User Reviewed

How to Play Dungeons and Dragons

Five Methods:Sample CampaignsGetting to Know the BasicsSetting Up a GamePlaying the GameExample Gameplay

Dungeons and Dragons is a really good game to play while you are bored, or if you want to expand the realms of your imagination. After all, a game with a depth such as this really needs a lot of work to be played right. Here are some things to do to be able to play this magnificent game.

Sample Campaigns

Dungeons and Dragons Night of the Lichen Campaign

Dungeons and Dragons Greenwind Depths Campaign

Dungeons and Dragons Flayer's Valley Campaign

Method 1
Getting to Know the Basics

  1. Image titled Play Dungeons and Dragons Step 1
    Purchase the handbooks. To be able to play Dungeons and Dragons, also known as D&D or more commonly DnD, you need to know the rules. If you can't find a store to buy the books from, try some website such as Read through the handbooks to the point that you understand the basic rules.
    • There are several editions of the game, with different rules and procedures. Third and fourth edition are most common, currently. The fourth edition is considered to be the most user friendly and easiest to pick up.
  2. Image titled Play Dungeons and Dragons Step 2
    Understand race. There are different races which your character can be. These vary slightly between editions, but the most common include human, dwarf, elf, halfling, half-elf, half-orc, and gnome. The different races will have different inherent abilities, benefits and downsides. This will affect how your character gets by in life.
  3. Image titled Play Dungeons and Dragons Step 3
    Understand class. Class is what your character does, what they’re good at or have chosen to do with their life. Importantly, it determines the skills they will have which affects the role your character will have in the group. It is important to choose a class befitting your race. The classes are, again, different depending on edition. Common classes include fighter, rogue, and wizard.
  4. Image titled Play Dungeons and Dragons Step 4
    Understand alignment. Your character will also have a moral alignment which you will need to consider. This will help you determine how your character would react in certain situations, as well as the decisions they would make.
  5. Image titled Play Dungeons and Dragons Step 5
    Understand the role of the dice. There are a number of dice used when playing DnD. These are not just normal dice, but rather special dice with an unusual number of sides. The most common DnD dice is the classic d20 (quickly followed by a d10) but you will need a number of others. The best option is to get a full set from your local game shop.
    • The dice will be used almost every time the player or Dungeon Master (DM) takes an action. The difficulty or chance of something occurring is attached to a particular type of dice. You roll, and if the number is high enough then the action can occur, going well, terribly, or any number of other outcomes as determined by the DM.

Method 2
Setting Up a Game

  1. Image titled Play Dungeons and Dragons Step 6
    Join a game. The simplest, best, and easiest way to get started is to join an existing group. If you are less socially apt than average, this can seem daunting but ultimately can be a great way for you to make new friends. You can search local forums, ask around at cons, or inquire or advertise at your local game shop. Many universities and colleges, as well as some high schools, will also have clubs.
    • You must email, phone and/or meet the person hosting the group, and ask to join the game. The main thing you want to establish is age or social group. D&D is an activity that a mixed-age group can enjoy, but you don't necessarily want to be the only teenager in a room full of 40-year-olds.
  2. Image titled Play Dungeons and Dragons Step 7
    Organize your own game. This takes a little more work on your part. You can advertise in many of the same locations described above or recruit friends, family, or coworkers to play with you.
  3. Image titled Play Dungeons and Dragons Step 8
    Designate a Dungeon Master (DM). If you are the one organizing the game, this will likely be you. The DM should have a strong knowledge of the rules, or at least be willing to learn and run the game. They will want to do a little bit of preparation of an adventure before the first session.
    • This person should purchase or already have copies of the core rulebooks: The Player's Handbook, The Dungeon Master's Guide & the Monster Manual I. There are tons more books available, but you only need these three to run the game.
  4. Image titled Play Dungeons and Dragons Step 9
    Find a place to play. Typically this involves a table with some chairs around it, and is usually at the DM's house/apartment (not for any real good reason, that just seems to be how it pans out). This should preferably be somewhere without distractions such as the TV or other folks who won't be playing, though some local pubs or game stores will sometimes specialize in providing facilities to groups for a fee or free.

