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10 Basics A Player Needs For Their First Dungeons & Dragons Game

So, you want to play Dungeons & Dragons. However, it's going to be your very first time and you have NO clue how to prepare. It can seem a little overwhelming at first. Dungeons & Dragons (or D&D for short) is often depicted in popular culture as being quite complex with tons of rules and math. This can be true to some extent as past editions of the game all function a little differently. The 5th edition is the newest incarnation of the game and by far it is the most accessible for new players. With this in mind, any books and materials mentioned will be from the 5th edition. Without further ado, here are ten, bare-bone, basic things you will need for your first game of Dungeons & Dragons!

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10 The Player’s Handbook

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First and foremost, a player needs their own copy, digital or physical, of the Player’s Handbook. This book contains the nuts and bolts that control how the game is played. There are detailed instructions that walk you through every aspect of gameplay from role-playing, combat, creating a character, and managing your character.

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It contains all of the basic options for character race, class, weapons, armor, and backgrounds. Once you get this book, be sure to read it cover to cover as many times as necessary so you can understand how the game works. However, if you’re still confused, don’t worry; one of the best ways to learn D&D is to play! Just keep your Player’s Handbook on hand for reference and don’t be afraid to admit mistakes.

9 Character Sheets

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Character sheets are a must-have and it's a good rule of thumb to have plenty of extras available. A character sheet is a collection of crucial information about your character. It lists their health, stats, class, abilities, inventory, spells, and if you so choose, their backstory and personality details. The formats vary in 5th edition for players of varying skill and experience with the information being organized in different ways. Even if you’re brand new to the game, look at all of the formats anyway to find the one that works best for you. An additional tip is to only use pencil on your sheets because many things on there will change as a character levels up and grows. Always bring your character sheet to every single session!

8 Notebook And Writing Utensils

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A blank notebook and pens or pencils are another thing a player should bring to the table. When you play D&D, you and your fellow players are going through a story being told by your dungeon master. The dungeon master will give you background information and location descriptions that will be useful to keep a note of in case you forget.

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In addition, you’ll want to keep track of the events of the story, any treasures you acquire, clues on how to progress, and perhaps even your character's thoughts and feelings to help you role-play. Notes don’t have to be long and overly-detailed, what matters is having a way to keep tabs on what's going so you don’t get lost or forget something that could be important.

7 Dice

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You can’t play Dungeons and Dragons without dice! Rolling dice determines nearly everything in the game; whether your attack hits or misses, whether you can successfully perform an action, or the outcome of a contest between characters. Many players and dungeon masters own many, many sets of dice of various colors and materials. When you're just starting out, you can buy any numbered dice that catch your eye. In D&D shorthand, dice are referred to by how many sides they have; d20, for example, is a 20 sided die. To play, you’ll need to purchase a set that has a d20, d12, d10, d8, d6, d4, and d100 (also called a percentage die). These will meet all of your rolling needs for the game.

6 Character Ideas

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After you’ve given the Player’s Handbook a good read-through, a few ideas for characters might be swirling around in your brain. Good! Many games of Dungeons and Dragons will have a session zero. The purpose of this is for all of the players to create their characters together.

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This is often done so that the resulting adventuring party works well together as a team. So, when it comes time to gather around the table for the first time, it's helpful for you to have a few ideas in mind. What role does your character play in the group? What is their personality? What is the character's backstory? Don’t worry if you don’t have the exact answers to these questions, it’ll all come together in time.

5 An Open Mind

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While this might not be a physical object, it's nevertheless an important thing to bring with you to your first game. For instance, you’ve read the Player’s Handbook and memorized all of the rules. When you sit down to play for the first time, the dungeon master allows things that are, technically, against the rules or doesn’t allow things that are in the rules. Before getting upset, ask why. There could be a story-based reason the dungeon master is running the game the way they are. Or maybe, you don’t get to implement your character ideas in quite the way you envisioned. An open mind is important in both cases because you never know what could make the game fun.

4 Back-Up Characters

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Remember how it was suggested to have multiple character sheets and character ideas? Well, that's so you can have back-up characters at the ready! Sometimes, you just have a run of bad luck and your character will die. This could even happen in the very first session so it's always good to be prepared.

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Not only can this help you not get stuck on the sidelines during a session, creating characters can be a lot of fun! You get to develop many different concepts to see what works and discover what you love to play. Whatever you create, remember to keep your open mind handy because it needs to also fit in with the other players and the dungeon master’s story.

3 A D&D Beyond Account (Website And App)

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D&D Beyond is a very useful online tool created by the same company that makes Dungeon and Dragons. If you prefer a more technological approach rather than pen and paper, then this could be a staple in your D&D kit. D&D Beyond contains digital copies of all 5th edition books and a character creator.

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Making a basic account is free and gets you access to the basic rules (not the full Player’s Handbook, that must still be purchased) and six slots to create and store characters. The character creator takes out all of the trickier bits of making and leveling up characters so the process is quick and easy. Your digital character sheet is interactive and can be adjusted without constant marking and erasing.

2 Good Communication

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Good communication for D&D is made up of three crucial parts. First is listening. You have to pay close attention to what the dungeon master is saying so you know what is going on in the game and can act accordingly. You also have to listen to what your fellow players have to say. Second, you have to have a constructive and cooperative discourse with your fellow players. Going through a dungeon and combat can be a tactical endeavor and requires teamwork. Third, is communicating your intentions and actions. The dungeon master not only keeps track of the players, but they control the scenario and any number of monsters as well. It's imperative whenever you take action to state it clearly and if you’re not sure, ask questions.

1 A Group To Play With

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Lastly, you need to find a good group to play Dungeons & Dragons with. As a brand-new player, finding the right group can be a difficult process full of questions. Should you try to rope some friends into playing or take the plunge with strangers? Should you join a group of veterans or newbies like yourself? Should you play in person or through the Internet? Rather than try and answer all these questions, think instead of a checklist that a potential group should have. A good group, whether they’re experienced or not, should be willing to help each other understand the rules, communicate as detailed previously, and above all else, create a space where everyone is comfortable and having fun.

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