What do Wayne Brady, Tim Duncan, Mike Myers, Stephen Colbert, Stephen King, Vin Diesel, and Wil Wheaton all have in common?  They all play the grand daddy of all tabletop Role-Playing Games (RPGs), the venerable Dungeons and Dragons (D&D).

After 44 years, the game is still going strong and in 2014 released its most recent iteration, The Fifth Edition.  This has brought many new players into the fold as people create online methods to run and play the game without having to actually be in the same room.  But the best way to enjoy the game is still in-person around a table with old (and new) friends.  However, getting started seems only slightly easier than reading War and Peace by Tolstoy.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Here are some helpful tips for those interested in dipping their foot in the D&D pool as a player for the first time.

The original D&D (1974)

D&D first appeared in 1974 and has gone through lots of changes and updates to reach the current version of the game  One thing that is surprising for those that have enjoyed it all these years is the fact that there are still people that haven’t played the game.

D&D is first and foremost a co-operative game.  There is the DM (Dungeon Master) who designs and referees the game.  Then there are the players who explore the world the DM created and try to gain fame, glory and power for their characters.

It could be thought of like an interactive fantasy novel.  The DM is the narrator and plays all the parts in the story that the players don’t handle including innkeepers, kings, and the many monsters the players fight.

The players are the “main” characters of the story and are often “heroes.”

The most important thing is to find a group to play the game with.  This means finding someone to run the game and, at least, a couple more people to play the other characters.

This might be a group of friends you already have, but if you don’t know anyone just visit a local hobby/game shop and see if there is a bulletin board of groups looking for new players.  You can also check various places online.  There are leagues and groups that can help with this.  The best known of the bunch is the D&D Adventurers League.  There are also groups on Facebook or via Meetup.com to help you quickly find local groups or players to join your group.

Once you have found an avenue for joining a group or creating your own, a new player will need a few things to get going.

To start off, here are 5 things a fledgling player needs to create their character and start playing:

  1. Paper
  2. Pencils (erasing will be necessary, so no pens)
  3. the rules (for the version/game being played)
  4. a set of dice
  5. an active imagination

The first two items are simple to gather.  They are probably cluttering up your home or office already.  Just make sure no one sees you stealing office supplies.  They might like the idea and take some themselves.  Once that starts becoming common place you could end up without a job since the profit/loss margin on paper killed the company’s budget.

The 5th Edition Rulebooks

The third item is not difficult to get either.  Generally, you should try to find physical copies of the rules at your local hobby/game shop or bookstore (Barnes & Noble does carry RPGs).  You can find them online at around $20 for the 5th Edition Starter Set on Amazon.  The actual Player’s Guide is only about ten bucks more expensive yet gives a lot more information on the game and how to play it.  You might even find digital copies online for, ahem, free if you know where to look.

The Starter set is good for new players as it doesn’t give an in-depth look at the rules but outlines the ideas and processes to play the game very well.  The Starter Kit has what you need to know to get playing, the Player’s Guide will add more depth as you learn the game.

There is also a chance that the DM or another player will have the books needed and will let you use them.  You should check with the DM to find out which version is appropriate and if someone can share their books for the initial session if you can’t swing the twenty to thirty bucks to get your own.

The fourth thing you’ll need is a set of dice.

Standard set of dice (D4, D6, D8, D10 (and percentile die), D12, D20)

Most people are only area aware of the six sided die that is used in games like Monopoly or Yahtzee.

There are a lot of variants that exist but the basic set includes (Clockwise from the bottom):

  • four sided die (pyramid shape): the number at the top (apex) is the number rolled
  • the two ten sided dice for percentages
  • a twelve sided die
  • an eight sided die
  • a twenty sided die
  • and the usual six sided everyone knows and loves

The percentile dice has one that shows the numbers 10-00 to represent the first number, and the other has 0-9 to represent the second number.  For example, rolling them together gets you a 50 and a 4.  That means you rolled a 54%.

These can be found at game, book, and hobby shops.  They can also be ordered from far to many places online to attempt listing here.  There are lots of colors and other shapes and combinations but this is the standard set used in most RPGs but especially D&D.

The final must have is imagination.  You need to be able to see what the DM describes in your mind’s eye.  You need to be able to envision not only your character but those of your party and the NPCs (Non-Player Characters) and monsters they encounter.  There is not any sort of store where you can buy this but if you ever played Cops & Robbers or Cowboys & Indians as a child you probably have the requisite skill set to imagine the things that happen in a game session.

Once you have a group, the implements listed, and your imagination ready you can dive into the fantasy worlds of D&D.

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