Dungeons & Dragons offers a complex world full of magic, creatures, races, and seemingly never-ending lore. Its popularity has made it one of the main pillars of geek culture and a great way to spend your Friday night. D&D has exploded in modern media, with series like The Adventure Zone and Critical Role raising interest in the iconic fantasy game.
It’s a game that relies heavily on imagination and creative skills along with often confusing rules. How do you become a Dungeon Master? Where do you even start? And why the heck are there so many dice?!
There’s a lot of intricacies that come with starting a campaign. The Starter Set is extremely helpful, but even that can be overwhelming to new players. We’re going to cover the very basics of starting a campaign, and tackle the hardest parts of delving into D&D.
TIME TO GROUP UP!
So, you’ve decided to dabble in the world of D&D. Perhaps you already have a group of friends in mind? Or maybe your friends aren’t exactly into tabletop role-playing games.
If you already have a group, wonderful! If somebody in the group has already played a game or two before, this is already a huge advantage. Relying on experienced players can help you understand the game faster. If nobody in your group has played before, don’t despair. Everyone was a beginner once. At this stage, everyone should read summaries of the D&D rules to get started. These can be found in the Player’s Handbook, which will explain the dice, basic rules, character creation, and much more. Many videos online also summarise the basics for new players.
Ideally, your group should be made up of imaginative people whom you feel comfortable roleplaying with. D&D can also be a great way to get to know someone, though some can struggle with roleplaying amongst people they’re unfamiliar with. At the end of the day, the game will usually require an element of social interaction. This may not be every geek’s forte, but your common interest in your campaign should give you plenty to talk about.
If you don’t have a group of friends in mind, many new players are also looking for people to group up with. Yes, this will require first time meetings with strangers, but perhaps a lifelong friendship will be born! Some local game stores will also run campaigns, so take a look online. It’s a great way to get involved in the D&D world with experienced players.
WHO WANTS TO BE THE DM?
The responsibility of running a campaign will fall to your Dungeon Master (DM). The DM usually has prior experience with the game, but it isn’t uncommon for a DM to also be a first-time player.
The DM will require a higher understanding of gameplay knowledge, but that doesn’t mean they need to know everything. The Dungeon Master’s Guide will prove helpful, along with the previously outlined reading.
As a Dungeon Master, you supply the setting and content for your players. This is both a fun and difficult task, as you will often become the most responsible for organising sessions and sorting out your team. You may choose to run an entirely self-made campaign, which relies on a lot of creativity. Otherwise, a great introduction to being a DM are pre-written campaigns. This allows you to understand the responsibilities of a DM without throwing you in the (Water)deep end.
It’s important that the DM has fun, too; you’re not just there to remind people to roll the dice. You should enjoy the campaign as well, watching your players bicker and fight hordes of goblins. Watching the campaign play out is one of the most interesting parts of being a DM.
THE FIRST SESSION
You don’t need the most extravagant miniatures or maps to play D&D. Come armed with pencils, character sheets, dice and your imagination — and you’ll be set. You can also utilise online resources such as D&D Beyond, if you prefer to go digital! It’s important to have a large player space where players can see one another and spread out. Snacks are essential, we all need to munch on something while fending off enemies.
If you’re playing with friends, you have the luxury of already knowing your group. It’s important to be supportive when others make mistakes, slip out of roleplay, or ask loads of questions. Remember, the game is supposed to be fun! It can be hard to enjoy yourselves if you take things too seriously. Allow room for antics and exploration. You’re not the only player, so give others a chance to speak and make decisions.
If you’re playing with others for the first time, it may be harder to feel out the play style of your group. Get to know your group as you play, you may want to follow the example of more experienced players. Treat your first session as a test-run; it’s important that you never feel like you have to force yourself to remain in a campaign. It may be awkward at first, but you’ll get the hang of it.
SURVIVING CAMPAIGN BURNOUT
After your first few sessions, your campaign may be subject to D&D burnout. Let’s be honest, it’s super hard to organise that many schedules and decide on one day and time to meet up. Some players may lose interest, your DM may find running a campaign too difficult, it may not be as fun anymore.
Some campaigns may not work out, and you never want to push people to keep playing. However, if you think your group works well together, you may want to take a few extra steps to try and prolong the life of your D&D campaign.
Try and set aside a specific day a few weeks/months in advance which is dedicated to playing D&D. Sessions don’t have to be once a week, but you should try and meet up enough that nobody loses interest in the game. Make sure you give others a chance to actually play the game. Let them talk and interact. Most DMs appreciate constructive feedback and positive affirmation that you’re enjoying the game, so let them know when you’re having fun.
If you think there’s a fundamental issue with your group which can’t be resolved, never be ashamed to make a graceful exit. You may have better luck with a new group.
D&D is a complex game that moulds to the playstyle of each campaign. Its diverse rules and lore is what makes it appealing to a wide range of people. You shouldn’t let its extensive gameplay stop you from trying it out. At the end of the day, it’s a creative and fun way to spend time with your friends.
The best way to get to know the game is to make a start — so we say you should go for it!