Beginner's Guide to Dungeons & Dragons

No, Really, What Is D&D?

The Player's Handbook is an invaluable source of information to new players.
The Player's Handbook is an invaluable source of information to new players.
TM and © Wizards of the LLC. Images used with permission.

Let's get a few things established about Dungeons & Dragons before we start playing. The game itself is a collaborative adventure with a constantly progressing story. While very player gets a piece of the action, the Dungeon Master (DM) is the one who holds it all together. The DM guides the game and story by presenting challenges and organizing the overall narrative. He or she also makes sure everyone follows the rules.

That last part is no small feat – the DM needs to have a thorough understanding of:

  • The Player's Handbook, for rules on character creation and game play from a player's perspective
  • The Monster Manual, which lists characteristics and descriptions of the game's beasts
  • The intricacies of the Dungeon Master's Guide, which contains the actual rules and regulations of the game

And – just as important as all of that concrete knowledge – the DM has to be able to tell a story, settle disagreements between players, keep the game moving, and adapt on the fly when players decide to do something unexpected.

If you're not the DM, you're a player, and your character is a player character, or PC for short. PCs evolve through the campaign based on the decisions they make and what they learn. Each PC has specific characteristics and attributes that will affect those decisions – like extra firepower, a keen mind or an overarching desire to do good – but your decisions as a player will also affect how your character's skills are used, and how they grow or diminish.

As you play, the DM will grant your character experience points based on how you contribute to the campaign. Your character will grow and change as you use these points to level up, or earn stronger stats and better skills.

And there you have it! You're playing Dungeons & Dragons now! OK, not exactly. Let's tell our DM we're rolling to the next page to get into a little more detail about how this fantasy works.