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A Beginner’s Guide to Dungeons and Dragons

todaySeptember 4, 2022 42 1 3 5

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By Hannah Walls
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With everyone on social media still obsessing over Eddie Munson, the Hellfire Club’s eccentric dungeon master from Stranger Things season four, I’ve seen a lot of talk about fans interested in learning how to play Dungeons and Dragons.

The start of a new semester is the perfect time to explore new hobbies, and while I’m nowhere near an expert, I’m excited to share some basics for prospective new players. I’ve been playing the game for about a year and a half, and I’m still learning new things every session!

Dungeons and Dragons is a tabletop role-playing game that was created in 1974, so the kiddos of Stranger Things are playing one of the original editions of the game in the show. However, there’s been many content additions and adaptations to the game since then. The most current edition of the game that you’ll most likely be playing with as a beginner is the fifth edition.

When I was first starting out, the most daunting aspect of D&D was definitely the vast vocabulary. I had no idea where to start, and while I strongly believe just being thrown in and learning along the way is the best practice, here is a handy vocabulary guide for some of the terms you may run into along the way.

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with some of the words and phrases that may come up in your first few sessions, it’s time to get into my favorite part: character building.

 

Character Building

Being able to dream up any character I want down to appearance, personality, quirks and backstory is often just as fun as playing for me. The magic of D&D is how open it is, so don’t be afraid to go as deep into it as you want. Every campaign is different, so the only limitations are the parameters of the world your DM creates for you to play in.

Many campaigns take the high- fantasy route. Think noble knights hoping to return to their humble village with heaping riches after slaying a dragon, or bookish wizards working to hone their spellcasting abilities and gain new knowledge of the material plane and beyond from their adventures.

Other campaigns may lead you to braving the high seas with a ragtag group of swashbucklers, or perhaps to a wondrous steampunk city chocked full of clockwork critters, political turmoil and gunslinging travelers. No matter what setting you end up playing in, the newest editions of D&D offer many unique combinations to create the perfect character.

I personally like to use D&D Beyond for building a digital character sheet. Many people still use physical character sheets as well, so if that’s your preference, you can always copy the information over to paper and pencil after your character is built.

I think this resource is super helpful as it walks you through each step of the character-building process, from picking your class to determining your abilities to building the inventory your character will start with.

This is also a great resource if you can’t get your hands on the source books, which can be pretty pricey. Although you won’t have access to some newer material unless you are invited to a campaign with someone who has purchased the books digitally, base game information and content are available to you for free with D&D Beyond.

Another tab I always have open while working on my character is Hero Forge. Hero Forge is a custom miniatures website, so there are a ton of different customization options for the actual appearance of your character. You can even sort the clothing, hair and gear by themes such as sci-fi, fantasy, or western.

Once you’re done with your model, you can order an actual figure to use in gameplay if you’d like, or download a file to print one yourself. I mostly use it as a way to create a visual of my character for myself and my group.

The photo features a gray background with some mountain silhouettes. In the center of the photo, there is a digital model of an orange cat-like character with black stripes. The model is wearing a cropped purple long sleeve shirt, short gray pants, a brown leather belt with a gold buckle, and a brown leather harness with a gold buckle. The model has black hair with blonde streaks on the left side of the model. The model is holding two silver daggers, and standing on a brown, gray and black cobblestone base.
An example of a mini figure model that can be made in Hero Forge.

For new players, trying to build a character from scratch can be pretty overwhelming, so my strategy is usually to make a character that I think looks really cool and then build everything else around that.

For example, I created the character above because I had really been wanting to try playing as a Tabaxi, the cat race in D&D, and ended up going with a phantom rogue build based on the theme colors and weapons I chose for my model.

 

Getting into Gameplay

Once you have a character made, it’s time to find a group to join you on your adventure! Party sizes are usually up to the DM based on their experience and comfort level, but most campaigns usually have 3-6 players to ensure balance in combat and the abilities of everyone’s characters.

