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What Do You Need to Start Playing Dungeons and Dragons?

Updated on March 11, 2017

What Is Dungeons and Dragons?

Dungeons and Dragons (D&D or DnD) is one of the best games ever created. It is a premier role-playing game (RPG) that teaches essential skills. There are many RPGs out there, but Dungeons and Dragons continues to be the most popular for many reasons. It gives the Dungeon Master (DM), who is the person running the game, creative license while letting the players become someone else. This allows them both to bring out their creative sides and helps them discover who they truly are or want to be.

The skills that Dungeons and Dragons helps to develop are math, team building, strategy, and creativity. As with all role-playing games, there are dice used. Contestants must be able to quickly add up the rolls of dice—that may have up to twenty sides—and keep a tally of their own hit points, gold, skills, etc. The Dungeon Master, or storyteller, must keep track of all these things.

Since imagination and innovation are key components of D&D, the supplies you need to play will vary based on your personal style. However, there are a few items that will help get your game off to a great start

In Dungeons and Dragons, adventurers are led on a quest by the Dungeon Master where they will solve puzzles, interact with other non-player characters, and defeat a variety of monsters.
In Dungeons and Dragons, adventurers are led on a quest by the Dungeon Master where they will solve puzzles, interact with other non-player characters, and defeat a variety of monsters.

The Basics

You only need four things to play D&D. Anything else you add to the game will just enhance your experience.

  1. Paper
  2. Pencil
  3. Rule Books
  4. Dice

They call them tabletop games for a reason. They can be played just about anywhere if you keep the supplies basic.

Rule Books

As a player, the best book you can invest in is the Player's Handbook. It will give you an overview of how the game is played and what types of players and statistics are available. This tome is a bit lengthy, but reading it will give you a great foundation to build upon your knowledge. Since there are multiple editions of the game, it is important to pay attention to which version you are playing. Each edition has different rules and systems concerning gameplay.

Your Dungeon Master, the individual who is facilitating the game, will need the Monster Manual for a list of possible enemies for you to fight and their characteristics. In addition, the Dungeon Master's Guide will allow him or her to develop the storyline and provide players with the rules of the game.

If you find that D&D is the game for you, there are many more books available—offering expanded character options, new and interesting monsters, and exciting quests.

The fifth edition of the game was released in 2014. I have seen it at my local shop on the shelves. If you haven't already, consider picking up a copy.

Dungeons and Dragons Rule Book Release Dates

Edition
Year Released
Dungeons and Dragons
1974
Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
1977
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition
1989
Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition
2000
Dungeons & Dragons v3.5
2003
Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition
2007
Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition
2014
There are multiple different version of Dungeons and Dragons. Each of these editions have different rules and game mechanics.

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Character Sheets

A character sheet contains all the information needed for you to play the game. Your character has lots of stats and attributes. The only way to keep track of these, along with everything you are carrying in-game, is to write them down. Any type of paper will do for a character sheet. It does not have to be something special. I recommend that all character sheets follow a similar format that is readable by others. There are a lot of really great resources out there for character sheets. The biggest suggestion any veteran player can give a newb is to write them out in pencil. Attributes, skills, hit points, weapons, etc. will all change during your game. Wite-Out becomes messy quite quickly. Also write lightly on these sheets as you will be erasing— a lot!

How To Create an Adventuring Map

Maps and Miniatures

It's not just a piece of paper but the entire world where your game is set to take place.

While a map is not strictly necessary, it can be very helpful to keep the story and relative positions of the characters and monsters in order. The map is usually composed of a series of hexagonal tiles fitted together to create the shape needed for your individual game. These tiles can be anything from simple laminated paper to detailed sculptured maps, demonstrating the terrain.

You will also need pieces to represent the players and monsters. Again how simple or elaborate you want to go is up to you. Simple round tokens are an affordable option. Many players prefer pewter figures, often called minis. These minis can be left in plain pewter or can be painted to add even more detail.

Dungeons and Dragons dice with a filled out character sheet
Dungeons and Dragons dice with a filled out character sheet | Source

Dice

When playing D&D, you will need far more than the typical six-sided dice you see with most board games. The dice are used to determine the outcome of all kinds of interactions, from what treasures you find to how successful your rogue's back stab is. You will need an array of dice, including four-sided, six-sided, eight-sided, ten-sided, and twenty-sided. Some rolls will also need a massive, fifty-sided die. There are also other types of die you can integrate into the game. Your DM will choose these at their discretion and will provide anything "weird" you may need. You can buy these crucial pieces either one at a time or as a set. I recommend you get the set as it will meet your needs. You may want several of each kind of die to save time during the game, since many rolls will require multiple dice of the same type.

Watch a Full Game

Have you ever wondered what a full game of D&D consists of? Well, have I got a treat for you! Many roleplayers are posting videos of their games sessions online, particularly on Youtube. Watching others is one of the best ways to get a feel for what happens in a game (one that you will soon be playing yourself).

© 2014 Cassandra Kuthy

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    • profile image

      LearningDnD 5 months ago

      Great article! We released another "how to get started" article here: http://bit.ly/2pMumv3

      Might add to the conversation and get more people to play D&D!

    • profile image

      RPG GM 2 years ago

      Thanks for posting the quick how to. It seems getting people started is one of the hardest things. But once they are playing RPGs they seem to get hooked quick. D&D can be a bit expensive to get started. Tabletop RPGs like https://fyxtrpg.com/ are nice because you can get started and play for free. It may be a little easier to get friends to agree if they can try it without having to put any money down.

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      mumsgather 3 years ago

      I've always wondered how to play D&D. Thanks for the summary of how to play it.

    • Arachnea profile image

      Tanya Jones 3 years ago from Texas USA

      I remember when this game was first born. There were posters in the convenience stores. I've participated in the White Wolf RPG, but sadly, not DnD. Great hub.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Dungeons and Dragons used to be very popular with the students that I teach, but I've never played the game myself. Thanks for sharing some useful details about the game.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 3 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I'm not much of a game player, but I still appreciate articles by people who are passionate about their games, the way you are. Nicely done!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      I had friends who played and never understood what it was about. This hub provided a bit of insight. Thanks.

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 3 years ago from Minnesota

      I use to play D&D with friends, and it was so much fun. Great game and hub.

    • boutiqueshops profile image

      Sylvia 3 years ago from Corpus Christi, Texas

      Husband and I played AD&D in the late 70's & early 80's. Great times! Excellent hub!