It’s a question I see asked every day: How do I get started/get better at playing Dungeons & Dragons? The Internet is flooded with helpful articles and videos covering how to play D&D. And you may have even watched and read many of them. But if you still feel like you’re struggling with that question, we have a solution for you with easy to follow videos, a way you can play without having to find a group, and maybe a few tricks you can share with your friends to get them to play.
I learned how to play D&D way back in the 1980s, when there were only two ways to learn how to play: the popular RTFM method, and actually playing. Now, in the Internet age, with so many ways to learn, I often think that can sometimes be as much of a problem as a solution.
After scouring hundreds of D&D vids looking for the best, most entertaining ones (which I would do anyway even if I weren’t writing about it), I’ve found the following Youtube channels and playlists I think are worthy to share. They each cover D&D basics of play in their own style, and really teach you the most fundamental elements needed to play.
D&D Basics by Tabletop Terrors
In this shor video, Tim and James tell you everything required to learn to play D&D. With their jovial and very relatable manner, they share the core basics of play, backed up with fantasy and real-world examples and scenarios that I easily follow along with.
One of the most impressive methods they use is to talk directly to the viewer, through asking question, directing you to visualize a certain RPG element, and even requesting you to share your thoughts with them, or with a D&D/RPG friend. Since D&D is at its core an interactive game, it only makes sense that it’s taught that way, and Tim and James do exactly that in this video.
It’s also notable that they do all this without any flashy graphics or music, nor do they even use dice, manuals, maps, or any other commonly used D&D equipment. It’s just them using their imaginations to share their obvious love of D&D and tabletop RPGs.
How to play Dungeons and Dragons by captcorajus
Youtuber captcorajus runs the RPG Retro Review Channel, where he posts reviews of retro and current RPGs, including D&D, Star Wars, Call of Cthulhu, Castles and Crusades, and many others. Each of his videos are under an hour short, and easy and entertaining to watch. His reviews are honest and explained well, and filled with trivia facts and his personal insights.
He has also posted a 4-part playlist titled “How to play Dungeons and Dragons”, aimed at introducing new and less-experienced players to D&D. The series also covers basic character creation, and concludes with a demonstration of play via an expert storytelling narration and voice acting.
This series is a bit more graphical than the D&D Basics video, but it doesn’t take the focus away from learning how to play with another tried and true method: inspiring the theater of the mind. His admirable storytelling method is supported by showing character sheets and die rolls when explaining skill checks and combat rolls, a nice added touch to further impress the learning mechanic. Set aside a full afternoon or evening when you can watch all the vids completely. Bring along a character sheet of your own to follow along with as well.
Running the Game by Matthew Colville
Ever heard the maxim, “the best way to learn something is to teach it”? That’s why Matthew Colville’s outstanding video series makes this list. If you’re really serious about wanting to learn how to play D&D, then consider becoming a Dungeon Master. This video series is precisely focused on helping and showing you how to be a DM, whether you’ve been playing D&D for many years, or even if you’ve never played before.
Colville’s vids are made exceptional due to his festive humor and use of geek to spice things up. And if you’re concerned that being a DM is more difficult than being a player, I think the quality of information shared, and the manner of sharing, go a long way to showing how learning to be a DM can be a great way to learn how to play D&D.
With those D&D basics videos out of the way, it’s time to move on to sharing a method I use to help learn those basics better, and reinforce the learning through actual use.
Prior to each Critical Role episode, I select which Vox Machina avatar I’ll be for that night’s session. I have all their character sheets printed out, and random die roll select one depending on who’s present for that episode. With that player sheet, and my D&D manuals and dice out on my desk, I ‘play along’ with the show in a faux form of interactivity.
For example, say I selected that magnificent bard known as Scanlan Shorthalt as my avatar for the night. Each time he (Sam Riegel) performs an action, from referencing one of the manuals to something requiring a die roll, I do the same. If he looks up a spell, I flip open my Player’s Handbook and also look up that spell. When he rolls for a skill check or an attack roll, I roll. If DM Mercer has to clarify or confirm a Shorthalt action, look up a monster stat, or magic item description, I whip open the appropriate manual and do the same.
I’m using their actual game as my own solo-player game, practicing the art of playing D&D without actually playing D&D. This is a method I’ve been using since shortly after the launch of D&D 4E, and it has been no less than an immense help to learn how to play (the current edition). It allows me to get into the mindset of a character, experience rolling dice, repeatedly looking in and reading the manuals, train on where things are on my character sheet, and practice on how to keep up with skills and abilities.
Watch these videos, and take notes. Watch them again, and take more notes. Print out your favorite Vox Machina character sheet, get your dice and manuals, and be ready for the next Critical Role show.
How are you learning to play D&D? Do you have a D&D learning tip? Share them with us in the Comments below!