to Everything. This is also a great book for any DM, due to the tables, backgrounds, and more. But players do like having more options during play, second, of course, being SCAG for more player options. And finally the core Player’s Handbook. [NERDITOR’S NOTE: It’s worth mentioning the fifth edition D&D Basic Rules are free to download or access through D&D Beyond. With those, your imagination, and the wealth of other free content out there like you’ll find here on the Nerdarchy website as well as places like the Dungeon Master’s Guild, DrivethruRPG and countless other sites, players could enjoy endless D&D campaigns.]

The other part of the question I get asked a lot

Let’s go back to the perspective of completely new D&D players who have no idea of what to do or where to start. Maybe they’ve heard stories, or like a lot of new D&D players within the hobby, got into D&D because of Critical Role. The best thing I can say is there are gateway games. For fifth edition D&D, the Starter Set is a really good way to get players into the game, as well as helping new DMs find a way to get into their role with the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure.

If no one is willing to be the DM there is no game, plain and simple. There are board game equivalents to D&D, albeit many are older games like Hero Quest, and Dragon Strike, the latter of which is a way to help people get into roleplaying. Essentially D&D is a movie, where the DM is the director and the players are the cast.

Roleplaying with type is a great start

how to pick your gaming group

Raistlin Majere from the Dragonlance saga is one of the most popular D&D fantasy characters of all time. [Art by Larry Elmore]

I get it, every class has a certain type of character trope attached to it. A charismatic bard will usually be full of smiles and song. A well learned wizard might end up haughty and prone to mage-splaining. Two prominent examples of this trope are Drizz’t Do’Urden from the acclaimed R.A. Salvatore novels, and Raistlin Majere, the iconic wizard from the Dragonlance series.

However, I highly encourage stepping on the wild side and playing against the character tropes. Another great thing to do is encourage players who happened to roll terrible ability scores to work with them. Seriously, these are a gift! Some of my favorite characters to play as and DM for are nearly useless in one or more things.

One of my favorite characters I’ve ever played was Fatty Hedgepig, a halfling peasant. He died immediately, but the next character I got to play was my half-orc fighter Grimmshard the Bold. I have so many crazy stories with this character, it’s not funny.

Bottom line, if you’re interested in playing D&D, it’s never been easier to get into D&D than it is now. There are countless groups that run 5E games on Roll20 and among those groups, you might be able to find one that’s right for you. In the video below, Nerdarchists Dave and Ted discuss other ways to find and how to pick your gaming group too. In any case, my friends this has been Dungeon Master Kenneth signing off! Happy gaming, and as always, stay nerdy!

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Kenneth Woody

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