Dungeons & Dragons Guide for Beginners

Dungeons & Dragons Guide for Beginners

Hello and welcome back to The Goblin Gazette! Karthas here and today I wanted to talk about Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). In my previous post I went over some helpful tips for new Dungeon Masters (DMs). Today I’d like to talk to the people who have absolutely no idea what Dungeons & Dragons is.

Before we get started I will say, I am a firm believer that most people, given the opportunity, would thoroughly enjoy Dungeons & Dragons if they gave it a chance. But for whatever reason there is a stigma surrounding it that people who play are nerds, unstable, or are bad people. I’ve played Dungeons & Dragons with many different players and the people who enjoyed it vary greatly. Some are into sports, others music, or something else! Honestly it’s one of those things in life that you should give it a shot, if you end up enjoying it, great! If not, well you spent a few hours with friends and now you can make an informed decision for yourself on D&D.

dungeons & dragons - Cloud City
Chilling in Cloud City

What is Dungeons & Dragons?

I’m sure for many the name “Dungeons & Dragons” conjures up images of nerdy guys sitting in a dark basement wearing robes, eating Doritos and drinking Mountain Dew. I want you to take that picture and any other things you might have heard about D&D and get rid of them. Are they gone? Good.

Dungeons & Dragons is a fantasy role playing tabletop game. It was created by Gary Gygax and David Arneson back in the 70s. It can be played with small figures (minis), on grids, completely in your head, or a mixture of all these things. In its simplest form Dungeons & Dragons is this, The Dungeon Master has a story, and you have a character. The Dungeon Master takes your character and puts them into the story. That’s it, simple as that! It’s very similar to those choose your own adventure books. You know, the ones that you’d read a page and then it would give you a decision at the bottom:

“Turn to page 42 if you want to open the door or Turn to page 87 if you want to head down the dark hallway”

That’s what D&D is like, but you get to play with friends, solve problems, think tactically and strategically, and solve puzzles.

Diving Deeper

So expanding a bit more, one of the keys to playing Dungeons & Dragons is having a Dungeon Master. What the Dungeon Master (DM for short) does is they build the world and bring it to life for you, the player. So going back to the choose your own adventure book analogy, the DM would be the author of the book. They are the one who describe things, interact with the player, and ultimately manage the flow of the game. You as the Player Character (PC) make decisions in this world based on the information the DM presents to you. So, again, jumping back to the choose your own adventure analogy, you the Player Character would be the person reading the book. The DM will give you choices that you and your group can choose between. This can include puzzle solving, problem solving, searching for clues, or even combat.

Sounds pretty simple right? Well I hope it does because the basic concept of Dungeons & Dragons is pretty simple, but just like everything else, the deeper you go the more complex it gets, but lets keep it simple.

Getting Started

OK, so hopefully I’ve convinced you to consider giving Dungeons & Dragons a shot. You may be wondering what the next step is. Well that’s actually the most difficult part. You’ll need to find a group to play with, preferably a group that are not brand new to the world of Dungeons & Dragons. For me, I had trouble finding a group, so I began doing my own research on how to become a DM. This took some time and wasn’t easy but it was very rewarding. It has allowed me to introduce a bunch of new players to the world of Dungeons & Dragons.

A great way to find a group in your area is to check out gaming stores or fantasy shops. If you like to try finding a group online you can visit Roll 20. I’ve never used it, but I’ve heard of many who have and have had a lot of fun doing it.

Pre-Generated vs Making your own Character

Once you have your group lined up, you’ll need a character. To do this you’ll pick a race, a class, and a whole set of skills and attributes that will define your character. Depending on your DM they may have some pre-generated characters, or you will make your own. I have found that players who create their character feel a deeper connection to them, compared to pre-generated characters, but they each have their benefits for new players. So talk to your DM, and if they are using pre-generated, that’s fine, but see if they’d be open to letting you create your own.

