The starter guide to Dungeons & Dragons

Let the imagination soar and magic missiles fly.
Illustration: Mazie Neill · The Sentry

How to play the most imaginative game

In 1974, two friends, Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, decided to give their personal war role-playing games a fantastical element, and thus the game of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) was born. For decades, players have fought monsters and villains as their own versions of heroes or anti-heroes. In this game, imagination, improvisation, and good dice are the keys to a successful campaign. Let the imagination soar and the magic missiles fly.

The official Dungeons & Dragons website has many of the resources a new player might need if they are serious about getting into the game. “The Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set” includes a set of dice, premade characters, a rulebook, and an adventure where the new Dungeon Master (DM) can hone their storytelling skills—more on each of these roles and aspects later. 

While these resources are helpful, they can get a tad expensive if a player wants every resource and premade D&D campaigns. Another option is to use the countless free resources on the internet. One source,, has many free guides and states that all a person needs to play the game is, “A copy of the ‘Dungeons & Dragons: 5th Edition rulebook,’ one set of polyhedral dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20), one D&D character sheet, (and) a pencil.”

The dice are arguably the most important part of Dungeons & Dragons, alongside an unwavering imagination. These six dice set the fate of the game, controlling everything from the character’s statistics to whether or not the Bard can seduce the dragon and keep the party alive. There are thousands of Etsy shops and dice collections on Amazon to choose from. Just like a wand from Harry Potter, the dice will choose the player. The next most important step is creating the character with the use of the character sheet. Downloadable versions can be found on the official D&D site and will help a player craft an adventurer that will change the world the DM creates. It is a place to keep track of the adventurer’s statistics, spells, level, and even their appearance and backstory. The character sheet is the character, and everyone needs one to play.

Finally, the party needs a Dungeon Master. The Dungeon Master tells the story and weaves together the events the players must endure. The recommended party is four to six people, although there is no official limit on the amount of people that can play. Together the players can save, or ruin, the world the DM has created for them. Whether played seriously or comically, an engaging plot is a must.

Ultimately, how the game is played is up to the individual and party. This is a game meant to be fun and imaginative, and when players take their own liberties with the rules, characters, and storylines, the game becomes even more special. Anyone can play, and although at first the rules seem difficult to learn, it tends to be smooth sailing once a person grasps the basics. Adventurers go forth, and hope the dice never lands on a Natural One.

This is a selection from the September 09 issue. To view the full issue, visit:

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