There’s a tingling in the air, you feel it all around you. All at once a vile winged and horned creature emerges from the gloom and it’s up to you to defend yourself and your party against its might! If you like the sound of that, then it’s very likely that you will love the tabletop RPG known as Dungeons and Dragons 5E. Although, before you fasten your cape and pack your provisions for the most exciting adventure that you have ever known, there are a few things you will need to understand before you play D&D. Keep reading to find out what they are.
Gamer Girl Musings: So You Wanna Play D&D?
You need to learn which die is which (esp d20)
First of all, there are a variety of dice used in D&D. Although, if you’re going to play the game you will need to learn which die is the d20! Of course, it’s the one with 20 sides, but if you don’t want to have to pick them up and check each number face every time it is the one that looks like the picture below.
The reason you need to know what a d20 looks like is that this is the one you will use the most for things like skill checks. Although depending on your character’s class, race, and weapons you could come across a whole range of other types of dice as well, as they are often used to randomize things such as picking from a table of attributes, or the strength of an attack. Sometimes you even have to add or multiple dice together, which for the not so confident at mathing can be a challenge. The good news is there are a variety of smartphone and computer apps that you can get to do this for you.
The player handbook info is no longer available online for free
Well, this is both true and not true, as it used to be that you could search a variety of sites and get pretty much the whole player’s handbook contents in an easily searchable version. This was perfect for a player just starting as they didn’t have to shell out the $25 cover price to see whether they enjoyed the game or not. However, Wizards of the Coast, the publishers responsible for the official D&D books recently cracked down on such content, only making it available through officially licensed sources like Roll20 or DNDBeyond.
Someone will always end up being chaotic stupid
While we are on the topic of alignments, now is a good opportunity to introduce you to all of the official nine moral and ethical positions you can choose for your character. Indeed, it’s likely you have come across this idea before because social media is full of alignment graphics, often matching them to other fandoms like Harry Potter, LoTR, Marvel, or the like.
You can map them out in a 3×3 grid with various combinations of either lawful, neutral, and chaotic with good, neutral and evil. A word to the wise here, DMs will expect your character to act in line with their alignment, so that means if you are chaotic neutral rescuing innocents without a further nefarious plan isn’t going to work. Indeed, many DMs refuse to have more than one evil character in the party, as things can descend into chaos pretty quickly!
Last of all, no matter what alignments you pick, someone will always end up being chaotic stupid! This means that they will come up with the silliest possible action or solution to a problem and insist that they be able to act on it. For example, they may try to distract a dragon with a ham sandwich so the rest of the party can sneak by undetected! Sometimes these things are funny, but they can also be annoying and take away from the focus on the game too, so if you do start to have issues with the chaotic stupid player be sure to speak to your DM.
You can create and manage your character digitally
One of the most enduring images of any D&D campaign is the character sheet that each player must complete and keep updated as the adventure progresses. Unfortunately, these sheets can seem hugely complicated and a bit intimidating to those new to the game.
Fortunately, instead of scratching away at your sheet with a pencil every session, it’s now possible to use an online service to create your character, and manage it too. One of the most popular options for doing this is to use DNDBeyond, where you have the option of creating a character quickly or being walked through the process with a guide. The great thing about using a service like DNDBeyond is that it works out a lot of your stats for you, depending on the character options you pick, such as background. You can also instantly update your HP and spells slots the right amount after a long or short rest without making your sheet look like a spider has crawled all over it. This is crucial, as campaigns can take upwards of years to complete depending on how many times you can get together a month, and so you will want your sheet to stay readable over this time.
You can play online
Another important thing to know before you take up D&D as your next nerd-centric hobby is that as well as creating and managing your characters online, you can also play entirely online now. How you do this is also entirely up to you with Zoom and Skype being popular video call platforms in the community.
However, Discord, the communication app directed at gamers tends to be very popular, too, mainly because most people that are drawn to D&D are already likely to have it. Then there is a site known as Roll20, which offers not only communication between players but online battle maps and character sheets as well.
I will say however that the character sheets on roll 20 aren’t quite as easy to use or as slick as the one on D&D beyond. However, being that they are linked to the game in progress and that this provides you with visual aids of the scenes and environments you are expecting it can be well worth the trade-off. Roll 20 is a paid service though, and to be able to access resources like the play handbook or additional battle maps you will need to pay extra. Although if you have friends all over the country or world and are running a remote game it can be a great way to give everyone the same experience and keep players engaged.
Where to get your D&D content fix
Just like any other fandom, those that play and love D&D churn out plenty of exciting content. Access just about any platform including Twitch, Youtube, Apple podcasts and you will find a whole host of tutorials, live sessions, and stories based in the D&D world.
Special mentions go to the widely popular podcast/D&D livestream Critical Role, a game that evolved out of sessions played by anime voice actors into one of the most beloved pieces of content out there.
There are also plenty of books based in the D&D multiverse including the best-selling series Drizzt. There is even a TV channel completely dedicated to the game known as Dungeon TV which can be accessed via DistoTV. The good news is that you can watch TV online for free with DistroTV, so you won’t even need to pay to get your D&D content fix. There are plenty of other non-D&D-related channels on offer that are bound to appeal to the nerdier individual too like SKWAD which is all about gaming featuring big titles such as Minecraft and Roblox.
There are so many merch and craft opportunities to embrace!
Finally, while D&D is an immersive and rewarding hobby in and of itself, there are also planets of opportunities for ending your love of merch or crafting your D&D-related items.
You will find merchandise in most of the big online stores like Amazon, Redbubble, and Etsy so if you fancy a ‘this is how I roll a mug,’ or some Paladin-specific stickers you shouldn’t have too much of a job finding them.
However, when it comes to crafting your D&D-themed items the most popular seem to be DIY dice towers, or jails – a place to put those dice that just won’t behave and keep giving you a natural one! Although many people like to commemorate a campaign with portraits crafted of the whole group’s characters, so if you are an artist this could be the perfect option to begin another nerd-centric hobby and get creative.