Dungeons & Dragons (commonly abbreviated as D&D or DnD) is a fantasy table-top role playing game created by two Kings of all Nerdom Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson in 1974. Since it’s initiation, DnD transformed from a niche underground hobby (picture 4 dudes in a basement somewhere in Illinois) into a worldwide phenomenon. Throughout the 80’s, DnD’s penchant for delving into dark fantasy and sci-fi imagery often caused pearl clutching parents to associate the game with heavy metal music and the Satanic Panic of the time. I mean, could you imagine taking cheese puffs down to your teens, only to find them waging war against Graz’zt the demon prince of the Abyssal realm of Azzagrat?
Thanks to our current 80’s renaissance due to shows like Stranger Things, DnD has seen a huge resurgence in popularity–to the point that you might overhear your coworkers discussing their recent campaign into the Feywild instead of last night’s football highlights. Feeling left out of the dragon slaying loop? We’re here for you! Here’s your crash course into the world of Dungeons and Dragons.
Yes, there will be some number crunching. Yes, there will be a bunch of scribbling with pen and paper. Yes, there are weird dice. Don’t be intimidated!
At its heart, DnD is all about your imagination–but there are rules in this epic fantasy world. This boxed set contains everything you need to hit the ground running. If you’re the type to skip to the TLDR (no shame), here’s your jumping off point. With 5 ready-to-play pre-built characters, the basic rules of the game, a basic set of dice and a fully realized adventure (The Lost Mine of Phandelver) the only thing missing is your merry band of misfits (aka your friends) and a smorgasbord of salty snacks.
**Please note, you or one of your friends will have to be the Dungeon Master or Game Master (this term is used interchangeably — DM or GM for short). Essentially, they will be tasked with running the game for your group (basically playing the hostile and non-player characters). The DM shouldn’t feel left out though! After all, there’s nothing more satisfying than springing a goblin ambush on your unsuspecting friends!
2. Pick your Path: Are you more of a Player?
Now that you have a grasp of the game in general, you’re ready to start from scratch! The Player’s Handbook is going to be your go to resource for all your dungeon delving desires. You want to play a devilish, dagger wielding, Half-Elf rogue with a dark past? Or are you feeling more like a Dragonborn wizard, tired of dusty libraries, ready to put your magical studies to the test (Did someone order a fireball!?). This book has it all. It’ll help you create pretty much anything you can imagine once you’re ready to set out on your next epic quest.
3. Pick your Path: Are you more of a Dungeon Master?
It takes a special kind of person to heed the call of the Dungeon Master. You’ve got to be creative, able to think quickly, and at times be really, really patient. The DM is the most important and sacred position in the DnD universe. You will be creating a living, breathing world for your friends to explore, and at the end of the day, what you say goes.
You can go from playing the part of the half-drunk tavern keeper who slips the party some clues (for a price!) as to the whereabouts of some ancient buried relics one minute, and the next you could be controlling an army of the undead (zombiesss!), defending said relics against your treasure hungry friends. This book is chock full of monsters, magical items, exotic locations, traps, boss-battles and plot points to help you flesh out your own adventure!
4. Don’t have the time to build your own world? No problem!
I know, I know. Who has the time to create an entire universe, how tedious. No worries! As the DM, there are plenty of pre-written adventures to choose from to run your players through. Think of them as expansion sets. These adventures come with everything you need from start to finish. We recommend Curse of Strahd because…well, it’s awesome!
“Under raging storm clouds, the vampire Count Strahd von Zarovich stands silhouetted against the ancient walls of Castle Ravenloft. Rumbling thunder pounds the castle spires. The wind’s howling increases as he turns his gaze down toward the village of Barovia.
Far below, yet not beyond his keen eyesight, a party of adventurers has just entered his domain. Strahd’s face forms the barest hint of a smile as his dark plan unfolds. He knew they were coming, and he knows why they came — all according to his plan.
A lightning flash rips through the darkness, but Strahd is gone. Only the howling of the wind fills the midnight air. The master of Castle Ravenloft is having guests for dinner. And you are invited.”
I mean, come on! We’re talking Vampires here, people! Whether you’re a player or the DM, Curse of Strahd has a bit of everything. It’s also the perfect game to run in October because it’s spooky AF!
5. Dice, Dice, DICE!
DnD revolves around dice. How much damage does your crossbow do?
Basically, this means that you roll an eight sided die one time, and whatever it lands on, that’s how much damage you do.
Now, let’s say you want to romance the attractive lute playing bard standing on the street corner as you and your friends stroll through town.
Roll your D20 (the twenty sided die) and let fate decide how well you woo them.
You rolled a 3? Not good. The DM might have you trip over a cobblestone and tumble crudely into your would be romance.
Ah, your D20 landed on a 19 out of a possible 20? That unsuspecting bard is now putty in your hands.
Everything from attacking an Owlbear to out of combat interpersonal interactions is governed by the Dice Gods. Having a good set of varied dice is what really separates the noobs from heroes.
Careful though. Once you buy one set, you may very well become addicted. The Bag of Devouring has 20 full sets of dice. It seems like a lot, but where you’re going…you’ll need every die you can get your grubby little dwarven hands on.
6. My dice…they’re…THEY’RE CURSED!
There is a very particular lore (some fools would call it superstition) surrounding dice in the world of DnD. Let’s say you have this D20 that you like to roll. It’s cool. It’s red with silver specks in it. You like the way it looks, and it feels lucky. You know when you roll it, fate is on your side.
Then you roll a natural 1. Meaning the worst possible outcome. You ask your die, “Why?! How could you betray me in my time of need?!” You love your die, but it must be punished, so off to DICE JAIL it goes. I know, this seems silly, but just wait till your dice betray you. Yes, I’m still salty about my red D20 with silver specks in it.
7. The Gelatinous Cube
There are some pretty iconic monsters in DnD. Like…dragons (they’re in the name!).
Here we have the infamous Gelatinous Cube. When encountered in the game, it doesn’t seem like much of a threat. It’s just a ten foot cube of semi-transparent goo!
Yeah, famous last words.
This Funko Pop! immortalizes not just the Gelatinous Cube itself, but also the last adventurer to underestimate its fearsome, wiggly, jiggly power.
It belongs on your shelf — where you can keep an eye on it.
8. Wait, what spells do I know again?
If you choose to play as a Barbarian, there’s not much to keep track of. Think of the hulk. What does the Hulk do? Smash. That simple.
However, if you pick a character class that knows magic, it can get a little complicated.
These spell cards are perfect for keeping track of your magical abilities instead of rifling through the Player’s Handbook every 10 minutes.
Some spell casters choose new spells every day in game. With these cards you just pick the spells you need for that day and BOOM, ready to go. Otherwise, you can spend your time writing, scratching-out, and re-writing the same spells over and over again. Don’t do that. That sucks.
9. Stay Organized!
There is a lot of information to keep track of in DnD. Do you still have that 50 feet of rope, or did you have to leave it behind in last week’s dungeon delve? How many hit points do you have after your last fight? Which languages does your character know? What was the password to get through the back entrance of the thieve’s guild, again?
The more organized you are, the easier the game will be for you.
Believe me, the DM is probably NOT going to keep reminding you of things you should be keeping track of.
“DM, question…how much gold do I have left?”
Don’t be that person. No one wants to play with that person.
Pro-tip: keep it neat, keep it current, keep it all in one place.
10. What if you don’t have any nerdy friends?
I hear you. DnD seems awesome. But what if you’re a solo-nerd, or you haven’t found your motley crew just yet. There are still so many ways you can join the fandom!
Critical Role is a group of self-proclaimed “nerdy ass voice actors” (the voices behind some of the most beloved characters from animated series like Naruto & Full Metal Alchemist and popular video games like The Last of Us & Gears of War) who get together once a week to livestream their DnD Game on twitch!
This is a surefire way to catch on to all the game mechanics and there are currently hundreds of hours of their first and second campaigns to catch up on in Podcast or YouTube form.
They’ve also turned their first completed campaign The Legend of Vox Machina into a successful comic book series by Dark Horse! After their wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, they are also creating an animated series The Legend of Vox Machina debuting fall of 2021 (fingers crossed) on Amazon Prime. Critical Role fans are known as “Critters,” and they are, in general, a fandom that doesn’t discriminate based on age, race or ethnicity, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation. It’s just an all around positive, uplifting, super nerdy DnD fandom to be a part of.