You’ve seen arcane and enigmatic books labeled Dungeons & Dragons at the bookstore. You’ve seen D&D players huddled and plotting like members of a secret society and wondered what unknown delights drew them together. You’ve heard that tabletop role-playing is a new performing art, a way of modern myth-making and a helluva party all rolled into one.
So how do you start playing D&D?
Whether it’s your first time out as Dungeon Master or a return to the role, you will face two core questions when starting a D&D campaign:
What are you going to play?
You, as DM, will choose the rule set and adventure which the players will enjoy. Based on your experience level, here are some great scenarios to start your campaign.
Experience Level: “I’m a complete newb”
If you can’t tell the difference between a D6 and a Gelatinous Cube, fear not! There are loads of products that exist to help you make this first foray into the world of gaming. For example:
The D&D Starter Set is everything you need from soup to nuts to start exploring the great 5th edition rule set.
If you like a bit more crunchy math and the pleasure of mastering it, try the Pathfinder Beginner Box. The fine folks at Paizo even made a video explaining all the goodness inside it and for the next few days, you can even get it (along with a whole heaping pile of Pathfinder goodies) through the Humble Book Bundle!
These are both totally solid products that will bring you hours of play for less than the cost of a night out.
Experience Level: “I played D&D in school. Those were the days, man…”
Let me be the first to welcome you back to living a richer life through role-playing. While you’ve been away spending your time in the “real world,” fantasy gaming has become more complicated, but also richer and more satisfying. There are now dozens and dozens of D&D clones, each with their own subtle flavor and rewards.
You could start a campaign with what is roundly considered the greatest D&D module of all time, Ravenloft. It’s gothic horror D&D, and you can get the PDF for pennies (four hundred and ninety-nine pennies) here. Or, wait a few weeks, and you can get a new 5th edition update of the adventure Curse of Strahd.
If you like horror, but your tastes run more Texas Chainsaw Massacre, try Scenic Dunnsmouth for the system Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Beneath the surface of a rustic fishing village, players will discover wretched secrets, (Hint: They’ve got eight legs, and I ain’t talking about crabs!) and the game has a village-building mechanic that is simply genius.
If old-time gaming is your thing, but you want something fresher, consider Frozen in Time from Dungeon Crawl Classics. Players get to bust up a time traveler’s glacial lair, and it’s the only extant adventure which includes laser guns and Andy Warhols in the booty.
Who is going to play?
This question is trickier by a mile.
If you’re going to play D&D, you either need to go out and find people who are already into D&D, or you need to get your friends to start playing (if they don’t already). I would suggest the latter because if you’re going to be spending hours at a table together , inviting people with whom you are already copacetic will doubtlessly make for a better experience. Furthermore, game designer Zak S. notes that a game of D&D (or any role-playing game, really) is kind of like a party, and a party is always better if your friends are there.
Got all that figured out? Check out some more tips for novice dungeon masters, or grab some great advice the world’s greatest GM! Want to get high-tech with your game? Here are some apps that can make your sessions flow smoothly. Of course, you can always watch Matt Mercer’s GM tips to get some prime pointers.
Feature image courtesy Wizards of the Coast
Image Credits: Wizards of the Coast, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Goodman Games