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Diving into the World of Dungeons and Dragons: Helpful Tips for Beginners

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Nanyang Tech chapter.

Through the extremely popular Netflix series Stranger Things, the decades old tabletop roleplaying game Dungeons and Dragons, commonly abbreviated as D&D was brought back to the attention of mainstream media. This resurgence of D&D with new players resulted in a new D&D movie titled Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is set to release in 2023. Despite all this talk and excitement about D&D, speaking from experience, it can be quite daunting to get started in the game as a new player. Allow me, a fellow D&D novice equipped with the experience of a single oneshot and knowledge from my more experienced friends to give you some tips on how to get started in the rich world of D&D. As a disclaimer, this article will not cover the technical aspects of D&D—for such information please refer to the official D&D guidebooks (Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, Monster Manual) instead.

Tip 1: Listen to D&D Podcasts / Watch D&D Campaigns

Instead of Stranger Things, I would argue that it was the D&D podcasts and campaigns posted to Youtube that mainly kickstarted the renewed interest in D&D. Campaigns by groups such as The Adventure Zone and Critical Role brought the fun of D&D to us in a more accessible and inclusive format, and it was through these channels that my friends and I were first exposed to its gameplay. While specific rules pertaining to gameplay might be difficult to pick up, listening to or watching these campaigns unfold serves as an intriguing introduction to the basic mechanics of the game. However, remember to manage your expectations and not go into your first game expecting it to be just like theirs; have an open mind and have fun!

Some campaigns I would recommend you check out include:

  1. Critical Role Campaign 2: The Mighty Nein

This was a campaign recommended to me by my friend YJ back in 2019 and was the first campaign I had ever watched. It follows seven individuals (played by Liam O’Brien, Marisha Ray, Taliesin Jaffe, Ashley Johnson, Laura Bailey, Sam Riegel and Travis Willingham) who come together as a group called the ‘Mighty Nein’ on their adventures in the continent of Wildemount. This campaign introduced me to D&D and I still thoroughly enjoy watching it for its rich worldbuilding, its complex and likeable characters, and Matthew Mercer’s intriguing way of DM-ing. However, take note that the campaign is notably long (141 episodes, each episode running for around 3 hours) just in case you are not looking to commit to such a long series—I myself have not finished watching it after all these years.

  1. The Adventure Zone: The Balance Arc

This was a podcast campaign recommended by my friends V and W! This campaign follows a group of three adventurers (played by the McElroy brothers) who go on an adventure to retrieve the Grand Relics as part of their work for an organisation called the Bureau of Balance. While I haven’t actually listened to it, judging from the clips I’ve seen, I agree with my friends who mentioned that it had a good narrative, “very character driven”, “funny voices, great homebrew items” and they “[really] have fun with it”. However, it is not a great podcast to learn D&D rules from as they do not follow rules closely in their campaign.

  1. Campaigns by Dimension 20

Although I have not watched any of the campaigns by Dimension 20, I have a good impression of it from watching the trailers on their Youtube channel and have heard good things about it from friends and the internet. From what I’ve seen, their campaigns feature stunning sets, frankly unique and creative storylines that deviate from the conventional D&D setting as well as amazing Dungeon Masters (DM) (honestly the DMs for all the aforementioned campaigns are stellar). Dimension 20 is also better for those who cannot commit to the length of campaigns; Dimension 20 campaigns tend to last for an average of 20 episodes which is much shorter than the usual. Despite some of their campaigns being available on their Youtube channel (The Unsleeping City, Fantasy High), most of their newer releases are only accessible via subscription to Dropout, so one will have to pay to watch them.

Tip 2: Look into Online D&D resources

We get it, doing research on D&D can seem tedious and daunting due to the never ending stream of information available on both the internet and the official guidebooks; but really, it is more about not knowing where to start! 

What my friends and I would recommend is to start with videos found on popular social media platforms (Tiktok, Youtube, Instagram etc.) which convey tidbits of rulebook information in a stimulating and digestible manner. While these may not necessarily give beginners a clear picture of the game’s rules, they can help you to figure out which aspects of the game you like the most and focus more on those. Having an idea of what you like makes you more excited for the game, motivating you to read up more about D&D.

