Dungeons & Dragons: The Adventure Begins
Story and photos by Alexandra Apatiga
What exactly is Dungeons & Dragons?
You’ve probably seen references to this popular tabletop roleplaying game in the media, like Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” or maybe you’re an avid viewer of the weekly Twitch stream “Critical Role,” where “a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors sit around and play Dungeons & Dragons.”
A fantasy roleplaying game first published in 1974 by creators Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, D&D allows players to create characters based on creatures of fantasy and magic and set out on adventures in a fantasy setting.
Guided by a “Dungeon Master,” or DM, their role is to guide players through a campaign composed of various quests and storylines. A campaign can last anywhere between several sessions to a one-shot game. Players can utilize the same character for continuous campaigns or create brand new ones for each game. This flexibility allows for long-form storytelling and gives D&D unlimited replayability.
Unlike other tabletop games where players compete, D&D is all about collaboration, improvisation, storytelling, and imagination.
For all D&D has to offer, breaking into the game can be a daunting task. The biggest question new players have may be, “Where do I even begin?”
How to get started
Despite how deep the lore and mechanics of D&D go, players only really need a copy of the basic rules, a set of dice, character sheets, pencils, and a group of friends to play with.
The “Player’s Handbook” is the official rulebook for D&D fifth edition. It has all the basic rules and provides guidelines for character creation, as well as equipment, creatures, spells, and lore. For those wanting to test the waters before buying, game publisher Wizards of the Coast has a PDF of the basic rules and downloadable character sheets free online. With this, players have access to various character classes, backgrounds, and game mechanics.
Once you have your hands on the rules and some character sheets, you’ll need a set of polyhedral dice. Coming in sets of seven, these weirdly shaped dice are used in the game to calculate damage, ability checks, saving rolls, and more.
The next big leap—finding a group to play with. There are two routes you can take: You can use word of mouth to find players, or you can use sites like Roll20 to find groups online.
So you think you can DM?
Preparing as a player takes a lot of thought and consideration, but the role of a DM is what truly makes D&D possible. It requires time, dedication, and a passion for the game, your players, and the world you all create together. As the storyteller of your campaign, you are the heroes’ allies and worst enemies, the shopkeep, the city watch, and much more.
To be the DM of your own campaign there are really only three things you need: a copy of the “Dungeon Master’s Guide,” the “Monster Manual,” and a DM screen. It’s recommended that new DMs take up a pre-existing campaign before purchasing the DM’s guide. The basic rules from Wizards of the Coast can also be used by novice DMs to learn D&D in tandem.
Pre-made campaigns kits such as the Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Kit provide ready-made characters, npcs (non-player characters), locations, and story treads for the DM to use and tweak however they please. There are also tons of free online resources for DMs. Dungeon Master’s Guild is a great website for browsing D&D content such as character classes, items, spells, campaigns, and more.
Most importantly, a good DM must have a love for the story and the characters. DMing isn’t for everyone, as it takes a certain amount of dedication to craft a cohesive story for players. It is a role that one gets better at with time, so if you’re willing to put in the effort, you will be able to create a world entirely your own.