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You like D&D, you just don’t know it yet. Here’s how to start playing.

Ally Rzesa/Globe Staff

| Arts |

You like D&D, you just don’t know it yet. Here’s how to start playing.

What do the Stranger Things creators, Vin Diesel, and Ta-Nehisi Coates have in common? They all love Dungeons & Dragons! Dungeons & Dragons, or D&D, is a combat and storytelling game created by Gary Gygax and David Arneson in 1974. A dungeon master, or DM, narrates a group of players through an adventure story they create together by casting spells, facing monsters, and solving puzzles. Players roll dice to determine how successful they are — a high or low roll could be the difference between life and death! Try it for yourself at the bottom of the article.


Ally Rzesa/Globe Staff

The game has seen a massive resurgence in the past few years — local North End bar Parla’s even offers a D&D-inspired cocktail roulette — and its rise will only continue as “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” arrives in theaters March 31. It’s a fun way to hang out with friends for hours while using your creativity, and it can be as serious or relaxed as you want.

Even though the game’s famous for Lord of the Rings-esque fantasy and battle, the modern version is more a set of rules to structure any kind of story. Players can execute a heist, adventure through space, bake some pies, and of course, slay a dragon for treasure! All of this is created through players talking to one another, either by acting as their characters or describing what happens on the spot. Want to play but don’t know where to start? Here’s how to begin!

Never seen it? Watch (or listen to) a game.

Ally Rzesa/Globe Staff

At first glance D&D can seem pretty confusing. What do all these numbers mean? Why is my friend making funny voices? Am I supposed to roll this pointy die, or this pointier die? To get the gist of it, there are a million podcasts and shows to listen to or watch! (Too many. The world’s overflowing with D&D podcasts.)


Some popular shows to check out:

Critical Role
Dimension 20
The Adventure Zone
Not Another D&D Podcast
Adventuring Academy

And check out one of our journalist’s first impression of the game

I’d never played D&D before — some friends helped me fix that

Gather a group and ‘Learn’ the rules

Ally Rzesa/Globe Staff

Almost no one who plays D&D actually knows all the rules. As long as you have a basic understanding of the game, an internet search engine, and access to the Player’s Handbook, you’ll be fine.

The D&D Starter set leads players through a beginner-friendly story where adventurers can learn the rules as they go — and it comes with dice and premade characters so you can hop right in. In general, not everyone playing needs to be an expert. One or two people leading by example and helping others along the way is more than enough.

It’s recommended to play with four to six players, but you can technically play with a minimum of 2 people. Can’t find a group? Local businesses Tavern of Tales, Pandemonium, Eureka! Puzzles & Games, and Knight Moves Cafe host events for new and experienced adventurers.

Choose your dungeon master

Ally Rzesa/Globe Staff

The DM serves as a referee and narrator for the players traveling through the story. They describe the environment, challenges the players face, and every non-playing character in the game. Every game of D&D is different, and there’s no one right way to run them.

The only resources DMs need is the Monster Manual and the Dunegon Master’s guide. No matter how long you take to prepare, a lot of being a DM is improvising things on the fly and looking up the rules as you go. It takes more work than being a player, but designing a world is a whole lot of fun.


For everyone else, make a character

Ally Rzesa/Globe Staff

Players make choices as their characters in the adventure. You might not steal a bag of gold in real life, but the thief who’s trying to find their long-lost brother might!

Your character sheet keeps track of everything you need. Players choose their character’s backstory, their appearance, their morality using the infamous alignment chart, and more — there are 12 basic classes to choose from, and each one is like having a job that allows your character to use a different set of abilities.

Want some help making who you want to be? Use a character creator resource to walk you through the process with already-made options. After all, if the tragic backstory cliche isn’t broken, why fix it!

Grab your dice

Ally Rzesa/Globe Staff

D&D uses up to 7 different dice that all have a different amount of sides. Players say what their character would do in a situation set up by a DM, then roll dice to see how successful they are. In combat, your character sheet says which dice to use, and when to use them — or in unusual scenarios the DM will decide.

Most of the time players roll a d20, (a 20-sided die,) and often the higher they roll, the better the outcome. (How well did you steal that loaf of bread without getting caught? If you rolled a 1, straight to jail! If you rolled a 20, take two loaves — the coast is clear.)


In combat, players roll dice to determine the order they attack in battle. Then they roll to see if they hit an enemy, and then they roll some more to see how much damage they do. Lots of dice rolling!

There are plenty of fun colors and patterns of sets you can buy. (If you don’t have dice on hand, you can always use an online generator for dice rolls, but it’s just not the same!) Be careful though, collecting dice gets addictive — how could you resist these cute little guys with mushrooms in them?

Besides dice and paper for character sheets, you don’t actually need anything else to play D&D. Many groups play with small figurines and grid mats to help determine distances and who-is-who in battle. Others imagine everything and purely describe what’s going on — this is called theatre of the mind.

Choose your type of story

Ally Rzesa/Globe Staff

Is your group playing through a fairytale, or a murder-mystery? D&D can be a short game that’s completed in an afternoon, or it could be an epic saga that goes on for literally decades. It’s up to your DM and your group to decide — and more importantly how much work your DM is willing to commit to setting things up.


Ambitious DMs can write their own settings for their players to work through, but there are plenty of free and affordable premade stories (called modules) available online for anyone who wants to jump in. Check out the Globe’s free adventure here.

Some games are filled with combat, suspense, strict rules, politics, and puzzles — while others are a bunch of friends trying to run a pizza parlor. As long as you use the rules as a framework to have fun, there’s no wrong way to go.

There you have it! This guide is only the beginning, and it’s normal if it takes you a little bit to get the hang of things. Give D&D a try, and if it doesn’t end up working out, you can always try Fishblade.

Roll for your fate

Here’s a classic D&D scenario. Roll to see how well you do!
Your character opens a treasure chest upon doing so you discover...


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