Listed below are some of our go to channels and accounts:

While the core rules of D&D are written in the guidebooks, there are still free online resources available that are more accessible to beginners (especially those who do not wish to commit to purchasing the rulebooks yet). DnDBeyond is a website that my friends and I use which provides information on the basic spells, classes and races. It also features a character builder tool which makes character creation much easier as well as other tools that allow one to facilitate a campaign online. Should one decide to venture into the contents of sourcebooks later on ( i.e. Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything etc.), these are available for purchase digitally on the site either individually or in a bundle with the essential sourcebooks (Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, Monster Manual). The additional playable content in these books will also be made available in your character creation sheet and more.

If you’re looking for answers to a specific aspect of the game that you’re stumped on, my friend YJ recommends looking towards the D&D subreddit for guides and answers. It’s also a good place to get inspiration for new characters whilst checking out the creative content other D&D players around the world have come up with.

Tip 3: Don’t be shy, Reach out to others online

Now that you’re equipped with the basic knowledge of the game, you’re revving to go…but you don’t know anyone you can play with. Don’t worry! Try reaching out to others through social media platforms or ask around active players you know. There’s a high chance that interested parties will respond to an instagram story asking if “anyone [is] playing D&D?”, and then they’ll link you up with other interested players in their social circles. My friend YJ also suggested checking in with Fast Forward NTU, NTU’s Board Gaming Society as they also play D&D.

Really don’t know anyone who plays D&D? Try contacting a game shop in your area instead! While some of the game shops which host D&D games have sadly closed down due to the pandemic, there are still some scattered around Singapore. One of them I know of is called TableMinis which hosts taster sessions for D&D, giving you the opportunity to call some friends to come along or even step out of your comfort zone and play with strangers. Who knows? You might come out of it with a new D&D group!

Tip 4: Start small with One-Shots

Recommended by friends W and V, starting with a one shot (not a series like an entire campaign) is a good way to get started with D&D. It allows beginners to figure out through firsthand experience what they like or dislike about the game before they delve into it properly. It can also help to build up experience before delving into a proper campaign and give you a space in which you can test out characters. As a university student with a hectic schedule, it’s understandable if you can’t commit to a regular campaign. Therefore, a one shot is ideal as it allows you to have fun in D&D without the commitment. In the event that you don’t have a group or your group is missing a DM, some game shops like the aforementioned TableMinis host such one shots for a fee, but be sure to do your research and book a slot before heading down.

Tip 5: Communicate with your Dungeon Master (DM) and take notes!

For those of you who are already playing sessions, my friend W suggests communicating consistently with your DM. Doing so can benefit you by ensuring that you are aware of and can thus internalise the correct rules and gameplay at every step of the game. This is especially important if your One Shot or Campaign contains Homebrew content, as homebrew rules (or lack thereof) can lead to confusion and misconceptions that may carry on to future games. If you are blessed with a patient DM that cares to do so, I believe that you will be able to learn a lot from your games!

Additionally, take notes during the game to ease the burden on your DM. Your DM has a lot on their plate: managing Non Playable Characters, dealing with the shenanigans of the players, tracking lore and plot points and so on. By taking notes, you make it easier for everyone at the table to engage in the game and for the DM to keep the game going. Besides, to quote my friend YJ, “it’s not the DMs responsibility to remind players of everything eg. plot points” and “DMs will appreciate [it] as long as their players are making an active effort to be invested in the world they are building.” Either way, taking notes is a good habit as it serves as a way to keep you invested in the game and can function as a souvenir to remember that particular game in the future.

To end, I would like to quote my friend YJ to “[not] be [a jerk] and put in the effort to play and slowly learn stuff, people are always quite patient with newbies as long as they are trying”. Every player and DM is learning together through games, so don’t be afraid to ask or admit to not knowing; it’s normal, especially for beginners, but I hope that the tips included in this article help to make your journey easier. Last but not least, have fun in D&D!

Wen Xuan Yiow

Nanyang Tech '24

English Literature and Art History student with a passion for fashion. Self proclaimed connoisseur of "Chick Flicks" who is currently having too much fun with the Twilight Renaissance.