How To Start Your Own D&D Game
Dungeons and Dragons is having a moment right now. According to CNBC, in each of the last five years sales of D&D merchandise have grown by double digits. What used to be a cult favorite game for the nerdiest of nerds is now a full-blown cultural phenomenon.
Maybe you played D&D in college or as a kid. Maybe you’ve listened to podcasts like The Adventure Zone or Dames and Dragons, or maybe you’ve watched Critical Role on Twitch and are eagerly awaiting the animated series. Perhaps you – like just about everyone in America – were glued to the TV when the kids from Stranger Things fought their own Demogorgon.
But no matter how you found it – you’re here because you want to know how you can get in on the action and start your very own Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Lucky for you, Game Goblins has your back!
We know it can be intimidating to get started – especially if you’ve been listening to professional (and edited we’d like to point out) podcasts or watching live games with celebrities like Felicia Day. But remember, watching D&D streams is like watching professional athletes – you can appreciate the “sport,” but you should also realize that you don’t have to be a pro to play. Luckily there are literally dozens of resources to help you get started.
The Rules and Tools
One of the best things about Dungeons & Dragons is that you only really need a copy of the rules, some pencils and paper, a set of dice and your imagination. Wizards of the Coast even published the basic rules online for free to “reduce the barrier to entry as much as possible.” This is a pared-down version of the rules, but it covers the core mechanics and math of the game, information on monsters, and a step-by-step character creation guide.
If you don’t mind spending a little money on an extended, official version of the rules, guidelines, and explanations of play – go with the Player’s Handbook. It has descriptions of all the core character races and classes and explanations of how to level them up, move them through combat, cast spells, and use ability checks.
The Dungeon Master’s Guide is also extremely helpful if you’ll be the one running the game. It has monster stat blocks, lists of magical items, special rules for everything from combat to how much a night at the inn costs, and even tips and guidelines for building your own campaign from scratch.
If you’re already starting to feel overwhelmed – don’t give up! We can help. Try the D&D Starter Set if this is your very first time playing. It includes everything you need to get started:
- A rules handbook
- An intro adventure designed for level one or beginner characters
- 5 pre-made character sheets
- A set of dice
If you want your own fancy dice, or you’re disappointed that you don’t get to create your own character, remember that you can make this game your own. Go buy giant gold sparkly dice that light up! Spend six hours creating the perfect Gnome Barbarian with a Sailor Background! The point of Dungeons & Dragons – and all Role Player Games (RPGs) – is that you can play it literally however you want. Every game is completely unique to the group that is playing it.
Becoming the Dungeon Master
The Dungeon Master (or DM) is the player who acts as the narrator, antagonist, and guide for the other players in the group. The DM plays all the NPCs (Non Player Characters) in the game including monsters, townspeople, and deities. They read – or create – the adventure ahead of time and know all the ins and outs of the adventure you’ll be playing. If it’s easier, you can think of the DM as a kind of omniscient narrator, or god, who decides what happens to the characters and when, using the rules of the adventure as a guideline.
That being said, it is important to say this: You do not have to know all of the rules as the DM. In fact, it’s borderline impossible to know all of the rules for Dungeons & Dragons – even the creators of the game have to look stuff up when they’re playing. And sometimes, even the most seasoned GM will admit that they made a decision that goes against because it was better or cooler for the story.
Again we say, “that’s the awesomeness of this game!” D&D is all about having an adventure with your friends in a new and imaginative way. The rules are a guideline and the world is what you make it.
Choose Your Adventure
You can choose from a multitude of adventures when you start playing D&D. If you choose to play with the Starter Set, you’re ready to go – just gather your friends and play! But if you feel comfortable with the basics and you’d like to try something a little more ambitious you can choose from adventures like:
- The Curse of Strahd – a gothic adventure with vampires and creepy castles. If you love horror or suspense, you’ll love this game!
- Waterdeep: Dragon Heist – a grand, urban caper through the massive city of Waterdeep. Search for treasure, uncover villainous plots, and hunt for dragons!
- Storm King’s Thunder – Giants have emerged from their stronghold to threaten the world as you know it! How will you stop them?
There are literally dozens (if not hundreds) of other adventures. Browse through them in the store or do some research online. Just make sure that you’re playing a game that says “Adventure for Levels 1-5” or something similar. That means the adventure has been crafted with beginner characters in mind. You don’t want to face a green dragon as a level one – you’d die instantly and that’s no fun! You want a balanced adventure that will let you level up over time.
Playing the Game
Once you’ve decided on your adventure and assembled your players – it’s time to play! The first session is usually spent creating characters, answering questions, setting the scene, and discussing your character’s relationships with one another. How did they meet? What are their races and classes? What do they look like?
We also suggest that you spend some time talking about what kind of game you’ll be running and make sure everyone is on the same page. Do you want to run a serious campaign that is by-the-book? Or is there room to be silly and play fast-and-loose with the rules? Will you be requiring character voices? Are there any house/homebrew rules that you need to establish (i.e. a rule that you will all follow that is not in the Player’s Handbook)?
None of these options is better than the other, but it helps to limit frustration among the players if you’re all on the same page. Remember – this is all about using your imagination and having fun!
Now Go Play!
Now you’re no longer “getting started.” Now you’re playing D&D! Congrats! You made it! We knew you could do it. Just remember – you don’t have to know everything. You’ll all be looking stuff up spells and rules and abilities while you play – and that’s just part of it. Have fun and you’ll figure it out together.
If you have any questions about starting your own D&D game or if you want to peruse through the possible adventures and resources, stop by Game Goblins and let our staff help you out! Or you can contact us online to make sure we have what you need.