With Earth Week taking place, we thought that it would be a good idea to bring gamers back to their roots with Dungeons and Dragons. Pen and paper D&D is one of the most green forms of gaming. Every game ends with only a little paper to recycle and some great memories to share.
There’s a fair number of gamers who aren’t familiar with how to play D&D or even where to get started so we put together a little guide to help you along your way to taking over as your group’s Dungeon Master.
If you’re unfamiliar with Dungeons and Dragons, Gary Gyax and Dave Ameson created the pen and paper RPG in 1974. The goal is for players to create an adventure using solely their imagination. Players construct characters that they take on an adventure to accomplish a goal set out for them by the Dungeon Master (often referred to as the DM). This DM controls the scenario and circumstances that players might encounter along their journey.
There are some basic items that you need before you can start playing. D&D is meant to be somewhat portable so that you can play it where you are, so the materials needed aren’t that big of a commitment fiscally or space-wise.
• Player’s Handbook
• Pen (Pencil)
• Graph or printer paper
• Pre-made character sheets (optional)
The Player’s Handbook contains everything that you will need to create and equip your character. Between these pages lies the basic gameplay and exploration rules, though the DM should be familiar with the rules to education new players. Make sure that you don’t purchase the Player’s Handbook 2 since it doesn’t have the character rules in it for whatever reason.
You’ll need a good set of dice too. You shouldn’t have to worry about purchasing individual dice, you can find them in a set and it will have all the dice that you need. Should you want to double check, make sure that the set has these dice: d20, d12, d10, d8, 4d6, 2d4.
The rest of the items should be found in your house. You’ll need a pen or pencil and some paper, preferably graph paper, for recording player and game stats. While there’s nothing wrong with creating your own character sheets, there are some pretty good ones available for free online that you can print and use.
The basics of Dungeons and Dragons can be broken down into five steps:
1. Find a group
2. Character Creation
3. Stat Tracking
4. Accept a Scenario
5. Roll some d20s
Find a group
Having a reliable and fun group of friends is vital to having a good D&D experience, especially when you are first starting out. You’ll need three to seven people for a campaign, so you may have to do some searching to get enough players together. This shouldn’t be too difficult though, as there are actually a large number of people out there that are looking for groups. You just have to know where to look.
If you attend a college or university, you might check the campus events board for campaign listings or look for a Role Playing Club that has open campaigns that you can join. Who knows, you might find that the guy who sits across from you in Economics is really into D&D. If you’re out of school or would rather go somewhere with a different crowd, find a tabletop and board gaming shop nearby and check their website for upcoming campaigns. These shops are often small or in areas that you wouldn’t expect so look online for stores around you, they might be closer than you think. Both Blue Highway Games and Ernie’s Games in the Seattle area hold regular campaigns and are pretty receptive to newcomers.
Another really great place to meet other D&D players is at conventions like PAX and GenCon. There are dedicated areas for teaching new players the basics and most players are there to have fun, so they are open to answering any questions you might have.
Since D&D is all about using your imagination, the character creation process can become quite the event. Before you start creating your character, you will need to choose a class. The class that you choose will depend highly on your play-style. It doesn’t make sense to choose a warrior if you like to play as a spellcaster with long ranged attacks. You’ll have to determine how deep you want to go into your character’s backstory before you start crafting your character.
Depending on the people that you are playing with, you might only cover the basics or you might end up delving into your character’s childhood memories and the death of their parents. This can be used to determine the motivation for their fighting, it gives the player a few different factors that they can use in combat situations to determine how their character will react. It can get pretty intense so be ready to spend some time on your character. You should be sure to take into account what scenario your DM has chosen as that can have an impact on the skills that you will want to develop for your character.
Stat tracking is one of the most important aspects of a campaign as it determines how the entire scenario plays out. It is very important to keep both character and game stats as accurate as possible, which is why the pre-made character stat sheets come in handy. The DM will do a good portion of the game stats, but you will be responsible for keeping track of everything that your character does.
You’ll also be keeping a player journal and character log to keep track of your character’s role in the campaign. These aren’t as necessary for beginners, but they are fun to do along the way so that you have a story of what happened during each campaign at a later point.
Accepting a Scenario
This is the easiest step for the player as the DM does the work of finding a scenario that they like from the Dungeon Master’s Guide. He presents the players with his choices and they talk over all of the available options before deciding on the one that they deem to be the most rewarding or fun to play. It’s generally a good idea to have a copy of the Dungeon Master’s guide on hand even if you aren’t usually the DM. You might end up being the most experienced D&D player in the room and have to take over.
Roll some d20s
No, you probably won’t be rolling mostly d20s, but that is the goal! When a situation arises during play that has a possibility of failure, the DM will roll a 20-sided die and if the player rolls a higher number than the DM, the outcome is in the player’s favor. Other dice are used to determine how much damage a player deals or takes. The basic dice set will come with a variety of die that have different uses, so you’ll have to refer to the Player’s Handbook for information on situations when the rest of these will come into play, though it isn’t very hard to figure it out after a turn or two.
You’ll find that once you know the basics, pen and paper gaming isn’t as scary as it seems. The barrier to entry is fairly low and with some instruction, you might find that you’re a bigger fan of D&D than you knew. This may seem like the most obvious part of playing, but have some fun. With the help of what you learned here and the Player’s Handbook, it doesn’t take long to get a game started. D&D is all about having a good time. So grab some friends, set aside a Saturday, and start rolling.