We’re pleased to announce that Kailey Bray, creator of Damsels, Dice, & Everything Nice, will be joining us to talk about all things TTRPG!
It feels like that question is everywhere in the gaming community right now. With its starring role in popular television shows and celebrity players extolling its virtues, Dungeons and Dragons has transcended its basement roots and is finally having a moment in the spotlight.
This renewed popularity can be a double-edged sword for new players looking to join in. On the one hand, there are so many resources to get you started, on the other, the veritable flood of podcasts, live-streams, starter kits, books, videos and websites can seem overwhelming. Many new players have trouble finding a place to start.
The wonderful thing about Dungeons and Dragons is that there is no “right” way to start, and the extra accessible 5th edition of D&D means that anyone can join in with very little preparation. So when you’ve decided that you’re ready to dive in, ask yourself the following questions: Why do I want to play? What kind of experience am I looking for? Do I want to play with friends? Am I looking for the opportunity to meet new people? Am I more comfortable playing online or in person? What about the adventure itself: Am I looking for something story driven? Combat heavy? Do I prefer structure or do I like to play fast and loose?
Asking yourself these questions helps to narrow down your search for people to play with. Finding the right group is going to be the most important step in starting your journey with D&D. Set yourself up for success by being up front about the kind of game you’re looking to play. If this sounds a little bit like dating…it is! Play styles are important. A player who wants to focus on roleplaying may struggle to engage in a group that prefers combat and vice versa. That’s not to say that players with varying styles and goals can’t play together, but everyone needs to be open about their expectations so that they can be on the same page. At its heart, Dungeons and Dragons is cooperative storytelling and a communicative, well-matched group of players builds the foundation for a great experience for everyone.
Now that I’ve established the importance of finding the right group, there are a few ways to go about doing that. If you’re looking for an in-person game, ask your friends! Take to social media! You’d be surprised by the number of people you know who’d like to start a campaign with you. If your friends aren’t interested, or are already in a group, check out game stores or comic book stores in your area. Many brick and mortar stores host regular D&D events where you can join a group and start to play. Keep in mind that many of these will be Adventurer’s League events. The Adventurer’s League is the official ongoing campaign for Dungeons and Dragons and is a fantastic way to find a group and begin an adventure, but they are limited to official Dungeons and Dragons content and rules. If you’re looking to incorporate any original, aka “homebrewed”, content or are looking for more flexible gameplay, they may not be right for you. If you’re not able to go in to your Friendly Local Game Store or don’t feel comfortable calling in, try meetup.com. It’s a great site to find a party to play with, and usually includes Adventurers League events at local stores.
If you’re not able or not interested in joining an in-person game, I highly recommend checking out Roll20. They’re a wonderful site that allows you to find a group and play with them remotely via video chat with maps, virtual dice rollers, and so much more. It’s a great introduction to playing D&D and a good opportunity to connect with players from all over the world.
Once you’ve found your group…what’s next? My favourite way to learn is just jumping in with a few friends who know what they’re doing, but it’s not always the easiest way to start. The 5th Edition Player’s Handbook is the best way to begin learning the rules and the ins and outs of character creation. You can get the handbook through your local game store, online retailers, or you can get an electronic version through D&D Beyond. If the cost of the handbook is prohibitive, you can download the Basic Rules Set from dndbeyond.com for free. That’s enough information for you to get started as a player. D&D Beyond is also a great, free resource to help with character creation, which is the next step in preparing for your first game. You can create an account and the site will guide you through creating a character, step by step. You can then access it online through the site, or export it as a PDF and take the hard copy with you wherever you need to go.
D&D Beyond will help you through the logistics of creating a character, but the creative part is up to you! Think about the stories and characters that you love. Do you lean towards crafty spellcasters? Brave fighters? Noble heroes? The sky is the limit! If you get stuck, you can find pre-made characters on dndbeyond.com, they’re a great place to start, and you can ask your Dungeon Master to help you customize it if you’d like. You can find other resources for character creation on Youtube: the Critical Role team’s Handbooker Helper, Matt Colville, and RPG Daily, all have great insights on the races and classes you have available to you, and they’ll walk you through the specifics.
Once you’ve got a group and a character, you’re technically ready to go. Any other accessories or supplies are an added bonus. Personally, I love dice, and would definitely recommend picking up a full set either from your local game store or online. A full set usually includes 7 separate dice (one 20 sided, one 12 sided, two 10 sided, one 8 sided, one 6 sided, and one 4 sided), your Dungeon Master will let you know which ones to use as you play. They come in a variety of materials and colours, and many players have extensive collections and superstitions related to their dice. It’s all part of the fun!
Once again, though, if the cost of dice is prohibitive, google “online dice roller” and you’ll find one that’ll work just fine. I also recommend having something to take notes with. I use a notebook and a pencil, but D&D Beyond’s character sheet also has a section to input notes electronically, so if that’s easier, go for it!
If you’re using D&D Beyond for your character sheet, notes, and rules, the only thing you need to play Dungeons and Dragons is your phone, tablet, or computer. Whatever you need to access the internet. With that and your group, you’re ready to start adventuring!
It’s really that simple to begin. Don’t feel pressured to perform like a professional. The prevalence of livestreamed D&D shows can make roleplaying feel intimidating, but it shouldn’t be! When you take a seat at the table (literally or figuratively), it becomes YOUR game. Make it your own. You want to have an accent? Great. Prefer to speak with your own voice? Awesome. As long as you and your group are having fun, you’re doing it right. So relax, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and settle in for the ride. I truly hope you have as much fun as I do, and I hope to catch you in the Forgotten Realms sometime soon.
Thanks so much for reading this quick How-To Guide for D&D. Looking to level up from player to Dungeon Master? Keep an eye out for next month’s article on how to start running your own games!
Kailey Bray is a Juilliard-trained actor, stage combat professional, and D&D nerd from Canada, so she’s accustomed to being the butt of most jokes. A lifelong nerd, she’s played Dungeons and Dragons for over 12 years. She is the creator and Game Master of Damsels, Dice, and Everything Nice, the Princess RPG parody (@diceandnice everywhere!). In addition to Damsels, she’s a player on Show Me How to Win and she’s been featured on Amazon Prime’s Sneaky Pete, Buzzfeed, Hyper RPG and the Dungeons and Dragons Twitch Channel. As a producer, she’s one of the minds behind DnD In a Jet and Storyteller’s Guide with Satine Phoenix. You can also hear her voice as The Seventh Sister in Jedi Challenges and Tussa Pawsnettle in The Lost Legends of Redwall: The Scout. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram!