An Absolute Beginner’s Guide To Dungeons and Dragons 5e

An Absolute Beginner’s Guide To Dungeons and Dragons 5e

Dungeons and Dragons has been around for over 40 years and continues to entice new players into its epic, adventure franchise. There is a certain idea, that some people have of D&D, that portrays its fans as nerdy. I don’t argue there, it is nerdy. But it is, without a doubt, the most fun I’ve ever had playing a game. Utter freedom, creativity, chaos, and enjoyment reign supreme in D&D and it is something that everyone should try at least once. And no, it is certainly not just for kids – or boys for that matter.

Whether Stranger Things has piqued your interest or you’re simply curious about the world’s greatest roleplaying game – I have here a guide that may simplify the basics, entice your curiosity, and provide you with helpful resources to get you started. There are a number of reasons why this game has been around for such a long time and I hope to show you some of them!

dnd dragons
Who isn’t enticed into Dunegons and Dragons by enormous, hungry-looking, fire breathing dragons? Image from Collider

How Do I Get Started?

Getting started in Dungeons and Dragons can be a challenge unless you find others willing to get involved. However, if those around you aren’t interested you’ll never be short of participants if you take a gander on the good old internet. Sites such as Reddit and Discord can get you fast-tracked into the game. Although, it might be worth taking a scroll through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for local groups and pages to join.

Thanks to its increasing popularity it has becoming easier to find others that want to play. To get started, you don’t need a huge group of people. Personally, I believe the perfect amount of people to start with would be between three and five. Secondly, I highly recommend grabbing yourself a copy of the Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook (listed below in the “Get The Gear” section) as it explains, in detail, everything you will need to know.

The DM (Dungeon Master)

The Dungeon Master (DM) is essentially the facilitator of the game. The storyteller. They are the unbiased puppet-master of everything that befalls and goes on around your character. Given that they are within the rules of course. However, the DM does not have any control over you or your character. Their job is to respond to your character’s actions and desires to make the experience more enjoyable and build the story.

Your DM is also your support. Any queries you may have about the game can be answered by them as they should have a good solid knowledge base in order to facilitate the game for you. It is best if your DM is an experienced player – that way they can guide with ease going forward.

DnD Races

In a world where you can be anything – What would you be?

You could be a human but why be human when you could be so much more. Options for your character race range from an Elf, a gnome, or even a Dragonborn. But the list doesn’t stop there, there are so many races to choose from. You can be a Dwarf, an Orc, a suit of reanimated armour, Vampire, Werewolf, Tabaxi (Cat person), Devil spawn, and so on and so on. Personally, my favourite part of the game is creating my DnD character sheet. This is where you learn a lot about what each race has to offer.

dnd races
Just a few of the DND races available for selection. Image from Unearthed Arcana

DnD Classes

Following your race, you also get to choose from a list of DnD classes. A class is basically your character’s profession. A class determines what tasks and skills your character is proficient in. For example, if you have chosen Rogue as your class, your character will be remarkably great with all things sneaky. Picking locks and deceiving others will come naturally to you. On the other hand, should you choose Barbarian as your class, your character will excel in smashing stuff up and intimidating people with a remarkably tough-looking exterior.

dungeons & dragons
Not only can you be sneaky or smashy in Dungeons and Dragons, you can also be a spellcaster. Image from Medium.

Those above are two very brief examples. I highly recommend reading into the races and classes, as there are some incredible things to choose from. You can get all of the information you need from the manuals listed below in the “Get The Gear” section, or by browsing DnD Beyond as it is an excellent resource for players of all experience levels.

Your Character Sheet

Once you’ve chosen your class and race it’s time to flesh them out. To do so you’ll need a character sheet! There are numerous ways of obtaining your sheet. You can find a simple template online to print, purchase one, or you can use DnD Beyond (just another reason to appreciate the site). Your sheet layout may depend on which class you choose, as each sheet is designed around the traits of each class. There are standard character sheets available, however, I find the specialist sheets much more convenient when playing.


Using Beyonds’ DnD character creator is a great way to store your sheet and can be accessed on your phone or laptop. Although, if you’re like me you might prefer the good old fashioned pencil and paper.

d & d
The bare bones of a Dungeons and Dragons character sheet. Image from DND Apothecary

It looks daunting at first, and your first try may take a little while when you’re coming to grips with it (we’re talking several hours if you want to do it right). However, your DM can always guide you! You can also refer to the Player’s Handbook on how to fully complete your character. You’ll find I’ve referred to the handbook quite often, and that’s because it will go into far more detail than I can here. Additionally, it doesn’t hurt to have it close by for future use!

Basic Rules For Rolls – Your DnD Dice.

The dice goblin in me has been itching to get to this part. Friends reading this will understand. And so may you, soon. Dice addiction is real, damn it! The next most important tool for you to have are the shiny click-clack math rocks. Alternatively, you can use a dice generator on your mobile device, laptop, or PC, but where’s the fun in that? Your dice are not only functional, but you get to pick your set from thousands of designs!

d&d dice
FYI I have a set of dice just like this. Image from D12’s Dungeon Chronicles

In total there are seven dice in a set that will be used in your game:

  • D4
  • D6
  • D8
  • D10
  • D12
  • D20
  • D100

Each die has a function in the game. They can be used to calculate damage taken/given or health regained/taken away. Your D20 will be your most frequently used as it determines how successful your attacks, skill checks, saving throws, and ability checks are.

A Brief Example

Your DM could ask you to do, or you could request to do, a Strength check to see if you can move aside a boulder blocking your way. To do this you would roll a D20 and add your Strength modifier to it (this is the large +/- number in the box under “Strength” in the left-hand column). When you make a roll, you could succeed and simply manoeuvre the gigantic rock to one side with little effort. Alternatively, you could roll poorly and maybe break a finger, or an arm. Additionally, there is every chance you could give it your best shot and not see any results. This is all down to the DM’s discretion.

dnd
Hexbloods from Van Richtens guide to Ravenloft. Image from Nerds and Scoundrels.

Roleplay in Dungeons and Dragons

For myself, it’s easy to get into character because my 15+ years of theatre experience have prepared me for moments like these. Whether playing as my brooding, evil Rogue, or my Tabaxi Bard with a heavy lisp, I love it. Getting into character adds to the fun of the experience, and brings the game to life. However, it’s not compulsory for anyone to roleplay as, first and foremost, it is more important that you are comfortable.

Combat in Dungeons and Dragons

Be careful what your character says and does whilst adventuring through the domain mapped by your DM. Part of the DM’s job is to fill out the world with non-playable characters. When you meet them not everything you say will necessarily be met with the response you expect. Sometimes you just have to run, hide or fight. Sometimes all three. However, before a fight ensues, you can always expect to hear three words from your DM – – “roll for initiative.”

The initiative is for the DM so that they can place the combatants in order of who will attack first. It is required to be rolled before any combat ensues. Once the players and enemies positions are established in the game you can start to prepare what you will do. You are able to do a number of things on your turn when it arrives so make sure to plan ahead! Your character sheet will list the weapons, spells, extra abilities, as well as the movement speed available to your character.

Ultimately you can perform three things. An action, a movement and a bonus action (if you have one). Just remember: you’re not always expected to fight! Some enemies are just too powerful to take on.

dungeons and dragons illithid
The ever-terrifying Illithid (AKA ‘Mind Flayers’) are not enemies to poke fun at. Image from CBR

The Most Important Thing

This is the biggest thing to remember – just have fun! Dungeons and Dragons was made for players to embrace their creative sides and take part in judgement-free gaming sessions with friends, to escape the worries of everyday life.

It is a big game with a lot of components and details, so don’t stress if you can’t take it all in at once. Personally, what I love about D&D is that I’m always learning new things. I’ve been playing for a number of years and I still don’t know everything there is to know, even after branching into the DM world. Not to mention, communication and patience are key. If you’re a little confused or concerned over something, talk it over with your group or even just your DM. After all, it’s everybody’s game and everyone should enjoy it!

Get The Dungeons And Dragons Gear

Here we arrive at the section where I will recommend some basic gear to help fuel your desire to play more.

1. The Player’s Handbook

The very first thing I would suggest purchasing is the Player’s Handbook. As mentioned above, this book will go into detail about every little thing I have mentioned in this article and help you further your understanding of the game rules. The Player’s Handbook is without a doubt every player’s best friend (experienced and new) and the ideal thorough guide on how to play DND!

d&d player's handbook
The Player’s Handbook front cover. Image from Snap Doodle Toys and Games.

Key Features:

  • Thoroughly explains the rules of the game
  • Step-by-step character creation
  • Equipping your character with gear and other attributes
  • Explains the use of ability scores and dice rolls
  • Thoroughly explains combat and adventuring
  • Guide to spellcasting
  • Several appendixes

2. The Dungeons and Dragons Essentials Kit

This an ideal kit for beginners as it includes several items that are incredibly useful to new players. Beginners can purchase this kit as a stepping stone before getting stuck into the player’s handbook. This kit comes complete with: an introductory rulebook, an adventure book, a double-sided map, eleven dice, a dungeon masters screen, blank character sheets and cards for magic items.

d&d essentials kit

Key Features:

  • Includes all the items listed above.
  • Designed for 2-6 players
  • Perfect for first-time players
  • Purchasing this will provide a discount for the digital version of the Player’s Handbook on D&D Beyond

3. The Dungeons and Dragons Start Set

The DND starter set is a basic version of the Essentials Kit. This set contains an introductory rule book, an adventure book, six dice, and five pre-generated character sheet. One of the handiest things about this kit is the pre-generated character sheets. I believe this is a useful tool when creating your own characters for the first time as you’ll have these sheets to refer to, later on, as an example.

d&d starter kit

Key Features:

  • Designed for 2-6 players
  • Includes 5 pre-generated character sheets
  • Perfect for beginners

4. Character Sheets

If you are the type of person, like myself, that would rather enjoy using pencil on paper you can purchase your character sheets on Amazon for a low price. These standard sheets will give you enough room to detail your character and keep track of all of your weapons, spells and abilities with ease! I and other customers found that one handy feature of this product is the folder the sheets come stored in. This is due to the basic rules printed on it. This is perfect for new players if they need a reminder of rules during action/combat.

dnd character sheets

Key Features:

  • Convenient double-sided sheets
  • Comes in a simple protected folder
  • The folder details some basic rules for new players
  • Includes spell sheets

5. A Variety Of Dice!

If you’re planning to play around the table then a set of dice is a must-have! Included here is a multiset which is sold at a surprisingly low price considering the usual cost of a single set of seven dice. Purchasing a multi-set is perfect if you have a habit of misplacing things. If you lose one set you’ll always have a spare. (You can never have enough in my eyes!) However, please also note, as nice as they look, these can be a choking hazard. So if you have children, be sure to keep them stored out of their reach.

dungeons and dragons dice

Key Features:

  • Made from eco-friendly acrylic material
  • Six sets included
  • Each set is a different colour
  • Clear and easy to read
  • Dice sack included

6. Mechanical Pencils

When filling in your character sheets it’s always best to use a pencil. This is because as you play you will level up your stats and need to replace the numbers on your sheet. It’s easier to rub the number out and write in a new one than have to re-print your sheet with every level. Chances are you probably already have a pencil or two at home but mechanical pencils are always useful! What is more, there’s no need for a sharpener, saving you valuable time as you play.

mechanical pencils

Key Features:

  • Pack of five.
  • End equipped with an eraser
  • Never needs sharpening

7. Dice Rolling Tray

One struggle of playing DND is getting your dice to stay in the play area. That, and trying to stop your dice from taking out your figurine or part of the map. At least a small portion of your session will involve hunting down rogue dice that have flown off the table defiantly. Fear not, however, I have included a handy dice rolling tray in this list! It unsnaps and lays flat when it’s not in use, but is perfect for keeping your dice contained whilst you play.

dungeons and dragons dice tray

Key Features:

  • Available in more colours
  • Portable
  • Dust proof and easy to clean
  • Stylish!

8. The Most Important Thing Of All.

Snacks. Don’t forget to bring snacks to your games. Crisps, chocolate, cookies, pretzels, nibbles or even a takeaway! A single game of DnD can last several hours (if not all day), so you’re going to want food to keep you going.

Find A Dungeons And Dragons Community

Dungeons and Dragons is very much a community game. As a result, you’ll need to put together a party to play with. With that in mind, try to keep to a small group. A group with fellow newbies will certainly help your confidence whilst you play, seeing as they will be in the same boat. However, an experienced DM will be needed in order to guide you through the game properly and remind you of the rules. DnD communities offer support, empathy, jokes, and a place to be yourself! There’s no such thing as “too nerdy” when playing a game like DnD, so you can un-apologetically let your geek flag fly.

Scour the internet and potential players will find a lot of Dungeons and Dragons related pages and forums. In fact, many can even find DnD groups local to your area. However, here are a few more open Dungeons and Dragons groups I would personally recommend:

Dungeons And Dragons FAQ

What Celebrities Play DND?

You may be surprised at which celebrities play Dungeons and Dragons. For example, Joe Manganiello is an avid fan of D&D, along with Stephen Colbert and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The late great Robin Williams was also a big fan of the game. Additionally, Terry Crews has been known to enjoy a game of D&D with Veteran Player Matt Mercer.

Are there any dedicated D&D YouTube channels or Podcasts?

There are plenty of channels and podcasts available to watch and stream, at the moment, though they all vary in quality. Currently, the most popular channel I can recommend is Critical Role. Notably, you’ll find Laura Bailey, Matt Mercer and many more talented voice actors on Critical Role, as they stream their D&D sessions. You can also listen to their streams as podcasts on Apple Podcasts, if you prefer.

When did D&D come out?

Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson originally released the first box of D&D in 1974. Originally, it included three manuals named: Men & MagicMonsters & Treasure, and The Underworld & Wilderness. If you were interested in learning more about the history of D&D, you can read more about it in Art and Arcana.

Is dungeons and dragons online free to play?

The primary website most players gravitate towards is Roll20. The good news is that it’s completely free to join and use, either as a player or as a DM. However, it does take a bit of getting used to. Of course, during the pandemic Roll20 has been a great tool for playing the game while social distancing is in place.

What D&D channels are good to look at?

One channel I have a particular soft spot for is The Dungeon Coachs channel. I’ve watched The Coachs’ channel for quite some time now and have picked up so many useful tips and tricks for playing! However, if you’re looking for a bit of fun, for completely comedic purposes, I would highly recommend you check out One Shot Questers. I discovered this page after delving into the D&D side of Tik Tok and was thrilled when a Youtube channel was created. Furthermore, this lovely man also has a playlist dedicated to one-shots.

Alexandra

Alexandra

Alexandra (or Allie as she sometimes prefers) is an introverted, socially awkward nerdy girl with an intense love of fiction in all genres. Films, television, books and video games occupy a big portion of her life as she was raised to cherish and appreciate the art of storytelling.

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