D&D Dad: Explaining D&D to new players

Stranger Things DnD
The “Stranger Things” guys, playing some D&D.

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably interested in being a Dungeon Master for Dungeons & Dragons.

I used to feel like being a DM would be way too much work, but then I just bit the bullet and ran a few sessions. It was rocky at first, but the bonus was that my players were also new to the game, so they didn’t really know I was doing a mediocre job at first.

But each time we played, it got easier for me, and more fun for them. It’s definitely worth the stress you might feel at first.

If you have a party of all-new players, or a couple new players have joined your group, here’s a list of things I like to share with new players to quickly get them up to speed (and to keep them from feeling overwhelmed):

First off, this is not Earth. D&D takes place in a fantasy world, where dungeons are real and not just for torture, and dragons actually fly overhead as you’re traveling through that world. Think of the worlds of Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and even Harry Potter (but without the muggle world, thank goodness!). Players can cast magic spells, wield broadswords, and even raise the dead. Some of the common worlds in D&D are the Forgotten Realms, Eberron, Greyhawk, and Krynn. Or your DM might create his or her own world. It’s pretty amazing.

Remember that D&D is a collaboration. It’s not the DM vs. the players! Back in the early days of D&D, from way back in the ’70s, the game was much more competitive, and the DM was more focused on knocking off characters. But the game has evolved over the years, and now it’s more of a collaborative story, with the DM throwing out scenarios and the players reacting to them and trying to solve problems as part of the story-telling.

Don’t get overwhelmed by the rules. As a player, you don’t have to know all the rules. I’m not sure anyone playing D&D knows all the rules. Maybe the designers of the game do, but even then, that seems improbable. Just roll with the story, pay attention to what the DM is saying, and try to act in a way that seems consistent with how your character would act. And when in doubt, roll a d20!

Keep your character’s dreams and goals in mind with every choice you make. Your character should have a character arc that’s separate from the bigger story, so think about his or her motivations. What does he or she want out of life? Why is he or she an adventurer? What are his or her weakness as well as strengths?

Get into character! Now that you know your character inside and out, you can improvise in any situation. Give your character a unique voice and a unique style. In other words, play the role of your character as if you were acting in a play. That’s why they call D&D a “role-playing game,” after all.

I talk more about creating characters in another blog entry, but if you’re the DM and you have people playing for the first time, you may want to quickly review everything that’s on a typical character sheet, including:

  • Abilities and Bonuses when rolling dice. Make sure new players know how to add their bonuses to attack and damage rolls, as well as initiative rolls.
  • Inspiration. I love handing out extra d20 dice to players whenever they do something creative or something that seems to really fit his or her character.
  • Armor Class. This number shows how hard it is for monsters to hit your character and do damage.
  • Hit Points. This number changes quite a bit as you fight monsters, and when it goes to 0, you’re either dead or unconscious.
  • Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws. Have every character review these short statements that explain your character’s personality. You might even want to have each character describe themselves to the other players in 2-3 sentences, using this information, at the start of the adventure.
Stranger Things Victory

Finally, hand out the dice!

Whenever possible, make sure everyone has his or her own dice (they’re pretty cheap). There’s something magical about the dice in D&D, and the sooner new players learn this, the better.

ALSO: If you or your new players prefer watching videos to reading blogs, this is a great video from veteran D&D DM, player, and writer Matthew Colville: Welcome to Dungeons & Dragons.

Have fun, and happy gaming!

DnDDadThanks for reading! If you’re enjoying this blog, feel free to take a look at my books at UnWrecked Press and Amazon. If something I wrote here improved your gaming experience or you just want to say thanks, buy a book or two!

3 thoughts on “D&D Dad: Explaining D&D to new players

    1. Great tip, Daniel! (I’m going to have to start compiling advice like this into a new post, and I’ll be sure to link to your blog when I do).

      Right now I’m kind of obsessed with the Forgotten Realms setting, because so many adventures take place there, and it has a long, long history. But I’m also interested in learning more about Eberron and other worlds…

      Thanks for reading and leaving a note!


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