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Five Tips for New Dungeons and Dragons Players

Max holds a B.S. in mass communications from SIU, an M.A. in communications from U of I, and is pursuing an MBA from Webster University.

Beginning players should have the Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook at their side at all times during gameplay.

Beginning players should have the Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook at their side at all times during gameplay.

Dungeons and Dragons can be overwhelming for beginners. Wrapping your head around character creation, understanding how the dungeon master fits into the equation, figuring out gameplay, learning how combat works, and taking in even the basics of how spell-casting works can be a lot to digest. This article offers some guidance around what new players should expect and suggestions for how they should work their way into the game.

Focus On Your Character

Even after you create a character it can be incredibly easy to get caught up flipping through the Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook reading about all of the cool things that are possible as a result of different class, race, and background combinations. However, if you're new to Dungeons and Dragons, the most important thing for you to do is focus on understanding everything about your character and their make-up. Read through the information associated with your class and race a few times. If your character is capable of casting spells, make sure you develop a deep understanding of those spells. Flesh out a strong back story for your character. That will not only result in a richer game experience for everyone involved, but it will also force you to dig into some of the more nuanced components of your character.

Nothing Is off Limits

Have fun and explore. Don't be afraid to do something that you feel is representative of what your character would actually do. If the DM tells you that there's a pile of trash in the corner and you feel like your character would go and poke that pile of trash with a stick, go and do it. If you want to pick a random fight in a bar, go ahead and do it. If the dungeon master says there are two creepy looking kids on the street and you want to go talk to them, go and do it. The world of Dungeons and Dragons is wide open, and a good dungeon master is prepared to roll with whatever direction you want to go and should embrace your curiosity, even if he didn't see that coming.

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The Curse of Strahd is one of the many adventures available for Dungeons and Dragons.

The Curse of Strahd is one of the many adventures available for Dungeons and Dragons.

Characters Will Die

The anything-can-happen element of Dungeons and Dragons also manifest in the form of random tragedy. You could really be on a roll with a character when you decide to poke a random pile of trash with a stick. That pile of trash could very well turn into a giant monster that grabs you and swallows you whole while your fellow adventurers take the opportunity to save themselves and head for the hills. Some characters will suffer a tragic and painful death, some will go down in a blaze of glory, and others will get taken out before they ever really got started, and that's just a part of the game. It's alright to get attached to characters, but you should anticipate that they won't be around forever. Additionally, you should always have another character built and in your back pocket.

Wait to Use Spell Cards

If you can, avoid building a spell-casting character early in your Dungeons and Dragons playing career. Understanding the rules associated with spells can be confusing for new players, and it can really slow down gameplay. If you can't resist the temptation to be a druid or a wizard and you have to be a character with spell-casting abilities, strongly consider making your own spell cards or purchasing some. Spell cards are similar in appearance to a standard deck of playing cards, but you purchase them based on character class, and each card contains all of the necessary information for one particular spell, such as the requirements to cast it, the duration of the spell, the effects, and the impact on your character.

Character Creation for Beginners

Use Character Sheets

Half the fun of playing Dungeons and Dragons is developing a deep understanding of the logic behind the game. A lot of that understanding comes from having to fill out and continually update a paper character sheet in pencil. Yes, it can be incredibly infuriating and intimidating at first, but it can be in intensely satisfying as everything starts to click and you start to understand and appreciate the nuts and bolts of the game. With that in mind, there is software available that will let you input your character information, and based on high-level information about your character, it will tell you what information needs to be updated, and do all of the math and hard work for you. I'm not saying don't ever get that software, because it does make playing the game a whole lot easier, but wait until you reach the point where you understand the inner workings of the game before you take that shortcut.

© 2016 Max Dalton

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