Three Easy Ways To Learn To Play Dungeons And Dragons Right Away
The strange little roleplaying game Gary Gygax and his friends created in the 1970s has never been more popular. If you want to try your hand at Dungeons and Dragons, we’ve got three easy ways you can play. Or, at least, learn how to play the game. Of course, D&D is a game that can’t be played by yourself, so you will have to find a group. If none of your in-real-life friends want to join you, there are groups all over social media where players can link up for sessions. But even if you and your compatriots are all brand newbies, there are plenty of resources out there to start playing (for the low cost of free!).
While Dungeons & Dragons is typically a game that people play together, in-person, that’s not always the case. During the COVID lockdown, technology helped folks play tabletop games as a way to stay connected. So, whether it’s pandemic safety or just for convenience, it is very easy to start playing Dungeons & Dragons online or in person. In fact, with online character creation tools, game managers, and virtual tabletops, it’s no wonder that more people are interested in D&D than ever before.
So, the only barrier to entry for those who want to play Dungeons and Dragons is that learning the rules isn’t always so easy.
3 Easy Ways To Learn To Play Dungeons and Dragons Right Away
Image via Wizards of the Coast
To really get “good” at D&D you will have to invest time before you play your first session. Here are three places to start. Yet, this is a game that you can learn “on the job,” so to speak. In fact, the best way to learn the game is by playing it. At the very least, you can watch others play as a way to grasp the basics. Or, you can go old school and read through the books.
1. Experience D&D Through the Eyes of the “Professionals”
Thanks to podcasts like Critical Role, Join The Party, and others, folks can listen to and watch people play a game that can be daunting to dive into. The first thing you will notice when watching or listening to these productions is that even people who’ve played the game forever still have questions.
One great series for beginners comes from Geek & Sundry, called Relics and Rarities. In 2019, Daredevil star Deborah Ann Woll created and a ran a small D&D campaign. She had four regulars, all of them very experienced with the game. However, she frequently brought guests on like Charlie Cox, Simone Missick, and Kevin Smith who never played before. Thus, they have a lot of the same questions most folks do when they want to start learning how to play D&D.
There are plenty of helpful videos that talk about the “theory” of the game. They break down things like character creation, rules for spells, and every other facet of the game. Yet, seeing these things in the context of an actual session is a better way to retain the information. Also, you’ll learn that D&D is, at its core, a collaborative storytelling experience, one that folks can enjoy even if they are just spectators.
2. Do a Deep-Dive Into the Source Material (and Know How to Reference It Quickly)
Since the COVID-19 lockdown, a digital copy of the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set is available for free. This means that you could pore through this book learning the rules the old-fashioned way. Again, you may run into some trouble because reading about these rules without the proper context can make the game seem more difficult to play than it is. So, unless you want to try to memorize this source book (and then the dozens of others out there), think of this as not learning how to play Dungeons and Dragons but an easy way to know where to look for answers when you have questions.
Whether you use ebooks or the traditional print varieties, the purpose of reading these books before playing is to simply learn the terms. Things like “ability check” or “attack roll” will be explained in detail. However, the real trick will be making notes and marking pages to refer back to when you are in session. Often players will need to refer to spell or ability descriptions in the session to gauge how they work. Especially when players get creative, checking out the rules-as-written is useful. It allows players and the DM to figure out what the creators intended and how you all might adjust the limits to better fit in your game.
For example, there is an at-will spell (called a “cantrip”) for Druids called “Druidcraft.” The rules list possible ways in which players might use this spell. However, if you wanted to use it to do something that’s not listed, you can use the rules-as-written as a guide. These rules are always a place to start a discussion not end one.
3. Play Dungeons and Dragons (With an Easy Dungeon Master)
The best way to learn how to play D&D is simply to play it. However, you will need to have a group of players and a DM willing to go at a learner’s pace. These games can run very long. A single session can last up to six hours (if the players are willing). They will take even longer if there are frequent interruptions. Yet, learning the game by playing it is the best way to go. It’s fully immersive and seeing the rules at work in a session helps new players better understand them. It may seem simple enough to remember that for a level 2 Rogue, you can use your Cunning Action ability to dash, disengage, or hide as a bonus action rather than an action. However, actually doing that in session (and asking questions when confused) reinforces this so that it becomes second nature.
With the right group and DM, learning by doing is the best way to learn the game. With a few sessions under your belt, you can use the above-mentioned sources to bolster your knowledge. Only since you’ve actually played the game, the things you learn will have more context. You can actively ask questions and get clarifications in the moment. By just playing the game, learning to play it becomes just as fun as the rest of it.
Image via Wizards of the Coast
What do you think? What are your tips for an easy way to learn how to play Dungeons and Dragons? Tell us in the comments below.
Featured image via Wizards of the Coast.
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.