You’ve finally emotionally recovered from what happened to Eddie Munson at the end of Stranger Things season 4. You finally managed to track down an accurate Hellfire Club shirt. And you’ve played “Master of Puppets” so many times that the other songs on Spotify are begging you to remember that they exist. There’s only one more way to satiate your Stranger Things obsession: play Dungeons & Dragons.
Playing D&D is something that might’ve been on your mind since seeing it in the earlier seasons of Stranger Things. In fact, the two brands teamed up to make a D&D Stranger Things Starter Set that you can play right now. On the other hand, D&D can seem like it makes no sense, especially how they portray it in the show. A story is told, dice are rolled, and things happen at the whim of the Dungeon Master. “How does D&D work?” one might ask. “What are the rules?”
Detailing every single D&D rule would take a while, but we can dispel some of the confusion for you. Here are the first steps you can take to play Dungeons & Dragons.
Get The Player’s Handbook
There are a LOT of D&D books on the market, but you really only need one to play: the Player’s Handbook. This tome tells you how to create your character and provides all the rules of the game. It can be a lengthy read, so you might want to decide what kind of character you’ll play before diving in.
The first few chapters on how to build a character, races, and classes are essential reading. But depending on what kind of character you intend to play, you might be able to skip certain parts for now. For instance, you can skip the chapter on spellcasting if you’re more into being an armored knight or sneaky rogue. Do be sure to read the section on combat, however, as that will definitely come up.
Watch How-To Videos
Many people learn better through watching instead of reading. As we all know, YouTube is a wonderful free resource for learning how to do pretty much anything. That includes playing D&D–a simple search of the subject will bring up loads of how-to videos. Feel free to pick and choose a YouTuber that matches your preferred style, or watch several! You can also learn a good deal about the game by watching people play. Shows like Critical Role or Total Party Chill can show you what actual gameplay looks like.
Ask Your Dungeon Master For Help
If you’re lucky, you’re learning to play D&D because you were invited to be part of a D&D group. In this case, you should already be in contact with the game’s organizer, AKA the Dungeon Master. Part of the DM’s role is to know the rules of the game better than the players, so they should be able to answer any questions you have. If they know you’re a beginner–and especially if the whole group is beginners–they may even offer to walk you through creating your character.
It is also a good practice to check in with your DM to ask how they run their game. Every individual DM might ask you to build characters using their preferred method, observe their own house rules, and generally play in a way that isn’t 100% by the book. It’s the DM’s job to be clear about such conditions, and they should be willing to guide you through their unique rules if it’s your first time.
A word of warning: DMs are a wonderful resource, but be sure not to overburden them. The DM is working to learn all the game’s rules, write a story, collect art to make your game more immersive, and weave other magic behind-the-scenes. You should make an effort to learn the ins-and-out of your character on your own (through reading the Player’s Handbook, watching videos, etc.) and approach the DM more for occasional questions than to do everything for you. Any good DM will want to help their players learn, but they only have so much time to give.
There really is no one right way to play D&D, so the best way to learn is to do. The basic idea is that the DM sets the scene, then asks players how they respond to the challenge they face, the players declare what they want to do, and dice are rolled to discover the result. It’s that simple, and imagination can fill the gaps where your rules knowledge isn’t quite there yet. As you saw in Stranger Things, the kids were very active in using their imaginations to play D&D.
Speaking of Stranger Things, the kids in the show grew up in the 80s playing the original D&D. If you’re looking for that authentic experience, StartPlaying does have a few games going on. That said, the rules back then were more complex. A new player is better served playing the current version, D&D 5th Edition. There is an abundance of beginner-friendly D&D 5e games available, come find one that works for you!