All posts by Rodney

Hey there, I'm Rodney! I'm a writer and editor of tabletop RPGs and a painter of Orks. Welcome to Rising Phoenix Games! Dwarves Rule! By the Power of Greyskull! Jesus Saves! Turtle Power! Bionics On! Waaagh Ork! For the Golgari, for the Swarm! ThunderCats Ho! Skate the Apocalypse!

No Dice — RPG Blog Carnival, Dec 2022

It’s time for us to host the RPG Blog Carnival again, and this month the topic is “No Dice”. Read on to stimulate your brain with new ideas and fresh takes from the TTRPG blogosphere.

rpg blog carnival logo

If you’re a reader, here’s how it work:

RPG bloggers from around the globe will drop links into the comments below. You can check them out there or come back to Rising Phoenix Games at the end of the month, when I’ll post a summary of all the posts (that’s New Years Eve, the same day as our birthday!)

If you’re a blogger, here’s how to join in:

Check out the ideas below or come up with your own take on “No Dice”, publish an RPG-flavored blog post, then drop it in the comments of this post, below. Because I’ll need to get the summary up on New Year’s Eve, please get your post in by the 28th of December.

We’ve tried to keep the topic as open as possible, so hopefully you’ll find something to inspire your articles this month. Here are a few thoughts on the topic:

  1. Mechanics. Every game has mechanics that aren’t linked to the dice. Maybe you’ve invented diceless mechanics, or you want to discuss some rules from your favourite RPG that don’t require rolls. Tell us about them.
  2. Beyond the Game. Roleplaying games are what they are because of the players, and story is a vital part of the game that goes beyond dice and numbers. Pick some aspect of the game that doesn’t involve mechanics and discuss it.
  3. Weal and Woe. Luck is an important part of most roleplaying games, so tell us about the time your party’s luck ran out, or they were exceptionally fortunate. You could create items based around luck, a monster that eats or creates luck, or a trap that looks like a giant D20.
  4. All About the Story. Sometimes the best sessions have very little rolling involved. If you’ve had such an experience we’d love to hear about it.
  5. ‘Tis the Season. Give us a list of Christmas gift ideas for roleplayers, but avoid dice.
  6. No Limits. The dice often set the limits, but we’re not setting any for you. If you’ve got an idea that falls outside the theme and want to take part, please join in the fun still.

Feel free to drop more ideas in the comments below.

Till the end of the year, have a good one, stay safe, and keep rolling!

 


The State of the Phoenix – 2022

Every year we learn and adapt. In 2022 we returned to our grassroots and applied those lessons to great effect. Here’s what Rising Phoenix Games got up to in 2022.

Early in the year, I finished developing TTRPGs for d20pfsrd.com Publishing with the release of the Pathfinder Second Edition version of the Eldryn character supplement and Artful Dodgers (which, alongside Masters of the Occult: Play Manga d20 is my best works for the company). Leaving them allowed me to commit more time to freelancing and to Rising Phoenix Games.

Freelancing remains the best way for me to learn the art, science, and business of TTRPG production, so it’s one pillar of the business.

The GrimDark Pamphlet Banner

For Rising Phoenix specifically, our goal was to focus on the Grimdark Pamphlet and Undersea Sourcebook series, complete Three Stone Stories, and begin work on a larger solo RPG product that will eventually form the core of our business. All have progressed nicely:

  1. Three Stone Stories is out and on its way to earning its Copper Seller medal. It has two 4-star ratings so far.
  2. With the release of Undersea Sourcebook: Water Magic we are halfway through the development of the series. We’ll probably focus on the monster book next, which I’ve done a substantial amount of development work on already.
  3. The Grimdark Pamphlet is progressing well, and we’ll return to it in 2023 after some freelance work in early 2023.
  4. Our larger solo project is top-secret for now, so I can’t say much.

In refocusing we’ve let a few games go, including several miniature skirmish games that we’re selling off to larger publishers. There are also a few paused projects, which we’ll sit on until the time is right.

