What Do You Need to Start Playing D&D?

Every day, new players discover Dungeons and Dragons with the help of movies and TV shows like Stranger Things. These shows give future players an idea of what you need to start playing D&D. 

It might seem like a lot. The players always seem to have piles of books, dice, papers, “toys,” maps, and other items scattered all over a large table. It might seem overwhelming. 

You might think, “How am I supposed to start playing D&D when I don’t have any of that? How much will it cost? Where do I find players?” 


Let’s ease your fears right now. You do not need that much to start playing D&D. In fact, you can start playing D&D with just a few items and people.

  1. A Dungeon Master
  2. One set of polyhedral dice
  3. A ruleset and character
  4. A group to play with
  5. Miniatures

These few key items and people will give you a great experience. 

We’ll start with the most essential items and people. Then, we’ll continue on to items that will greatly enhance your experience.

What is Dungeons and Dragons?

First, if you’re reading this now, you might be brand new to Dungeons and Dragons. If so, welcome! You’re in a great place to start playing D&D. Before getting into what you need, here’s a quick overview of what this amazing game is all about.

Dungeons and Dragons is a tabletop roleplaying game (also known as an RPG). One player, known as the Dungeon Master, writes or uses a pre-made story that 4-6 other players interact with. The other players interact with this story either as pre-made characters or characters they create. This interaction happens through roleplay, combat, and exploration. Dice rolls, the ruleset, and the Dungeon Master will determine the outcomes of interaction.

As far as tabletop RPGs go, it’s one of the best to start with. Many people know the game and play it since it’s the “original” tabletop RPG. This makes it easier to find a game to start with. Plus, the ruleset is easy enough to learn but in-depth enough to keep you playing again and again.

So now that you know what it’s about, let’s go through this checklist of what you need to start playing D&D.

A Great Dungeon Master

Every single item or person on this list is something you need to start playing D&D, but this is the only one you cannot borrow, substitute, or grab on the fly.

A Dungeon Master (or a DM) will run your game of Dungeons and Dragons. A Dungeon Master will take on the role of non-player characters (or NPCs) like monsters and villagers. They will also describe the world your character sees, and narrate the results of your actions. If you play roleplaying video games, think of the Dungeon Master like the coding of the game that allows you to interact with the world. A Dungeon Master is even better than a video game, though, because they can react to literally any choice you want to make.

It’s incredibly easy to find a great Dungeon Master right now with StartPlaying. Take a look at the list of DMs and their games to start playing D&D right now, even if you don’t have anything else on this list. Dungeon Masters are also available for in-person play or online play so you can play how you want. Learn more about online play in the “Gaming Group” section of this article.

A Dice Set (or Two… or Many)

You will need a set of polyhedral dice to start playing D&D and most other tabletop RPGs. D&D dice include seven different types of dice. The most famous D&D die is the 20-sided die, also known as a d20. A set also includes a d4, a d6, a d8, two d10’s, and a d12, for a total of seven dice.

The dice determine things like whether your character manages to hit a monster with their sword and how much damage it does on a hit. They also decide whether you successfully persuade, steal, investigate, or evade the town guards that are chasing you.

Dice sets vary and can cost anywhere from $5 to $100. Online tools will let you roll dice for free, though, if you’re just starting out. Google, Alexa, and Siri all have dice rolling capabilities.

Nothing can replace the amazing feeling of rolling physical dice, though. You will want some by the end of your first game. Some players like to collect different colors of resin dice to match their characters. Others enjoy the weight and high-quality material of metal or gemstone dice. Dice show off a player’s personality, so they turn into a kind of love affair for many players. Consider this your heads up!

Whatever kind of dice you grow to love, you can buy some awesome Dice for Dungeons and Dragons, over at SkullSplitterDice.com who has the best dice in the realms.

The Rules and a Character

Next, you will need a character sheet and a set of rules to start playing D&D. Anyone can get these easily and quickly. With tools available at D&D Beyond, you can have a character sheet in less than five minutes. Visit their website or download their Player Tools app from the app store for free. Create an account using a Twitch or Google account. Then, you can select the “Quick Build” or “Randomize” for the quickest character ever.

