Welcome! I am so excited to see you here. If you are reading this then you are thinking about playing the board game Dungeons and Dragons for the first time. I’m so excited to get you started on your first adventure with tabletop games. First and foremost, congratulations on your choice. Few board games top the OG TTRPG Dungeons and Dragons. So, let’s get into what you might need to know and what you’ll want to have before your first game.
#1 - A party to play with - Maybe a friend at work or school asked you to play, or maybe your curiosity got the better of you and you found a party online, either way here you are, sitting at session zero with your DM and party members. Your DM should point you in the direction of online resources for character building and character sheets, they may also have physical copies of the books for you to use. Even with in-person TTRPGs. You’ll get help building your very own character. You pick the race, class, equipment, name, and general appearance. Some DMs will have you roll stats, before or after you decide your class, while others use a point buy-in system so make sure to ask your DM which method they are using.
#2 - Dice...All of them. After you create your character at session zero you will typically have a week to gather your supplies. The first thing most players look at is dice. Dice dictate how the game goes. D&D is by large a strategy game. It can also be a world or city building game. It can also be a simple economics game if that is how the DM and players want to play. It is, however, always a game of chance. The dice dictate everything from how hard your character hits, if they hit, to how well your character can lie, flirt, or bargain. Even at higher levels if you end up rolling a one you can still epically fail. There are those who say that you only need one set, but you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
Dice come in a seemingly endless variety. You can buy them bulk if you like having a variety or you can buy single sets like one of the ever-popular Chessex Gemini sets. Your typical dice set will range between $5 and $10 like this stunning set of soul decay dice. You can find specialized dice that can exceed a couple of hundred dollars. These are typically made with special materials like gemstones or actual bone. Dice bags, dice trays, and dice towers are also great to have ready for session one.
#3 - A character. While there are several options for character representation out there, like D&D paper miniatures and game tokens, the most popular is the Dungeons and Dragons miniatures. You can buy D&D painted miniatures though they really aren’t your best option if you are looking for cheap D&D miniatures. Painted miniatures tend to cost more and lack the variety that D&D miniatures unpainted have. Unpainted miniatures also give you control over how your character looks.
Custom D&D miniatures are achieved when you buy unpainted D&D miniatures and then paint them to fit your character description. Let’s say you want to build a druid. You buy the miniature druid, from Nolzur’s marvelous miniatures, and the miniature paint set, from Nolzur’s marvelous pigments. Some D&D groups will do D&D miniature painting as a group while others leave their players to do it on their own. If you do decide to take up dungeons and dragons painting, make sure to grab a couple of miniatures to practice on before setting the brush to your own character, though buying D&D miniatures bulk style may not be your best option unless you want to pursue DMing in the future.
After you have a party to play with, a miniature painted and ready to go, and a set, or a horde of dice, you are ready to play! So, let’s talk about what you can expect at session one. You’ll sit down, around the table with friends or strangers. It’s nerve-wracking and exciting. The DM could have a few D&D boards or battle maps laid out. A popular option is the square/hex grid, like this one, that can be used to draw a variety of dungeons and town buildings. Some DMs will use miniatures for the taverns and homes, such as this table miniature. Others will draw everything out on the grids.
D&D is played using imagination. Feel free to get into character. Use a weird voice, adopt an accent, and a unique speech pattern as you grow more comfortable. Always ask questions and always ask for help. A good DM will take the time to make sure you understand what you are doing.
Special tips from a DM who has welcomed several new players to their table recently.
1- Try not to be too hard on yourself in the first couple of games. In-depth character building can take upwards of 6 hours so don’t expect to grasp every single aspect of gameplay in your first session.
2- Don’t be ashamed to use a calculator. After adding your base attack bonus, your Strength modifier, your feat bonuses, it might get a bit overwhelming to keep the numbers straight. Use the calculator, it really is fine.
3- Take notes! If you don’t take notes then the party has to waste half an hour arguing about what did and did not happen. Write down town names, NPC names, what you were doing, and what kind of quest you were halfway through. Write everything down and read over it before sitting at the table so it is fresh in your mind.
4 - It is a game. Tabletop games for kids and adults are all about having fun. If D&D isn’t fun for you, try finding a new group to play with.
5 - Bring snacks. Some sessions last for hours, so bring snacks. Ask if the party normally does a snack to share or if they do a BYO method.
Written by: Melissa Crosby