So you’ve created an amazing character for Dungeons & Dragons, and you’re ready for your very first adventure. Woo hoo!
Before the game ever starts, I have a few tips for you. And for when the game gets rolling, I have even more tips so you can make the most of your first time playing as a Player Character (PC).
NOTE: I’m going to assume you already have a group of other players and a DM to play D&D with, but if you don’t, you might want to get in touch with your closest game shop. Just do a Google search for “board game shops near me” and see what happens, or use the Friendly Local Gaming Stores (FLGS) website to find a store near you. Sly Flourish also has a great article about this: Finding and Maintaining a D&D Group.
Prepping for that First Adventure
Let’s get you ready for playing your first game. If you learn best by watching videos, here are some great PC tips from D&D designer Mike Mearls:
Below I’ve listed some more tips about preparing a great character for your first game:
- Know your strengths. Every party needs a diverse crew of characters to keep everyone alive. Is your character good in a fight (some people call these characters “tanks”)? Or are you a healer or a tracker? Do you have tons of charisma to talk people into doing anything? Review your six ability scores to see what you can bring to the table.
- Also, know your weaknesses! As Mike Mearls says in the video up there, “Give yourself a 6” for one of your abilities. Seriously! This “weakness” can really help you flesh out your character and make him or her more realistic. Maybe your cleric has no personality (low Charisma) or your fighter lacks Dexterity and keeps dropping her axe. Or your sorcerer might be book smart (high Intelligence) but lacks common sense (low Wisdom). Have fun with this.
- If you’re a spellcaster, study your spells! Keeping up with spells and spell slots can be overwhelming, so read up on those spells before starting, and try to add a nice mix of spells — not just attack spells. It’s always nice to be able to cast Charm Person on a creature instead of Magic Missile when you need to do so.
- Be ready for combat. Be familiar with your proficiency bonuses for each of your weapons, and think of creative ways you can attack (at close range or at a distance). That way, when it’s your turn to fight, the rest of the players don’t have to wait for you to decide, and the battles can be epic.
- Know your character’s background. Before the game, sharpen a couple pencils and review your character sheet (I still prefer paper to digital versions). Look at all the numbers, sure, but also review the history of your character and think about how he or she got here. What does your character want out of life? Have a goal for your character that’s completely separate from the upcoming adventure — maybe your rogue actually wants to be a sailor, or your bard just wants to buy her own tavern one day.
Try to keep in mind that you’re actually doing two things when you play a session of D&D. First, you’re working your way through the adventure as part of a party of heroes. Second, you’re expanding upon the individual story of your character as if he or she is the main character in a novel or a movie. Always think of ways to make your character more fun, more real, and more awesome.
Now, let’s get that first game underway!
Here are some tips for making the most out of your gaming session and ensuring that everyone at the table has a blast:
- Listen! If you have a nice journal or notebook, take notes. A lot of times the DM will drop all sorts of clues and names, and you’ll forget these details if you don’t write ’em all down. Also, listen to what your fellow Player Characters are saying, and riff off of their ideas.
- Don’t be a “murder hobo”! Not every encounter with a monster needs to be a battle to the death. Sometimes you can run away. And sometimes you can just try talking or making a deal instead of drawing swords at all.
- Ask “What would (insert my character’s name) do?” Get inside your character’s head and role-play to the max. Use that goofy voice and bad accent. If it doesn’t work, nobody will care — everyone else is too busy developing their own character and having fun to notice.
- Try (just about) anything! If you’re playing with a good DM, he or she will probably NEVER say “You can’t do that.” Your DM might say, “Are you sure?” or “You can try that…” And then you can try it, roll the dice, and hope for the best. In most cases, you’ll end up with a fun story to tell after the adventure is over (assuming your character survives!).
- Track everything on your character sheet. I can’t say it enough — review your player sheet and write down everything! This includes any little trinkets or items your party might pick up on your adventure. You never know when that red feather or that glowing marble might come in handy.
- Whenever possible, do something amazing!
For more player tips, see this article from Geek and Sundry: 7 Lessons About Playing D&D I learned from Critical Role.
Finally, when the game session ends, be sure to thank your DM. He or she has most likely put in twice the effort you did for this adventure, and they’ll appreciate your appreciation. Happy gaming!
Thanks 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!