A Beginner’s Quick Guide How to Play D&D 5E

There is hardly any gamer in the world that will disagree with the fact that Dungeons & Dragons is one of the, if not the, most prominent and best tabletop RPGs in the world. Whether you’re a newbie to D&D or haven’t even played the game, it is likely you’ve consumed Dungeons & Dragons in one form or another, whether it’s through the popular online series Stranger Things or while listening to Merle, Taako, and Magnus track down relics on The Adventure Zone.

This outstanding game is extremely thought out and polished, and with tremendous opportunities for campaigns and settings along with the multitude of books available, the possibilities of gameplay are practically endless. Once you get hooked to Dungeons & Dragons, it’s impossible to stop playing even after completing hundreds of hours of adventure.

However, it is also true that for a new player, Dungeons & Dragons can come across as incredibly intimidating due to the abundance of rules and campaign strategies as well as a lack of familiarity with how its world works. But there is no need to worry because whether this is your first time learning how to play Dungeons & Dragons 5E or any tabletop RPG in general, we have got you covered. This Dungeons & Dragons 5E beginners guide is exactly what you need to get started, we will give you a basic introduction to D&D as a whole along with providing you the information you need before you start playing and how to play.

Why Choose D&D?

As a newbie and especially if you’re a beginner to tabletop RPGs, you will ask yourself, with the hundreds of different RPGs like Call of Cthulhu or Blades in the Dark on the market, why should I choose Dungeons & Dragons?

And the answer to this is quite simple, although there are many types of RPGs with various settings and cryptic mythologies with different levels of complexity, Dungeons and Dragons stand apart from the rest. Dungeons and Dragons is a game that is uniquely placed in the center of the spectrum, the rules are easy enough to follow and work with as beginners but there is a specific and clearly arranged structure to work within.

Players are given the space to exercise their creativity but aren’t confused by an infinite list of choices, this prevents hitting a dead end early on in the game and gives a bit of a support structure for players. Dungeons and Dragons is the ultimate stepping stone for anyone looking to get involved with tabletop RPGs

What To Expect from Dungeons & Dragons?

It is safe to say that at its very core, Dungeons & Dragons is like a storytelling game for groups. However, it is much more interactive and inclusive than that sounds, because while storytelling is primarily done by one person while the group listens, Dungeons & Dragons is a game that requires active participation by the entire group.

One person, known as the Dungeon Master, creates a setting full of magic and adventure and then the other members of the group, known as the players, take control of various characters built into the story. The  Dungeon Master is responsible for creating a scenario in which the narrative can flow all the while maintaining the pace of the game while each player is free to make different decisions and take charge of their characters within the confines of the world.

Buy the Dungeon Master’s Guide here

There are many ways your adventure can go and it’s all up to you, does your story have a classical hero’s arc or is it doomed to end in despair? In the end, there is no one way to play this masterful game, because there is no one ideal way to tell a story, it is simply told how you want it to be told.

It is difficult to understand the mechanics of Dungeons & Dragons by simply reading about it and a good way to really grasp its concept is to experience it by either playing yourself or watching fellow D&D players go at the game.

Where to Get Started in D&D?

The best part about D&D is that to start playing the game, all you really need is one copy of the rules, a set of dice, a couple of pencils, and of course, a wild imagination. The basic rules are available in PDF form online for free, courtesy of the Wizards of the Coast, and any set of polyhedral dice will work just fine.

But the ideal kit to start with is the Starter Set, as the name suggests, this beauty contains everything you need for a sound start. It contains dice, an essential rules handbook, five pre-made character sheets, and an introductory adventure. I think that one of the primary strong suits of the Starter Set is the character sheets, although new players sometimes feel a bit let down that they don’t get to craft their own characters from the ground up, these premade sheets get most of the trickly calculations required to make characters out of the way.

Buy the Starter Set Guide here

The relationships, personality traits, and motivations listed on the sheets serve as a source of inspiration and this allows new players to ease into the game. And if you really have a thirst to make a brand-new character then the website D&D Beyond has a character creator tool that can guide you.

If you’re looking to act as the Dungeon Master then it is important to pick up the Dungeon Masters guide too. This contains all the vital information, advice, and rules that a DM needs while running a campaign or an adventure. Plus, it also gives Dungeon Masters tons of tables that are needed to run the game.

Furthermore, another great investment for a player, new or longstanding, is the Players Handbook. This book covers things like the basic rules and is helpful to have on hand to reference abilities and spells mid-game, plus the fantastic art in the book is an additional treat.

The Monster Manual is another well-known book of Dungeons & Dragons and it acts as the primary sourcebook for monster stats in the game, a bestiary. However, if you have the Starter Set or any other individually published adventure already then initially, you can go without the Monster Manual because the published adventure will already contain the stats for monsters you’ll come across in that particular adventure. But it is likely that further on into your journey as a D&D player you will find that the monster manual is indispensable because it’s essential for creating your own campaigns.