Mayas & Dungeons and Camp Karate

Some opportunities are worth grabbing with both sets of talons, and we had two great opportunities this year.

In March I was asked to develop a small game to promote JAST USA on April 1st, and this became Mayas & Dragons, a small (and free) print-and-play solo dungeon crawl.

In July we participated in Drive-Thru RPG’s ZineQuest, creating Camp Karate. It was a great opportunity to get eyes on our products, and we remained within the top 8 entries for all of August.

Camp Karate RPG

The Fat Long Tail

One pleasant surprise was our 5e Madness Cards making more sales this year than in all of 2020 and 2021. I added a PDF version for home printing after a customer’s request on Drive-Thru (thank you, Lee). We’ll be adding a version of the Pathfinder Second Edition Madness Cards for home printing in 2023.

Goals for 2023

Next year will be more of the same:

  1. Develop the Grimdark Pamphlet, according to the roadmap.
  2. Develop the Undersea Sourcebook monster book.
  3. Take part in ZineQuest if possible.
  4. Develop our Solo RPG master plan (mwahaha).

We’ll be moving away from social media in the same way we pulled back from the blog, but there’s still time to snag a book from our latest contest:

Have an amazing holiday season and a happy 2023!

#ShowYourRPGShelf and Win an RPG!

Show us your RPG shelf and win a print copy of Nightscape: Red Terrors for your collection by entering the #ShowYourRPGShelf RPG contest.

How to Enter

1) Follow us on Twitter and Facebook (and grow the party!)
2) Reply to one of the posts below with a picture of you, holding your favorite character sheet, in front of your shelf of roleplaying books.
3) Share the post you replied to.

Be sure to check out other collections in the comments or by searching for the hashtag #ShowYourRPGShelf.

The T’s and C’s

Entries close November 30th. One entry per person. The winner will be announced in December 2022. The judge goblin’s decision is final. Winners will be determined by dice combat (we’ll roll ’em). Keep those pics family-friendly, please.

You can find out more about Nightscape, here. Get Nightscape: Red Terrors on the Rising Phoenix Games Store.

Good luck!

Journeys in Yomi

Last week we journeyed to Yomi, the Japanese land of the dead mentioned in the ancient myths and legends of Japan. Let’s explore further so that you can use Yomi to inspire your own campaign setting, or as a campaign setting all on its own.

Journeys in Yomi

Journeys in Yomi

There are two ways to enter Yomi. For most, death brings them to the threshold of the Gray Gate, beyond which lies the narrow, winding stone stairway that leads to Yomi. A few brave—or foolhardy—folk have journeyed to the physical location of the gate, which is hidden beside a rural temple in the town of Higashiizumo, Shimane Prefecture, Japan. These travelers, though they go of their own free will, experience the same things as those who are brought here by death: a compelling draw to descend the steps and discover what lies in the mists below.

The descent is not dangerous or horrifying, as one might expect. Rather, the path cuts down a mountain path at a gentle angle, passing grasses and trees given a regal aspect in the grey light of twilight. No birds or beasts stir, but the hollow knocking of bamboo wood chimes and the shakuhachi flute sounds, somewhere in the growing mists. It is a calming sound, complimented by the rustle of leaves blown on a gentle breeze, or the cascade of a small mountain spring, somewhere off the path.

A Poem of Tranquility
Quietly, quietly, yellow mountain roses fall, sound of the rapids. (A Poem by Makoto Ueda, via Wikimedia Commons)

Each step down the path brings new, muted joys, and most feel no compulsion to turn back. For those who do, leaving the stair or turning back to ascend it is a feat frustrated by the strange physics of the Land of the Dead. A tree, reached just off the path, might hide more of the stair or a dead end behind its knobbed trunk. What looked like a short climb off the path quickly turns steeper than expected, and what seemed like solid footing is instead slippery mud. While the climb down is easy, the return journey is always tiring, and it becomes agonizingly more difficult to make progress back up the stair.

For most, the descent is inevitable. As they near their destination and their path grows darker, the faint glow of the moon seems to diffuse, casting less light but giving an eerie cast to the sky. It is then that the traveler finds the threshold of Yomi.

