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.
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.
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.
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.
Hi there, I’m Rodney.
Writer, Game Designer, Editor, Kitbasher, Skateboarder, and Ork ‘Ed Banga. But Nothing Without Christ!