How To Get Into Dungeons & Dragons In 2020

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dungeons dragons how to start playing
Image: Ten Speed Press/Penguin

Dungeons & Dragons has been a popular hobby for tabletop enthusiasts for decades. There’s mountains of lore, hundreds of adventures and even spin-off novels, games and TV adaptations. With so much history, it can be difficult to know where to begin with the game. But even if you’ve never played it before, there’s plenty of ways you can get started.

What is Dungeons & Dragons?

Dungeons & Dragons is a tabletop roleplaying game where an infinite number of players can create their own fantasy characters and embark on a narrative adventure. All games require at least one player and a ‘Dungeon Master’ who controls the narrative.

Characters each have unique expertise in particular skills and weapons. They also have individual stats to help them on their adventure. These include stats pertaining to strength, dexterity, wisdom, charisma and so on.

Dungeon Masters, known as DMs, take players on adventures by telling stories. These can be official Dungeons & Dragons stories (which can be purchased online) or ‘homebrew’ stories created on your own. Most stories will contain the following elements: a central goal or mystery, a number of enemies, discoverable items and places to explore.

Dungeons & Dragons gameplay is based on a system where characters fight creatures, discover items and visit new locations to gain XP. When characters level up, they gain increased damage and overall strength.

Much of the action is determined by dice rolls, which determine success or failure of a party goal. For example, if the Dungeon Master presents a challenge like climbing a wall, a player must pass a ‘check’ against one of their main stats. This involves rolling a dice with the aim of exceeding or equalling the tested stat. If players fail, there’s the potential they may lose health or die. Winning a check will let players proceed to the next step in the story.

Sometimes, Dungeons & Dragons will use a map (physical or digital, if you have access to a laptop or tablet) to better understand the terrain players are travelling. This is up to the party of players and not necessary for gameplay.

If you want to get started with Dungeons & Dragons, there’s a few things you’ll need.


Learn How To Play Dungeons & Dragons

To get started with Dungeons & Dragons, the best thing to do is learn the basics of playing the game. There’s plenty of tutorials online, including this very handy explainer from Don’t Stop Thinking on YouTube.

Practically, the best way to learn how to play Dungeons & Dragons is to watch others play. This will clue you into how narratives play out and what players can actually do (which is practically anything, really). The most popular and informative Dungeons & Dragons shows include the ever-popular Critical Role as well as podcasts like Acquisitions Incorporated. There’s also a bunch of content creators delivering awesome Dungeons & Dragons shows on a regular basis, so have a look around for some options.

Critical Role has produced Dungeons & Dragons adventures for several years and their shows are extremely entertaining. Between laughs, you might just pick up a few tips for your own adventure.

Critical Role has a bunch of fantastic adventures to start.  with but their most recent, The Mighty Nein, comes highly recommended.

Once you understand the basic gameplay, it’s time to start setting up your own game.


Setting up your first game of D&D

The first thing you’ll need is a plot and characters. The DM will also need to be familiar with major branching points and battles of the campaign so they can create a more involving and imaginative experience for everyone.

There’s a lot of stories available for free online if you just want to dip your toes in, but Wizards of the Coast also has larger official campaign books available for purchase. If you want help picking the easiest adventures to start off with, there’s a lot of helpful lists online.

Starter sets and the player handbook can be useful for consulting the rules, but your first session may be a bit looser and less in need of a guide.

What you will need is a character sheet for every player in the game. These can be created for free online or you can print out a paper copy and build out your character yourself.

Follow this guide to make sure you’re sticking to the rules when building out your character’s stats and items.

Once you have your chosen story and character sheets, you’re ready to initiate your adventure. You may not understand every rule the first time you play, but that’s just fine. As long as you’re having fun your Dungeons & Dragons adventure can go any way you like.


How to find people to join your D&D adventure

Dungeons & Dragons players are a very passionate bunch and it should be fairly easy to gather people to go on your first adventure. It’ll be a much smoother ride if you have an experienced Dungeon Master or long-running player on the team, but even if you don’t it can be great fun working out your journey together.

If you don’t have a group to play with, here’s a few ways to find some adventurers.

Social media: Dungeons & Dragons can be played together online just as well as it can in real life. If you’re looking for a group, it’s easy enough to set up a Skype chat and get playing. Twitter can be very useful for this, as can Facebook groups.

Visit your local board game shop: Many board game shops hold board game nights where people can gather and play the latest games together. D&D is a common staple of these nights, and you might be lucky enough to find a group who’s willing to teach you here. D&D fans are extremely welcoming to new players and you might just find a group that can help ease you in.

Join a Discord: There’s a bunch of great D&D discords around, but many pop culture-themed Discords will also have a channel for Dungeons & Dragons. Kotaku Australia’s does! Feel free to pop into one of these channels and introduce yourself. There are many groups online who’d be happy to have you.


With these tips, you should be well on your way to starting your Dungeons & Dragons adventure. If more experienced players have any further tips, we’d love to see them in the comments below!

Comments

  • I’m lucky in that my brother DMs a few games and had a cheeky little adventure he wanted to see brought to life, but which had been cursed by different group schedules, and he asked me if I wanted to join a ‘B Team’ group, set up to run the cursed adventure.

    It’s still cursed, the last four dates we had scheduled had people sick then the pandemic. But we finally got it off the ground a fortnight ago!

  • D&D is a great starting point and has one of the largest libraries of lore/player bases but it’s also worth noting there’s a lot of other fish in the RPG sea if that particular brand of swords and sorcery isn’t your thing. I’m always getting roped into Call of Cthulhu horror/mystery games like Delta Green (Cthulhu meets X-Files) and Down Darker Trails (Wild West Cthulhu). We’ve been playing a great ongoing campaign via Discord for the last few months.

    Most video game RPGs have either official or knock-off pen and paper RPGs. I think the official Fallout RPG came out, but there’s also a bunch of stuff that’s basically Fallout and since you’re playing at home there’s no reason you can’t just happen to have a device called a Pip Boy on your wrist. There’s no reason you can’t reskin a Star Wars RPG to become a Mass Effect RPG.
    There are a million options for vampires, cyberpunk, noir, etc. If the idea of table top RPGs seems interesting it’s worth spending an afternoon checking out all the RPG manuals in your local game store.

  • I found the essentials kit to have a good starting quest for anyone wanting to be a first time D&D DM.
    Unlike the Starter Set the quest is adjustable to the number of players with 1 DM (even 1 and 1), while the Starter Set is meant for 4 players and 1 DM.

    • Yeah it’s pretty good. A new DM definitely wouldn’t go wrong with the Essentials Kit and one or two players. A full table sounds like a lot of fun but it’s also a lot more variables to keep track of and a lot more people to keep on target while you look things up. As much as the image of a group of adventurers goes hand in hand with D&D there’s a lot of fun to be had guiding a traveling bard or lone warrior through the world.

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