Running the Descent

Players shouldn’t be forced to make saves as they travel the stairway to Yomi — a description of the effects on their character should be enough for them to realize that reaching the bottom is inevitable. This is not to say you need to force them down the path either. Inventive ideas might allow the party to make significant progress back up the stair, or even escape Yomi altogether.

With this in mind, any adventure set in Yomi needs to include an enticing hook to entice the players on this dangerous journey, and some hope of returning to the world of the living too.

The Lands Beyond

Travelers wandering through Yomi navigate by landmarks rather than distances. While two places might be considered “close” to each other, their true distance is in constant flux. The same journey might take a day or a month, and a traveler that strays from their course is doomed to wander aimlessly until they discover a landmark they know.

If you enjoyed our take on Yomi, be sure to grab your copy of the Grimdark Pamphlet, which will be updated with a full description of Yomi in the coming weeks. Also, be sure to check out Beyond the Horizon Games and their blog, as they’re hosting the RPG Blog Carnival this month. The theme is “world building”, go take a look.

Journey Below the Waves

If you enjoyed our little look at Yomi, then you’ll likely enjoy our Undersea Sourcebook series for D&D. Three of the six books are out, covering everything a player needs to explore the world below the waves or take to the seas as a pirate.

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The Race & Class Guide includes races and classes for ocean-themed characters.

Mutants & Mariners provides additional options, specifically for mutants and pirates.

Feats & Equipment expands player options with firearms, pirate weapons, and a host of new feats. It looks like feats will be more important than ever going into the next edition of D&D, so start collecting.

Water Magic gives you new spells and magical items.

Till next time, may you have great adventures

Rodney


Yomi, The Japanese Land of the Dead

Yomi is the Japanese land of the dead. It was mentioned in the ancient Kojiki, a collection of myths and legends purportedly composed in the 8th century. In Yomi, the dead live out a muted, eternal existence, regardless of their past deeds.

RPG Blog Carnival

It’s Orktober… ahem… October, and that means time for another RPG Blog Carnival. This month’s carnival is hosted by our good buddy Kim, over at Beyond the Horizon Games (he also plays Orks). The topic for October is “Worldbuilding“, which is serendipidious since that was exactly what we were looking at in our latest edition of the newsletter.

Campaigns in Yomi

We must always be respectful when setting games in places that are significant to others. We must go as respectful travelers, realizing that we are journeying into a land that others understand better than we do. This short guide can only introduce you to the world of Yomi, but its lore is truly vast, so it might be the perfect inspiration for your own campaign.

Yomi is more like Limbo or the Shadow Plane in Pathfinder than Hell. People do not go there because of their sins or lack of faith, they go there because it is the next step of their journey. People do not usually return from Yomi after they have feasted in Yomi, but that probably won’t stop your players from trying.

Yomi is both a land of shadows and corruption. You might find people covered in maggots or pass through a stranger like a ghost. Yomi is as cold as a tomb, but its residents seem only dimly aware of the cold. The rain hardly ever falls on crops unless it floods the land, the wind never moves ships unless it throws them against the rocks, and the sun is forever pale and powerless.

The responsibilities you had in life might remain in death, but they are no easier. A farmer might work a field that grows only rotting rice, or a baker might put bread into an oven that never gets hot enough for cooking. Emperors still reign, but they too must suffer the entropy that pervades Yomi, as their kingdom falls apart no matter what brilliant decrees they might enforce.

Travelers wandering through Yomi navigate by landmarks rather than distances. While two places might be considered “close” to each other, their true distance is in constant flux. A journey might take a day or a month, and a traveler that strays from their course is doomed to wander aimlessly until they discover a known landmark.

NPCs from Yomi

The Tetsuakuto and other NPCs will appear in the Grimdark Pamphlet.

Tetsuakuto (Iron Bandit)

Encased in black iron plate, tetsuakuto wear hideous menpo face masks bearing octopus designs.

