Since the 1970s, Dungeons and Dragons has kept thousands of people rolling dice and scratching at pieces of paper. It's an incredible form of entertainment, allowing players to do anything they please, the only limitations being their imaginations and how high of a number they roll on a twenty-sided die. In the past decade, the game has seen a meteoric rise in popularity thanks to creators like Geek and Sundry, a YouTube channel that is host to voice actor and Dungeon Master Matthew Mercer and his group of friends as they play D&D in their series Critical Role. Their popularity, as well as countless other podcasts, series, and graphic novels, has created a lot of interest in the game, with many new players wondering what it takes to get into the game. While it may seem daunting from the outside looking in, there's surprisingly little to it.
At the very least, players are going to need a few different things to get started. First and foremost, players to have to know the rules. Luckily, there are several different ways to find this information, each at different price points. The Player's Handbook, or PHB as it's often referred to online, is the most comprehensive option out there. It offers hundreds of pages on items, rules, races, and classes, which ensures that players who read it in its entirety will have a strong grasp of what's happening and what they should be doing. However, brand new players should focus specifically on the rules surrounding their own characters. Reading everything can be quite daunting, and will lead to a lot of confusion more often than not.
For those not looking to invest too much into the game initially, there are other ways to get the information, though they aren't as complete. These come in the form of the Starter Kit and the Essentials Kit. Both will give players character sheets, a smaller version of the rules for the game, a pre-written adventure for a group to play through, and some dice, all of which are essential. However, the Starter Kit doesn't actually come with the rules for character creation, instead opting for pre-made character sheets. There are still blank ones in the box, though creating a character is easily the most daunting aspect of the game for new players, so it's a glaring omission. That being said, it makes the Starter Kit better for players who just want to jump right in without too much hassle.
The Essentials Kit, on the other hand, includes the rules for making custom characters as well as a DM Screen, which is a good tool, and magic item cards. For a few extra dollars, the Essentials Kit is definitely the one worth getting. It will help reduce a lot of the cost for those that choose to play more seriously in the future, too. The instructions stop after level 6, so players will need to get the Players Handbook for the rest of the character creation rules, but it's probably worth it for those that get that far.
Dice are also important to have, as they are the key element to actually playing the game. The Essential and Starter kits will both come with a set of dice, but the Players Handbook will require players to get their own. Luckily, dice are usually fairly cheap and can be found at pretty much any comic shop or purchased online in bulk.
Finally, there's the Dungeon Master's Guide. It's similar to the Player's Handbook, but for those that will actually be running the game. It's a great tool, though it revolves less around playing the game, and more around world-building and items. It is possible to play the game without it and instead opt for online guides, but it really can help create an immersive world, so it's worth investing in most the time.
All of these items should be available at any local comic book shop, though they can be pretty pricey. For those that aren't certain whether or not they'll actually enjoy playing, it's probably smarter to start out with one of the basic kits, then move on to the other books once they're sure whether or not they enjoy it. It's also possible to get the items on Amazon for a pretty hefty discount, though going to a comic shop can help you connect with other players.
Finding A Group
The hardest part of D&D is finding a regular group to play with, especially for adults. Dungeons and Dragons can take up quite a bit of time, and it usually involves syncing up 4-5 different schedules to play regularly. The easiest route is to just find some friends to play with. It helps ensure that there's no awkwardness at the table, and at least means that there will be a good group dynamic. For those that don't know anyone else interested in playing, comic shops regularly host game nights, and there will almost always be groups looking to pick up a new player or two. Plus, most of those players will have experience and are usually more than willing to help new players learn to play. Lastly, there's the option of playing online. Services like the website Roll20 make it possible to play with anyone in the world, and internet forums like Reddit always have threads of groups looking for new players.
However, each group is different and that's not always a good thing. It's important to find a group that you mesh well with, otherwise, the game will have little to no appeal. Some groups are constantly obnoxious and getting off track, which leads to nothing ever being accomplished. Others will find ways to optimize the fun out of the game, with every scenario simply being steamrolled through. D&D is best when there's a balance between messing around and accomplishing a goal, and the perfect balance is a little different for everyone. Focus on finding people that you enjoy being around, and recognize that it's okay to drop out of a group if you simply don't feel like you belong there.
Players that want to get the most out of D&D have quite a few different things they can get to add to their experience. This mostly pertains to combat, as the game is best played on an erasable mat or with tiles and figurines that represent characters. These items can wind up costing a pretty penny, especially for those that want to add physical representations of buildings, ships, and the like. These aren't necessities, as the game can be played with just a few pieces of paper and some pencils, though adding this additional layer can make it much easier to keep track of combat, and the basics are probably worth investing in.
There are also other books that can add to the experience, like the Monster Manual. That book, in particular, will help keep the game interesting, as it offers hundreds of unique enemies that can shake up a stale campaign. There are also published adventure books, which will take players on a variety of interesting quests throughout various locations. On top of that, there are resource books that can break down the lore of Faerûn, which serves as the default location for most published adventures in the Dungeons and Dragons universe.
Dungeons and Dragons is a complex game, but it doesn't have to be complicated. At the end of the day, all players really need to get started is one of the basic kits. The game is a great way to blow off steam and bond with friends, which makes giving it a chance truly worth it. Plus, there are plenty of other great tabletop games out there too, and D&D can be a great gateway to enjoying those too.