Method 3
Playing the Game

  1. Image titled Play Dungeons and Dragons Step 10
    Show up. You will, of course, have to actually show up come game night. DnD is a commitment, since it is difficult to enjoy the game if members of the group are constantly missing. When joining a game, you should be willing and prepared to work with their schedule.
  2. Image titled Play Dungeons and Dragons Step 11
    Create characters. For the first session, you will need to create your characters. This can be done alone, before meeting as a group, or together. Creating characters together should lead to a more balanced party, as you can discuss what is needed. Doing this together is also helpful for new or inexperienced players.
    • Make sure everyone has a blank character sheet or use a program like Redblade to do it for you.
    • Read the instructions regarding character creation in the Player's Handbook and have everyone but the DM create a character.
    • Take note of the differences between races and classes, and which complement each other. For example, if you decide to be a Fighter and this is your first time out, a Human or Half-Orc will be a far better choice than either an Elf or a Gnome. On the other hand, if you want a challenge, then try a Monk or a Spell Caster of any sort (Sorcerer, Druid, Cleric, Wizard, etc.)
    • The character you create will be called your Player Character (PC). All the other characters that are in the game world which are not controlled by a Player are called Non-Player Characters (NPC) and will be controlled by the Dungeon Master.
  3. Image titled Play Dungeons and Dragons Step 12
    Begin your adventure. You can move right into this step on the first session after you finish making characters, or this could also be the second session. Either way, this is where you all begin actually playing the game.
    • Each player controls their own PCs. You cannot control other people's PC, nor can you control NPCs.
    • The DM will describe where you are and what is around you.
    • The players all take turns telling the DM what action they would like to do in response. The DM will answer each question and explain what the outcome of any action.
    • Play will continue in this way, back and forth between the players and DM.
  4. Image titled Play Dungeons and Dragons Step 13
    End of Game - Most sessions will end at or near a predetermined time. The average time is determined by how often you play - if you can play once a week, then those sessions may be only four hours, whereas if you can only play once a month everyone may opt for eight hour sessions. Whichever you prefer, the DM generally keeps track of the time and will call the end of game when appropriate.
    • Most DMs prefer to create an episodic "cliff-hanger" feel right before some kind of action to stop at. This essentially pauses the adventure at an intriguing point so that excitement for how it will resolve at the next session is high among the players. Just like a TV show, this will encourage everyone to come back next time!

Method 4
Example Gameplay

  1. Image titled Play Dungeons and Dragons Step 14
    Start the game. Start the game with the DM telling you where you are and some general ideas about your surroundings, Such as: "You find yourself in a swamp. To the North you can see a house. To the West you can go further into the swamp. The East and South passages are blocked by dense growth".
    • Player 1: "I move to the North slowly, drawing my sword in case something attacks us."
    • Player 2: "How deep is the swamp water?"
    • Player 3: "Is the house in good repair?"
    • Player 4: "I move to the North, too."
    • DM: "The two of you begin to move north slowly, the mud sucking at your boots from below the waterline. The water is about one to two feet deep; generally shin-deep. {Player 3}, you try to determine the quality of the house from where you are. Make a perception check."
    • Player 3, who is trying to see if she can do something that may or may not be feasible, is asked to make a "perception check". She will roll a twenty-sided die (d20) and add her skill of perception to the total. The DM, in secret, will determine a number that represents how difficult it would be to succeed; this is called the "DC". If the player's total is equal or above the DC, then the attempt succeeds. More detail on how this works can be found in the Player's Handbook or in the SRD (System Reference Document).
    • Player 3 rolls a 13 on the d20. She adds the +3 she has in Spot, giving her PC a total of 16 to see the condition of the house. The DM had made the DC a 10, as it was fairly easy to see.
    • DM: "Squinting at the structure, you see that it seems to be leaning a bit to the side, with boards on the windows. It is unlikely that anyone has lived there in some time, but as to anything living there... well, you're not too sure."
  2. Image titled Play Dungeons and Dragons Step 15
    Look for other examples. Additional examples of play are located in the Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master Guide.