The Tetsuzaku, or Iron Bandits, were feared outlaws that menaced major trade routes throughout the Empire. When they were finally captured they were boiled alive in their iron plate before being offered to a kami of the ocean cliffs. Through some occult bargain, they returned from Yomi to plague those who live near the sea, before returning back to the lands of the dead.


Tetsuakuto

Medium undead, lawful evil

Armor Class 18 (plate)
Hit Points 76 (8d8 + 40)
Speed 30 ft.
  STR
  DEX
  CON
  INT
  WIS
  CHA
  18 (+4)   12 (+1)   16 (+3)   10 (+0)   14 (+2)   12 (+1)
Saving Throws Con +5
Skills Athletics +6

Damage Immunities cold
Condition Immunities frightened
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 12
Languages Common
Challenge 4 (1,100 XP)

Undead Fortitude. If damage reduces the tetsuakuto to 0 hit points, it must make a Constitution saving throw with a DC of 5 + the damage taken, unless the damage is radiant or from a critical hit. On a success, the tetsuakuto drops to 1 hit point instead.

Actions

Multiattack. The tetsuakuto makes two attacks with its naginata.
Naginata. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (1d8 + 4) slashing damage. On a successful hit, the target must succeed on a DC 13 Dexterity save or fall prone.

Reactions

Spike Rake. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d4 + 4) slashing damage.

Three Stone Stories: Solo Narrative Roleplay is here!

Three Stone Stories Cover

Your Greatest Tale

Three Stone Stories is a solo narrative role-playing game where you’re the Storyteller.
Tell heroic tales using your own imagination, these rules, and three regular six-sided dice.

Roll the Stones,
Determine the Will of the Dice,
Choose your Destiny.

It’s Your Story

The full 64-page book, including several adventure chronicles, tips for getting the most out of the game, and D6 generators is available wherever we sell the game, and you can get it from Drive Thru RPG for 20% off using this coupon code.


Can We Improve RPG Leveling Systems?

Look at me, killing monsters for wealth and XP! Experience points (Exp or XP) are a great reward for players and a fun part of the game (it’s all fun though, right?). But do they really do their job? Can we build better RPG leveling systems that include roleplaying?

Void Dragonborn

Leveling up with XP is a staple of the genre and games like D&D and Pathfinder would lose much of their playability without it. Imagine being level 1, forever!  Each new level gives you more options and lets you fight bigger monsters and face more dangerous challenges. But has anything really changed for your character? Hasn’t the bar just moved? Has the character’s experience of the world really changed them at all?

Before I sound too much like a jaded grognard, I’m not saying that the system’s broken. It doesn’t need fixing. But what if the system incorporated character development? What if your character didn’t just become more powerful, but their outlook changed and they grew in their understanding of the world?

The Mouse Guard RPG and Marvel Heroic Roleplay both tie mechanics to your character’s goals, and I’ll bet there are a ton of other systems that do too. How does it work? Basically, you gain some penalty or bonus (or both) when your character’s goal or flaw comes into play. These goals or flaws often change at the end of a session or when you level up your character.

In D&D, we have ideals, bonds, and flaws, but they’re not linked to level progression. With One D&D recently announced, are we likely to see that change? What might an ideals-based leveling system look like?

An Ideals-Based RPG Leveling Systems

Instead of (or in conjunction with) using inspiration in your D&D games, players earn experience points when they play to or against their ideals. You can award XP according to four tiers linked to the XP Thresholds by Character Level table in the Dungeon Master’s Guide (Chapter 3). For example, a minor use of an ideal, for a 6th level character, you might only award 300 XP. Going against their ideal that causes major consequences might, in contrast, be worth 1,400 XP to the same character.

This XP is awarded only at the end of the session, and could be divided between the players to ensure nobody is too many levels ahead of the rest. In essence, while one character might have had a significant moment of personal growth (or regression), their whole party is affected and learns from it.

This isn’t rocket science, so I’ll be surprised if GMs aren’t already doing something similar. Let me know.

RPG Blog Carnival

A big “thank you” to Adventures to Authenticity for hosting this month’s RPG Blog Carnival. This month’s topic is “Character Development”,  so head on over there to see all the great articles submitted by the community.