Buy the Ghosts of Saltmarsh Guide here
Buy the Xanathar’s Guide to Everything Guide here
Buy the Monster Manual Guide here
Buy the Player’s Handbook Guide here

Should You Choose a Pre-existing Adventure or Start from Scratch?

While building your own adventure and campaign is one of the most exciting aspects of Dungeons & Dragons, it is much more convenient and definitely easier to opt for a pre-existing adventure as a new Dungeon Master. Rather than diving into the schematics and complexities of building an entire campaign, a new DM can learn a lot more through experiencing a pre-made adventure first. 

The adventure provided in the Starter Set is the Lost Mines of Phandelver, which is quite fantastic. Not only is it a great introduction to the way stories and settings are woven together in D&D but it’s a pretty solid campaign in itself. 

There are many great adventure options out there and here are some of the best D&D 5E adventures for beginners.

Tales from the Yawning Portal is loved by many and this adventure module anthologies contains many classic dungeons crawls from the history of Dungeons & Dragons that have been updated for the fifth edition. There are options for every sort of player and the first one, The Sunless Citadel, is pretty challenging but an excellent starting scene for newbies that have a thirst for danger and excitement, however, they might need the support of a couple of veteran D&D players.

Buy the Tales from the Yawning Portal here

Another favorite is the Curse of Strahd which is a 254-page adventure that is set in Barovia, players must muster enough power to defeat Strahd so they may escape. This adventure can take players up to level 10 and what sets it aside from other adventures is that it doesn’t have the typical sorcery vibe but rather a unique and consistent theme of gothic horror.

Once you feel comfortable playing with premade adventures, you can easily move on to creating your own for which there are endless possibilities and scenarios.

Let’s Start Your Adventure!

So, after you have picked out an adventure and gathered your player’s group, you and your friends will mostly spend your first D&D session crafting characters, picking out their traits, discussing and deciding their relationships with the other characters, and creating a narrative and scene for the journey. However, you get to skip that difficult step if you use the premade character sheets in the Starter Set.

It’s always wise to figure out the finer points of your gameplay, talk with your group and figure out what kind of game you’ll be running. Are you in the mood for a serious, by-the-book adventure or is there space for some silliness? Questions and discussions on topics like this help set a tone for the campaign that everyone is satisfied with which helps avoid conflict in the future.

Keep your sourcebooks nearby because you’ll probably need to check it out every so often in the game to stay on track. If you plan on playing as the dungeon master then a Dungeon Masters screen can be quite helpful, it acts as a handy reference for stats and rules which also helping you hide die rolls and notes from the player group.

Is There More?

Dungeons & Dragons has an extensive collection of lore for players looking to explore its world, and it goes far beyond the information given in sourcebooks. There are many novels, including some written by R.A. Salvatore, video games, and even comics that expand on the D&D world. Many dungeon-crawlers derived from the famous Dungeons & Dragons 5 Edition campaigns like Tomb of Annihilation exist to keep players interested along with D&D board games like Assault of the Giants. Once you start looking into the other forms that Dungeons & Dragons has incorporated itself into you will realize that D&D is far more than just a tabletop RPG.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many D&D 5e books are there?

There are 28 Dungeons & Dragons 5e books. Core rulebooks, campaign guides, and adventure books make up the majority of the collection. Starter sets, accessories, and PDF/print-on-demand releases are also included in the total. The most recent 5e adventure, Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden, was released last month. It’s one of the first 5e games to be released in the Unearthed Arcana format.

Which D&D books to buy?

Below is the list of D&D Books you’ll ever need

  • Player’s Handbook
  • Dungeon Master’s Guide
  • Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica
  • Eberron: Rising from the Last War
  • Ghosts of Saltmarsh
  • Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
  • Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron
  • Monster Manual
  • Xanathar’s Guide to Everything
  • Volo’s Guide to Monsters
  • Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

What should I read first, the player’s handbook, or the dungeon master guide?

In my experience, I would begin by reading the Player’s Handbook and covering every page except spells and class abilities over the 2nd level.
Read more about the spells and abilities as the level of the player’s increases.

I always familiarize myself with the player’s handbook that contains the main rules (Create sticky notes)

You should pay particular attention to the rules, magic items list, and mechanics in the Dungeon Master Guide.

What are the differences between Starter Set, Player’s Handbook, and Basic Rules PDF?

In the Player’s Handbook 5e, there are a wider variety of races, subraces, and subclasses for every class.

The basic rules are a shorter version of the Player’s Handbook. There are basic rules contained in the basic rules.

In the starter set, you will find the most basic rules, which is all you need to get started playing D&D as fast as you can. There is no character creation in this set. Users have to use pre-made characters.