As for the rules, start off with the free Basic Rules. They will have everything you need as a new player. Once you feel ready to go further, get a copy of the Player’s Handbook for the full set of rules. Even seasoned players pull out the Player’s Handbook every single game. They will tell you it’s a great investment. Plus, you most likely have a local friendly game store (LFGS) near you that has the Player’s Handbook for sale. Buying one there will support a local business and help you meet more people in the D&D community.

When you play your first game with a DM on StartPlaying, you will get support for everything you need. Your DM can give you a pre-made character or help you make a character. Plus, they will help you with the rules every step of the way. So while you will want a physical rulebook and a personalized character, don’t let these stop you from joining a game today.

A Gaming Group

Dungeons and Dragons is best enjoyed with a group of four to six players, not including the DM. The game was designed to embody the feeling of an adventuring party, much like in famous fantasy novels like Lord of the Rings. 

But in today’s world, gathering at least four friends to play a 2-4 hour game every week, or even just once, can sound impossible. Not having a group poses one of the biggest barriers to new players to start playing Dungeons and Dragons. So what do you do if you don’t have a group? Find one on StartPlaying. 

Joining a group on StartPlaying can actually be better than making your own group with friends for a couple of reasons:

  • You know everyone playing is interested in playing. A friend you “roped in” might not be committed.
  • D&D is a great way to make new friends through a shared interest.
  • You don’t have to run the game yourself.
  • StartPlaying has one-shots (single session games) and campaigns (one game run over multiple sessions).
  • Games on StartPlaying are catered to player level.
  • StartPlaying offers in-person games, or games through virtual tabletop (VTT) tools.

Online Play vs. In-Person Play

If you’re wondering about playing online using virtual tabletop tools, it’s worth exploring. Virtual tabletop tools create an online gameplay experience that mirrors an in-person experience as much as possible. Some tools even allow you to roll dice that look real or use battlemaps with virtual miniatures. Plus, time and location become less of a barrier to gameplay.


Some of the most famous tools include Discord, Roll20, and Tabletop Simulator. These tools allow players to play D&D using video, audio, and/or text. Some Dungeon Masters will stick to one tool. Others use multiple tools at the same time. 

The ability to play online has given more players access to Dungeons and Dragons than ever. Ultimately, though, it’s about personal preference. Would you feel most comfortable playing using online platforms designed to play Dungeons and Dragons, or would you prefer an in-person experience to start playing D&D? There’s no wrong way to play.


Last, but not least, you will want at least one miniature to start playing Dungeons and Dragons. D&D often uses maps and other small items to represent combat. A miniature is a small figurine that will represent your character during gameplay. 

With HeroForge, you can create your own custom miniature. They have an amazing miniature creation tool that allows you to specify your miniature down to their heroic pose.

You can also buy great pre-made miniatures at WizKids for any kind of character. You can even buy some pre-painted!

Some Dungeon Masters use “theater of the mind” for combat. This type of combat all takes place in the collective imagination without any maps or miniatures. But 9 out of 10 DMs use maps and miniatures, so you will want one.

The other benefit of miniatures is they can lead to a side-hobby off of your new D&D hobby. Lots of people enjoy painting their miniatures in beautiful, unique ways. 

Start Playing D&D!

You only truly need one item from this list to start playing Dungeons and Dragons, and that is a great Dungeon Master. A great Dungeon Master will provide you with borrowed materials and guidance on everything else you need. And while you also want dice, miniatures, a group, and a Player’s Handbook, don’t let those things become a barrier to playing your first game. Instead, head to StartPlaying’s “Browse Games” section right now and find the perfect game for you. 

To find the perfect D&D game specifically, select the “Any Game System” button at the top and specify that you’re looking for “Dungeons and Dragons 5e.” This is the most current and popular version of D&D. You could be playing your first game of D&D in a matter of hours. 



Jul 29, 2020
Playing the Game

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