Camp Karate Goes Copper

Camp Karate, our game of hot-blooded dramatic roleplay, is now a copper seller on Drive Thru RPG. To celebrate, we’ve got a special discount link for you, so you can join in the action. Haya!

Camp Karate RPG

5e Madness Cards for Home Printing

We’ve added a PDF version of our Madness Cards for 5e to Drive Thru RPG, so you can print them at home. We still think the POD option is better, but here’s a discount link if you want the PDF.

Madness Cards Set
Just look at the prettiness! You get two sets of the cards in a nice tuck box if you order the POD version.

That’s all from me for today, have an amazing weekend.

Rodney

Dragon Rep: The Top Tier PR of Dragons

Dragons get good public relations (PR) these days.

It’s easy to forget that dragons used to be the embodiment of evil. They were the Serpent, Satan in the garden of Eden and the Book of Revelation. You know that Vecna guy? Dragons were worse.

These days the public image of dragons is more varied.

I was watching trailers for upcoming movies the other day and was surprised to see how many of them had dragons in them. Some inclusions made sense; the Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves trailer has two (a black and a red). House of the Dragon… that’s easy…

Then there was Shazam! Fury of the Gods and The Sandman. I’m not so familiar with either franchise, but I didn’t expect to see dragons here. I realized that it was time to get educated, so I picked up The Sandman, Volume 1. I’ll let you know when the dragon appears.

Even Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has what looks like an Aztec representation of a dragon, seen just briefly on screen.

So, dragons are really popular, but is that just in the circles I hang out in? There’s even a mod for Stray that lets you play as Spyro the Dragon. I think that just points to the fact that dragons intrigue us. Ever since our ancestors first picked up a dinosaur bone, we’ve been fascinated with scaled giants.

The RPG Blog Carnival and Dragon Fire

In July, this fascination came home. We hosted the RPG Blog Carnival with the topic “Here Be Dragons“, and here’s what our friends had to say about our fire-breathing friends:

Kim Frandsen of Beyond the Horizon Games talked about Wyrms of the North, a series of articles that ran in Dragon Magazine from 1996 to 1999. He says (and I agree) that the history — the story — behind each dragon is an important part of what makes them work at the table.

In his second article, Kim introduced Patina, a copper dragon with a grudge. Here’s an excellent campaign idea for your table, based around an intriguing creature. This isn’t a simple “slay the monster, get the gold” adventure idea either, and I love that.

Kim’s third article opened up dragons in a big way. I even consider this article a must-read for Pathfinder 2e and Dungeons & Dragons 5e GMs looking to run a campaign featuring dragons, as it deals with some aspects not covered in the core rules. Dragons are Dangerous, and Kim has done some work to ensure they play that way at the table.

Finally, Gonz at Codex Anathema created a dragon-focused campaign based on three one-shots he ran. The article is written in Spanish, but Google Translate in Chrome will get you there in a jiffy! The players get to meet phoenixes during their adventures, so we’re big fans already. And oh, it gets better from there. Give it a read.

Thank you to everyone who contributed this last month, and to everyone who joined us along the way.

Before we go, I’d love to hear from you. Who is your favorite dragon? What setting are they from and why do you like them? My favorite is Niv-Mizzet from the Magic: the Gathering TCG, because who doesn’t love making things go boom?

Just Out

We just released Camp Karate: Hot-Blooded Dramatic Roleplay, a new little indie RPG. We loved making it and we think you’ll enjoy playing it. Check it out.


The Hot RPG Sale — July 2022

We have the Hot RPG Sale, with massive deals, coming all July long! Remember, newsletter subscribers get to hear about special offers first.

Remember also to check out the RPG Blog Carnival, Here Be Dragons, which we’re hosting this month. It’s full of great dragon-inspired content and ideas for your next campaign.