If you have a few friends that are interested in playing, forming a group is pretty easy as long as you’re able to find a good DM to guide you for your campaign. For newer players interested in DM’ing, I recommend a premade campaign to start out with.

This article from BlackCitadel is a great resource for some free and low- cost campaigns to run if you’re a new DM just breaking into the role, or a player looking for inspiration on some different types of campaigns you may want to play in.

The D&D Guild here at Texas State is another great resource to find other players or DMs. Some members have expressed their willingness to share source books and other resources with the rest of the guild, and the officers have access to a premium subscription for Inkarnate, a fantasy map- building program, available for other DMs and players to use.

 

There are 9 tall books on a bookcase that read, from left to right, “Boo’s Astral Menagerie, Light of Xaryxis, Astral Adventurer’s Guide, Dungeon Master’s Guide, Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual, Monsters of the Multiverse, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.” The books on the left are black with shiny turquoise text on the spine. The books in the middle are black with purple, red and white text on the spine. The books on the far right are white with gold text on the spine.
Three sets of D&D special edition sourcebooks.

 

According to the Texas State D&D Guild’s president, Liam Butler, the guild is a great resource for players of all skill and comfort levels.

“The Texas State DnD Guild is a club meant to help folks with all different levels of experience learn, play and enjoy the game! We pride ourselves in being an inclusive and fun club; anyone and everyone should get the chance to play and have fun,” said Butler. “We meet every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. on the third floor of Alkek Library. You’ll be able to find us easily, it’s a huge horde of nerds.”

Butler also noted that D&D has become a lot more popular in recent years, and that following along with media related to the game, such as campaign livestreams, is another great way to learn more about the game and lean more into what it’s all about.

“I think one of the biggest draws of DnD is definitely the aspect of escapism. You get a chance to leave behind your problems and act out the craziest scenarios you could imagine,” said Butler. “Another huge draw is definitely the popularity of podcasts and live-play games. D&D becomes a lot more interesting when you get a chance to see others playing it and pick up on what it’s all about.”

If you’re interested in joining the Texas State D&D Guild to learn more about the game, find more resources or meet fellow players and DMs, you can join the Discord server here.

 

Other Resources

Although most campaigns can be played with just your character sheet and a few friends, there are a lot of fun extras that can go along with playing D&D as well.

If you’re a fellow enjoyer of collecting little trinkets like me, another fun part of the game is growing an extensive dice collection. Fennek and Finch Dice Co. and Die Hard Dice are two of my favorite online shops to buy dice from. If you order from Die Hard Dice and mention it’s for your first campaign at checkout, they may even throw in a few freebies with your order!

I also recommend a dice bag and dice tray if you’re looking to splurge on some extras for your next session. Having a dice tray on hand can be helpful if you’re playing somewhere where a table may not be easily accessible.

Many DMs may also utilize physical tabletop maps in addition to a digital map, especially for combat. While it’s not necessary, having mini figures to place on the map representing character positions can also be a really fun way to add immersion. Some DMs may have extras for their players to use, but if you’re really looking to get into it, there are many sites that sell general figures as well as customs.

I mentioned Hero Forge already, but Miniature Market is another great place to find a host of miniatures. In addition to basic preset figures for many different classes and races, this seller has figures for NPCs and monsters available for purchase as well at super reasonable prices.

This is just a small part of the vast world of the game and coming in as a new player is exciting since there’s so much more to learn and discover along the way. Regardless of your skill level, Dungeons and Dragons is a great way to escape the weight of the real world for a little bit and spend time with friends in an immersive storytelling experience. If you’re looking for a new hobby to explore this semester, I highly recommend jumping into the action.

 

Featured Image by Hannah Walls. 

Written by: Autumn McGowan

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todaySeptember 3, 2022 36 1

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  1. DK on September 4, 2022

    very informative, D&D sounds like a lot of fun! happy to see texas state has a great community around it, amazing writing as always

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