A Beginner’s Guide to Dungeons & Dragons

When I told my dad that I joined my first Dungeons & Dragons campaign, his initial reaction was “I thought that game died out in the ’80s?” Then he told me I was a nerd (which isn’t really all that untrue). 

Despite D&D still not being the most well-known game, I’ve noticed it’s been gaining a lot more attention because of shows like Stranger Things and nerdy games like it generally becoming more mainstream. At George Mason alone, there’s a tabletop club with well over 300 members in the Discord server the club is run through! 

I started playing D&D during my freshman year after lots of internal debate about whether or not I’d be good enough to play. Self-consciousness about being a new player seems to be one of the larger reasons people have for not wanting to start the hobby. Here’s the thing though, a large majority of people who play D&D are beyond excited to help new players figure out the game so everyone can have the best experience possible. 

I think another reason people are apprehensive about playing D&D is that it seems like a really expensive hobby, but it’s really one where it’s as expensive as you want it to be. Sure, if you want to go on Amazon and buy a Player Handbook and six sets of dice, you totally can, but most of those resources exist online too. 

Honestly, you’d be surprised how many free PDFs of official Dungeons & Dragons’ books you’ll find online. If you don’t wanna scroll through a PDF though, there’s also super user-friendly websites like D&D Beyond that let you make characters from scratch! These websites make it really easy to understand how all the different parts of the traditional character sheet work together to help form a fully fleshed-out character. 

Related: Character Creation

If you are going to spend money on anything, however, I’d definitely recommend buying dice rather than books. Dice are substantially cheaper, and it’ll be way easier to just roll a physical dice rather than having some kind of website pulled up on your phone to do it. Being on your phone in general really just pulls you out of the roleplay aspect of the game and can even ruin your experience at times. Not to mention, some dice are absolutely gorgeous and your fellow players will freak out in excitement if you walk in and declare that you got a new set of dice.

The next lesson to starting out is a lesson in creativity and imagination. All D&D campaigns are led by a Dungeon Master who crafts this really cool world you get to explore. This is the person that will also help you most with making your character and telling you what you can and can’t do in reference to the world you’ll be playing in. The majority of DM’s I’ve had are usually lenient on what you can and can’t do so everyone has a really fun time. 

That being said, if you think something is too outlandish or crazy or impossible, you can probably do it and definitely should. Sometimes the DM can veto you on this, but if they don’t, run for your life with it because it will more than likely be cool as hell. 

The roleplay aspects of the game can definitely be hard to master, so coming up with these outside the box (or really outside the book in this case) scenarios can be difficult at first. Nobody’s going to expect you to be doing crazy voices or understand exactly what everything means at your first session, or even your second or third. Getting over that pressure and anxiety and just letting your mind take a deep dive into these fantastic fantasy worlds your DM creates is really the key to making the most of your first campaign.