Dungeons and Dragons is a game that often appears in the media. Stranger Things uses it as a storytelling tool within the series. TV shows like Community, The Big Bang Theory, South Park, and Futurama have whole episodes centered around D&D. Vin Diesel, and other celebrities who play Dungeons and Dragons talk about it often. It is highly unlikely that you haven’t heard of D&D. If you never played it, you might be wondering; what is Dungeons and Dragons and how to play D&D?
Image from the Bender's Game Futurama film, property of 20th Century Fox
What is Dungeons and Dragons?
Dungeons & Dragons is a tabletop roleplaying game. In a game of D&D players assume roles of imagined characters. The players weave a story by deciding what those characters do in the story. We will talk more about how to start playing Dungeons and Dragons later, but for now, let’s focus on what is D&D and why to play D&D.
What are tabletop roleplaying games?
Tabletop roleplaying games, also known as pen-and-paper games, are games that are set in an imagined world. In most such games one of the players is a game master (GM). The game master is the one who tells the story and decides the actions of all non-player characters in the game. Other players play characters within the story told by a game master.
Players decide the actions of their characters and describe those actions. The success of a character’s action depends on their characteristics and dice roles.
This isn’t as scary or hard as it might sound. You will just be sitting around the table with a group of friends telling stories. If it is still hard to imagine how to play dungeons and dragons, here is an example. The GM will tell you something like “The bandit you are pursuing is trying to escape by climbing vines of a towering library!” A player playing a ranger might say “I take out my great bow and try to shoot him down.” Then both the ranger and GM will roll dice to determine the success of your action.
This is just a simple example of an interaction. Truly memorable moments stay with you for the rest of your life. Whenever I meet anyone from my old RPG group we always talk about epic moments and dumb decisions from our campaigns!
Is playing D&D good for you?
The first edition of Dungeons & Dragons was published in 1974. It was the first commercially available tabletop roleplaying game. As it grew in popularity, it became controversial. Some religious groups accused the game of alleged promotion of witchcraft and devil worship.
Now we know that it is highly unlikely that D&D will motivate you to sacrifice newborns in the name of The Prince of Darkness. However, there are still some controversies connected to tabletop roleplaying games. TV shows often use the trope of geeks with no social skills as examples of D&D enthusiasts. Yes, such people play D&D, but other people play it as well. Groups I played D&D with consisted of some of the most outgoing and social people I met in my life. Usually, we would go out partying on Saturdays, and play D&D on Sundays.
Contrary to the popular misrepresentation of D&D, playing Dungeons and Dragons helps develop some positive characteristics. Creative thinking, problem-solving, and cooperation with other people are just some of the examples. There are many studies about the benefits of role playing games, but this isn't a place, nor the time to discuss them.
The point is playing D&D doesn’t make you magically lose your social skills; it helps those who lack social skills develop them. So, the answer to why should I play tabletop dungeons and dragons is; it is fun and helps you develop useful skills. It is also a great way of meeting new people and creating memorable experiences with old friends!
How to start playing Dungeons and Dragons?
Now you know what D&D is. However, unlike video games, you can’t just download it and start playing. So how do you start playing D&D? First, you will need some people to play with. If your friends aren’t interested in D&D, there are plenty of places to find people who are.
If you are living in Croatia, you should join the Facebook group Tabletop RPG Croatia and check out Ona Druga Grupa (ODG). Tabletop RPG Croatia is full of people that are looking for players to join their group. It is also an excellent place to ask tabletop RPG-related questions you might have. Ona Druga Grupa is a group of wonderful people who regularly organize tabletop RPGs in Zagreb. They are great at teaching people how to play, so this can be a great starting point for you.
People who love tabletop RPGs can usually be found in local game stores. Most major cities have some LGS similar to Magic Omens, so you can always start your adventure of searching for D&D enthusiasts there!
What do I need to start playing D&D?
You have found a group to play Dungeons and Dragons with. Now, you will need additional tools. You will need a rulebook, at least one set of dice, and character sheets. The number of different Dungeons and Dragons books can easily overwhelm beginners, so I will guide you through some great options for beginners.
Dungeons & Dragons RPG – Starter Set
This is the best product for a group of complete beginners to start the first D&D adventure. Dungeons & Dragons RPG - Starter Set includes everything you need for your first short D&D campaign. You will get one set of dice, basic rules, five premade characters, and your first 64-page adventure.
If you plan to play for 3-4 hours per session, this adventure should take around five sessions to complete. This is an affordable way for a group of up to six people to set foot into the world of Dungeons & Dragons.
Player’s Handbook expands all the basic rules you can find on the Wizards of the Coast website. It contains lots of additional classes, races, items, backgrounds, etc. This is the book you will use in every D&D adventure you play, so it should be your first purchase after the Starter Set.
The Monster Manual is a D&D book that contains abilities and stats of monsters from the Dungeons & Dragons universe. As a player, you don’t really need this book, but it is an excellent tool for Game Master to have at his disposal.