A side note, and this is just my opinion, if you are a new player I would shy away from a magic user. This is not because they are bad, on the contrary they are actually quite good and fun to play as. But it is because, unlike other characters, magic users have a list of spells that they need to know how to use. I’ve simply found that for most new players remembering the spells and how to use them simply becomes too much. They are already trying to understand so much, that having to know your spells just pushes it over the edge. But if your DM is helpful and/or your group is experienced, the other players can help you out.

dungeons & dragons - Dwarves are so underappreciated
Dwarves are so underappreciated

Which Class and Race

Now back to character creation, as I mentioned before you’ll have to select a race and a class. The races offer some skill boosts and other perks, you can check out my in-depth guide on races here. Whereas the class will define what and who your character is, find my in-depth guide on classes here. The classes fall into 2 categories, melee and range/caster. So decide which you would prefer and go with that. As a new player most of the skills and attributes you’ll need to pick won’t make much sense to you. But if your DM is letting you create your own, ask them what the different skills and attributes do. Most DMs are happy to help, its part of the reason we get into D&D in the first place. We simply love facilitating fun!

Once your group is ready and your character is made, you’ll need to find a place to play, and a time. Unless you are playing online, in which case you’ll just need a computer with a webcam and a microphone, and a time to play. I’ve found that most games can take between 3-4 hours, but this greatly depends on the story and the people playing.  

What to expect?

So you’ve decided to play, you found a group, you may be starting to think, “what have I gotten myself into.” Don’t worry about it, for most, D&D is actually a very fun and relaxing activity. Something that always seems to surprise my new players is the amount of time spent just talking and catching up with friends. This is an aspect that they always really enjoy. What I have told people before is that D&D is a very mature form of gaming. Now don’t get me wrong, I love video games, but when I play with people online there isn’t a ton of time to chat. Online games are usually pretty fast paced and don’t allow for that kind of communication. Whereas Dungeons & Dragons is very slow paced and allows for ample conversation with friends.

dungeons & dragons - Voyage of the TPK
Voyage of the TPK

The Plunge

So as everyone gets situated the DM will begin with the story, they will probably give you some background so you understand the setting and current events of what is going on. From here it will be up to you and your party to decide what you want to do and how you want to proceed in the story. You’ll be allowed to take actions and interact with the Non-Player Characters (NPCs) in the story.

As you are playing if you decide to do something, you’ll typically be asked to roll a die. In Dungeons & Dragons everything you do will be determined by the mighty D20. And the success or failure will be determined by the difficulty of what you are trying to do and the result of your die roll. So for example, if you want to try and jump over a fence. The DM will ask you to roll a D20. This action isn’t too difficult so you probably won’t need a super high roll. The DM is the one who will determine if you succeed based on what they think you’ll need to roll.

Meta Gaming

Your group will probably take breaks throughout and will probably stop to chat or talk about what they want to do, this is normal. Something you should try to avoid as a new player is something called meta-gaming. Meta-gaming is using information that you personally are aware of but your character is not. Picture this, your character is trying to gain entrance to a tavern that requires a password. The rest of the party is already in the tavern waiting on your character, but the problem is your character doesn’t know the password. You (not your character) actually know the password because you heard your friend who is sitting right next to you say it. Even though you know it, your character doesn’t. If you were to use that information that would be meta-gaming.

The reason you don’t want to meta-game is that it takes the fun out of the game. But as a new player, don’t worry about it too much. Most DMs and players will be fine with it for someone new, and if they aren’t fine with it they’ll let you know.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, D&D is about one thing, having fun. It’s a game that allows you to use your imagination, but has a set of rules around it. You’ll make some great memories playing and hopefully some good friends. Just don’t take it too seriously, like I said everyone there is to have fun.

Well I think that is it for today. I hope you have found this helpful. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll be more than happy to help you out. And be sure to subscribe if you haven’t!

How have you tried to convinced people to give D&D a shot? Were you successful?

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