30%-Off Coupons

All of these titles are 30% off, this July only. Click on the title to apply the coupon to your order on Drive-Thru RPG or the DM’s Guild:

Fifth Edition OGL and Dungeons & Dragons

Monster Books:

Griffins – A Field Guide
Phoenixes of the Realms

Solo Adventures:

Welcome to Scarthey (D&D)
Death Queen & the Life Stone
Forest of Secrets
Companionable Darkness

Undersea Sourcebooks:

Undersea Sourcebook: Race & Class
Undersea Sourcebook: Feats & Equipment
Undersea Sourcebook: Mutants & Mariners

Aurora’s Whole Realms Seasonal Catalogues:

Aurora’s Whole Realms Summer Catalogue
Aurora’s Whole Realms Autumn Catalogue
Aurora’s Whole Realms Spring Catalogue
Aurora’s Whole Realms Christmas Catalogue

Feywild Guide:

The Adventurer’s Guide to Fey Magic

Pathfinder RPG (Second Edition)

Heaven & Hell (Alternate ancestries and options)

Pathfinder RPG (First Edition)

Monster Books:

Phoenixes – A Field Guide
Chilling Curiosities

Adventures and Settings:

Lunatic Labyrinth (Solo Adventure)
Welcome to Scarthey (PFRPG) (Sourcebook for our Adventures)
Anaximander’s Adventuring Studies
Dying Dead

Starfinder RPG

Mecha—A Field Guide

Stand-Alone and Unique Systems

Nightscape: Red Terrors
Claustrophobia

Nightscape: Red Terrors RPG Cover

 

Remember, the Hot RPG Sale offers end at the end of July.

Till next time, be the hero!

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games


Here be Dragons — July RPG Blog Carnival

At the furthest edge of the map, far from civilization, the words “Here be Dragons” is scribed across the most inhospitable, unexplored lands. Journey with us, as the RPG Blog Carnival ventures into these lands of legend and danger.

Here be Dragons

Here be Dragons — July RPG Blog Carnival

Every month, the RPG Blog Carnival takes a turn at a different RPG blogger’s site, and this month it’s here, at Rising Phoenix Games. If you’re a blogger, you can join in by writing an article inspired by the topic and dropping a link to it, in the comments below. I’ll write a wrap-up article at the end of July that covers all of the posts submitted. I hope you’ll join us!

If you’re not an RPG blogger, hang out with us and see what everyone brings to the topic. In March we had a great time exploring magical space adventures. What adventures will we have this month?

rpg blog carnival logo

Here are a few ideas, but you can interpret the topic as loosely as you like, we’re not the thought police:

  1. Dragonlance is coming for Dungeons & Dragons (here’s the Dragonlance trailer). Take us back to your gaming table, or try and predict what we’ll see from Wizards of the Coast.
  2. Give us a new dragon for Spelljammer, your own setting, or a different game. Science-fantasy dragons, cyberpunk dragons, superhero dragons, steampunk dragons… there are more themes to explore than I could ever hope to mention.
  3. Maps! The history of the phrase “Here be Dragons” is very interesting and would mean nothing if not for map makers and their art. Give us a map, a map maker NPC, or some ideas about how to use the phrase “Here be Dragons” on our own maps.
  4. The symbolism of dragons can bring up some interesting ideas. How can GMs apply the concepts often associated with dragons to their human NPCs?
  5. Wikipedia states that dragons are known in virtually all cultures around the world, so looking at different dragons from around the world should bring up plenty of interesting ideas.

Void Dragonborn

So them’s the rules. Let’s dive back into the world of Space Punks for another new race, dragonborn descended from void dragons.

Void Dragonborn

With deep black eyes that shimmer with the light of a thousand stars, void dragonborn display their faint bloodline back to void dragons. This rare variant of dragonborn are known for their insatiable wonderlust and weak grip on reality.

Void dragonborn are dragonborn (Player’s Handbook) with the following draconic ancestry:

Dragon Type. Void
Breath Weapon Damage Type. Fire and Radiant*
Damage Resistance Damage Type. Cold
Breath Weapon. 15-foot cone (Dex save)

*You deal 1d6 fire and 1d6 radiant damage from first level. This increases to 2d6 fire and 1d6 radiant damage at 6th level, 2d6 fire and 2d6 radiant damage at 11th level, and 3d6 fire and 2d6 radiant damage at 16th level.

