A Beginner’s Guide To Dungeons & Dragons (Part 1)

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on January 13, 2010

Welcome to the first article in a series aimed at new player’s who’ve just discovered the great game of Dungeons & Dragons. I remember when I discovered D&D, I was left to my own devices to learn the game beyond the rules. Fortunately we have the Internet today to assist new player’s and answer any questions they might have.

While this series is certainly aimed at new players, seasoned veterans are just as likely to find nuggets of useful information within and I certainly encourage existing players to add their own nuggets of information in the comments section.

Topics that will be covered in the series include:

Article 1:
What Is Dungeons & Dragons
What Do You Need To Play

Article 2:
Creating A Character

Article 3:
Beyond The Basics

What Is Dungeons & Dragons?

Ask 100 D&D players this question and you may very well get 100 different answers. D&D was created by Gary Gyax and Dave Arneson and was originally released in 1974. Over the years the game has gone through many different editions.

D&D is a role-playing game (RPG), where players and the dungeon master work together to craft a story of adventure. Players take on the role of a hero and explore a world created by the dungeon master (DM). The game is framed by a series of rules to provide structure and the result of actions taken is determined by rolling dice.

At it’s core D&D is a game of imagination. Players are able to act out their character, share in an ongoing story and engage in heroic combat. Unlike computer RPGs, D&D is a social game where a group of players sit around a table and play. Player’s create the character that they play, from attributes, skills and combat powers.

One of the great aspects of playing D&D is that your player character (PC), along with your fellow group members, is the star of the show. He is the hero of the world, the star of the movie, the protagonist of the novel. As your PC engages in adventure, he will also grow in power, learning new abilities and earning magic items.

As a player you are encouraged to try anything you desire in a given situation. Creativity rules the day. The rules are in place to provide a framework, allowing you the player to attempt anything you can dream up.

What Do You Need To Play

On the most simplistic level D&D doesn’t require a very large investment from a new player. Books and dice can be borrowed from other players as you learn the ins and outs of the game. However, if you decide to leap right in to this great hobby here are the essentials that you will require.

Player’s Handbook

The Player’s Handbook (PHB) contains all the information that you need to create a character and equip them. It also contains all the rules that you will need to adventure and explore during gaming sessions. While there are additional supplements available, this is where you want to start. You may notice the PHB 2 on the shelves of your local gaming shop and be tempted to pick it up. While it does contain new character classes and races, it does not have the rules you need to generate a new character.


It sounds simple, but don’t underestimate a good set of dice. You will be surprised by the various rituals you develop surrounding them. Don’t go overboard buying multiple sets, just purchase one that you can live with.

Other Miscellaneous Items

Pencil, Eraser, and spare paper are all useful for a gaming session. Some players will actually keep a game log or journal on their gaming sessions. You will also want a blank character sheet to record your PCs details on. I wouldn’t worry about purchasing miniatures right away, another player or  the DM should have a spare mini that you can use.

Dungeons & Dragons Insider Subscription

This isn’t something you will need right away. However, if you decide that D&D is the hobby for you a DDI subscription is well worth the investment. The use of character builder alone is a great feature, access to Dungeon magazine and Dragon magazines is an added plus.

Join us tomorrow when where we will discuss some key questions you should ask when you are developing a new character.

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1 skallawag January 13, 2010 at 1:31 pm

One thing I find lacking with D&D 4E in its current format is that it wouldn’t be something that a parent could just pick up for their kid and have them run with it. As you mentioned, things can be borrowed, but it’s still dependent on knowing someone who plays or has played D&D.

There’s been numerous occasions where my niece has been chomping at the bit to try D&D out, but because of the overall initial investment required before even starting an encounter, we end up playing something else. By initial investment, I’m talking about the 45 minutes to 1+ hours required for creating a character (without the DDI/Character Builder), which usually kills it for any kid 15 and younger.

Perhaps if Wizards brought back a “basic” version of the game, which maybe included dice and some miniatures, then the game could possibly appeal to the next generation and those looking to start off.

2 mistrlittlejeans January 14, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Wizards does have a “basic” version, or at least a starter’s box. I can’t seem to find it anywhere online, but I saw it last night at Toys’R’Us. I believe it has all the basic rules, some dice, and pregenerated characters to it’s ready to play. I could be wrong, but check it out. Otherwise go to this link: http://www.wizards.com/DnD/TryDnD.aspx and download the quickstart rules and Keep on the Shadowfell. There you go: pre-made characters, pre-made adventure. All you need are dice. Enjoy!

3 Philo Pharynx January 21, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Actually, I’ve found 4e better than most other editions in terms of teaching a new player. You need to decide race, class, ability scores, one feat, four powers, equipment. If you stick with just the PHB, it’s really quick.

In addition, they have the suggested builds, which helps immensely. With the DDI character creator, you can even do an automatic character. They aren’t optimized, but they can be a good place to start.

4 Harryjohnson March 25, 2011 at 10:48 am

Dungeons and Dragons is a really good game to play when I feel lonely is bored. It’s fun playing this game Not everyone will understand the joy of role-playing. Have fun.

5 tshippy May 3, 2011 at 8:07 am

i dont know where to look to buy a set ive never played but ive heard its an interesting game i have also heard there are adventure books to use but ive never tried where should i loook to buy the stuff

6 Wimwick May 3, 2011 at 11:53 am

Your local comic or gaming shop is the best place to go. Not only will the hold the products, but they can also put you in touch with other gamers.

If you don’t currently play and want to try it out give the D&D Encounters a try. They run every Wednesday and a new season is starting shortly. This will allow you to learn the game before you make a cash committement. The Wizards of the Coast website even has a search tool allowing you to find a location close to you.

Official D&D Website

7 Cullen February 2, 2013 at 10:54 am

I was intrigued by the starter kit mentioned above, and some quick searching online yielded this result:


I think I might try this out. I play 3.5, but this might be an easy way for me to get familiar with the new system, just as dnd next is coming out… damn.

8 Eeeee July 3, 2013 at 6:58 pm

My dad started playing d&d in the 70’s and still has some of the original books and things. This page and comments have been helpful in figuring out what to do to start playing. Thanks 🙂

9 Pink Typheus July 26, 2014 at 2:06 pm

I used to have a Pathfinder group (our DM got busy) and I decided that I wanted to play D&D and this website has helped out a lot. Thanks! ^.^

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