  • There are gaming modules (maps and stories which include various types of encounters such as: monsters, NPCs, and treasure locations) available both in the books and online which can assist a DM if he or she does not want to create one. This is a great place for new DMs to start.
  • Enjoy your time together, regardless of the outcome of the adventure. The point of it all is to have fun.Some people may think this rule does not apply and may throw temper tantrums if it doesn't go well. If this does happen don't be shy to ask your DM to kick him/her out.
  • Don't be afraid to role play! Try to say things that your character would say, rather than speaking in present-day slang. You don't have to pepper everything with Thou's or Milord's, but a medieval archer would not say "Dude!", or "that's wicked beast!"
  • Designate a Map Maker/Note Taker from the remaining players. This step is optional, but by doing so it will eliminate a lot of back-tracking and forgotten clues.
  • In D&D gaming you roll various dice (from d4 to d20 - 4 sided to 20 sided dice) to determine the results of many actions when under duress, if the outcome could have non-trivial repercussions or if the action is challenging to the character enough to be unsuccessful. Examples could range from success or failure in combat, trying to jump over a large pit, how well you represented yourself in talks with a prince, if you could stay on a galloping horse in the rain, being able to see something from a distance, etc.
  • Dice are referred to by number of sides, so a d20 refers to a twenty-sided die. Some times you will need a d2 or d3, since these do not exist use a d6 with 1,2,3=1 and 4,5,6=2 or just a fair coin (d2) and 1,2=1; 3,4=2 and 5,6=3 (d3). The number preceding the "d" is the number of dice; so 3d6 is three six-sided dice.
  • Beginners should stick to the standard character races and classes found in the Player's Handbook.


  • Not everyone will understand the joy of roleplaying. That's their problem, not yours. Have fun no matter what they say.
  • Do not bring guests with you to a session unannounced. Always ask the DM and the owner of the location you are playing at before you show up with anyone! Spectators typically serve as more of a distraction than anything else and will make many people uncomfortable. This is especially true of the owner of the location. Being courteous and respectful is always important.
  • The degree of roleplay is often determined by the group you play with. Learn how far they take the roleplay, and how much comedy is integrated into the roleplay.
  • It can be difficult to focus on the adventure when you're with your friends. Gaming sessions frequently lapse into chit-chat. You decide whether this is good or bad.
  • It is a good idea to have a game grid system to eliminate any confusion on where everyone is compared to where the monsters are.
  • It's good to roleplay, but don't overdo it. For example, you don't need to always say stuff like, "Prithee my liege, but if mine dagger doesn't end up back in my ponce, I'm going to have to splay and butterfly you on a tree. Huzzah!"
  • Make sure everyone is playing with the same version. There are major changes from one version to another, and even 3rd edition to 3.5 has some big changes. If you aren't careful, you may end up creating a character that is broken (extremely good, usually because of exploits) or one that can't correctly function due to the mix up of rules.
  • If others do not role-play, it is not a problem you should get hung up on. Many do not role-play because they have strong beliefs against witchcraft and may become uncomfortable with someone acting like they can do spells. Others simply feel self-conscious playing "let's pretend" as grown-ups, and would rather focus on the game aspect of D&D. You can still have great fun behaving like real people!

Things You'll Need

  • Books for rules and information such as: Dungeons and Dragons: Players Handbook, Dungeons and Dragons: Dungeon Master Guide, Dungeons and Dragons: Monster Manual .
    • All three can be purchased as a starting pack in a slip case for a discount
    • The basic rules, called the d20 System Reference Document (SRD), are online and free. (
  • Dice: d20, d12, d10(actually two dice in a pair, one going from 1-10 and another going from 10-100, counting up in tens) , d8, 4d6, 2d4
  • Paper and pen or pencil (for mapping, keeping track of character stats, etc)
  • Graph paper (optional): Great for map making for both the DM and the Map Maker
  • A friend

Sources and Citations

Article Info

Categories: Role Playing Games