Dungeon Master’s Guide
Dungeon Master is what we call a Game Master in D&D. If you decided that you love being a DM in games, Dungeon Master’s Guide is a book for you. It isn’t something you can’t DM without but it has some great resources for new DM’s. This is a book you will use between your sessions. It is here to help you design stories and encounters for your players.
Dungeons & Dragons Core Rules Gift Set
Dungeons & Dragons Core Rules Gift Set is all in one set that includes Player’s Handbook, The Monster Manual, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Dungeon Master’s screen. A Dungeon Master’s screen is a foldable piece of cardboard that serves two purposes. The key rules a DM will often refer to are printed on the side facing the DM. Dungeon Masters also use it to hide their notes and dice rolls from players. This Gift Set is an excellent choice if you already intended to buy all three previously listed D&D books.
Dungeons & Dragons - Waterdeep: Dragon Heist
This is an excellent adventure if you loved your first D&D experience but you are not ready to start creating your own adventure yet. Like adventure in the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set, this one also runs to level 5. Dragon Heist gives players more freedom than Lost Mines of Phandelver (the adventure from the Starter Set). It also introduces new concepts for players to try out and experience the game in a different way.
You will need a set of dice to play a D&D game. Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set includes one set of dice, but it is helpful if every player has his set. Set of dice consists of d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, and d20. Dice come in a variety of colors, materials, and sizes. You can choose any you prefer. I recommend wooden or plastic dice over metal ones. Metal dice can damage glass and wooden tables.
A character sheet is a piece of paper that contains all information about your character. You will write your character’s name, race, class, level, equipment, and other details there. You can download a character sheet template at the Wizards of the Coast website. You can also use one of the pre-generated characters from that link.
Roll 20 and other ways to play D&D online
If you are wondering how to play dungeons and dragons online, Roll20 is a website for you. Experience of playing Dungeons and Dragons is always best when you are in the same room with other players. However, that isn’t always possible. At such times you should use Roll20. It is a website with all the tools you will need to play D&D with your friends remotely.
For those of you who want to use the official Wizards of the Coast product, there is D&D Beyond. It is a service that lets you create characters, encounters, and campaigns. It has three tiers of plans.
Free Tier is limited to basic rules, six character slots, and eight encounter slots. Hero Tier removes limits on character and encounter slots and also removes ads that are present in Free Tier. Master Tier lets DMs share any purchased content with twelve players for up to five campaigns.
Discord is another option for players who don’t find Roll20 and D&D Beyond to their taste. Discord is best utilized along Roll20. Basically, you use Roll20 for maps, character sheets, and die rolls, and you use Discord for its superior voice chat.
Other Dungeons & Dragons merchandise
Dungeons and Dragons miniatures
D&D miniatures represent characters and monsters from the Dungeons and Dragons universe. They are not necessary for playing D&D, but they are a nice visual aid for combat. You can use anything to represent your character, but D&D miniatures are prettier than spare change.
Dungeons & Dragons board games
Besides the Dungeons and Dragons pen and paper game (the game you have been reading about up to now), various D&D board games exist. The main reason I am mentioning them here is to clarify the difference between the two. Each D&D board game has its own set of rules, and they are also fun to play. The main similarity they have with the D&D we game we have been talking about is that they use the lore from the same D&D universe.
A great bonus of most D&D board games is that they come with miniatures you can use for your D&D adventures. I won’t go into specifics about board games here, they are a topic worth their own article.
How to play Dungeons and Dragons - Key takeaways
- The only essential things you need to play D&D are people, rulebook, and dice
- Player’s Handbook and Monster Manual are the two most useful D&D books to have
- Playing Dungeons & Dragons can help you develop useful skills
- D&D is a good activity for making new friends and strengthening your bond with your old friends
- Playing D&D doesn’t increase your chances of becoming a Satan-worshipping cultist
Frequently asked questions
What is Dungeons and Dragons?
Dungeons and Dragons is a tabletop roleplaying game. It is a game where a group of people tells a story together by deciding and describing what actions characters in the story take. The success of the described actions depends on dice rolls and rules.
Why is dungeons and dragons fun?
Creating a story with a group of other people is an amazing experience. Combined imagination of several and dice rolls keeps the story unpredictable even for the storytellers. These elements make Dungeons and Dragons one of the best activities for groups.
Is playing D&D good for me?
Playing Dungeons and Dragons is an activity that is fun and good for you. Lots of stuff is happening during a game of D&D. You will have to solve many problems, use teamwork to achieve your goals, and think from another perspective. These activities will help you develop positive skills.
Who owns Dungeons and Dragons?
Dungeons & Dragons were created by Ernest Gary Gygax and David Arneson in 1974. In 1997 Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of Hasbro acquired the game. Wizards of the Coast has owned Dungeons and Dragons since 1997.
What do you need to play dungeons and dragons?
The most basic tools you need to play dungeons and dragons are; a set of dice, a rulebook, and character sheets. You can improve the experience with D&D miniatures and a battle grid. Other than that you only need a group of friends and your imagination.