Hot Sales All July Long

We have massive sales on, all July long. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get the deals first, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook to get notifications of new offers.

That’s all for now, but be sure to check back at the end of the month for the roundup.


How to Play D&D, The Game in Stranger Things

Stranger Things is a great show, with tight storytelling, stunning visual effects, and a cast of characters we’re totally invested in. It also features Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), a game we love and where the Duffer brothers got the Mindflayer, Demogorgon, and Vecna from. I’m here to help you get into this amazing hobby and teach you how to play D&D.

Remember the scene? Warning, here be swears.

What You Need to Play Dungeons & Dragons

The first thing you’ll need is a copy of the rules. You can get a free, basic version of the rules on Wizards of the Coast’s website. A better option for new players is the D&D Starter Set, which includes dice. There’s also a Stranger Things-themed D&D starter for die-hard Stranger Things fans. If you’ve played roleplaying games before, or you’re serious about diving in, then get the Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook instead. This is the most important book of the three core books — which include the Dungeon Master’s Guide and the Monster Manual — but you do a lot with just the one.

Next, you’ll need a set of RPG dice. These include all those funny-shaped dice, like a D4 (four-sided die), D6 (the regular six-sided die), D8, D10, D12, and D20. Good sets include a percentile D10, which is marked 00, 10, 20, and so on, up to 90. The twenty-sided D20 is the most important die in Dungeons & Dragons, which is why these types of games are usually referred to as D20 games.

RPG Dice - How to Play D&D
From left to right: Percentile D10 (front left), D8 (at the back), D4, D6, regular D10, D20, and D12.

One set of dice is enough to play, but multiple sets make it easier to keep things going. You can also find free and premium dice apps online.

Lastly, you’ll need paper and pencils for notes, printed character sheets, and a place to play, like a dining room table.

Stranger Things Play Dungeons & Dragons

All the Stuff, Plus the Kitchen Sink

Like any hobby, there are a lot of bits and pieces, tools, and fancy gear you can drop money on to enhance your D&D experience. Fortunately, none of it is necessary, and often what you find useful will depend on your preferences. I enjoy miniatures, but I use them in different ways in different games, and sometimes I find things more interesting without them.

As you get into the game, you’ll probably start to accumulate more stuff anyway, so keep things simple for now.

Read to Succeed

There’s a lot of reading involved in roleplaying games, but don’t let that intimidate you. Looking at the Player’s Handbook, you only need to read the Introduction, Chapter 7 (Using Ability Scores), Chapter 8 (Adventuring), and Chapter 9 (Combat) to have a good idea of how to play D&D. Building a character will take you through the earlier chapters, and Chapter 10 (Spellcasting) will only apply to some characters.

There are also plenty of videos online that will teach you how to play D&D or any other popular roleplaying games. Another great way to learn is to find other people who are already playing and join their games. D&D is very easy to pick up and other players are usually very happy to explain the rules.

How to Play D&D - The Game in Stranger Things

Play it Solo

If you’ve got the rules down, try playing the game with one or two friends. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get it right the first time (or even the second or third time). D&D is complex enough that it takes time to get the hang of. Just have fun.

If you can’t find anyone to play your first few games with, you can find plenty of adventures for one player alone, where the book takes on the role of the Dungeon Master (DM). We published Death Queen and the Life Stone, Forest of Secrets, and Companionable Darkness, three adventures that use the D&D system. They’re a great way to try out a character and get dice rolling.

Where to Next?

D&D is the big dog, but there are a ton of other roleplaying games out there. D&D is sword and sorcery, but there are games based on anime, wild west action, sci-fi, Lovecraftian horror, and even suicidal gnomes; there really is something for everyone. I recommend Pathfinder Second Edition as a strong alternative to D&D, especially if you’re looking for a richer game with more options. The Pathfinder Second Edition Core Rulebook includes far more than the Player’s Handbook does, is full of great art, and the Pathfinder community is great.