Dungeons & Dragons has a rich history, and is certainly one of the longest standing RPG worlds in gaming. It’s inspired both video game RPGs and fantasy writing, and it continues to persevere to this day. But D&D is a social experience, best played with good friends or friendly acquaintances. If you want to get a steady party going, you’ll need to do some preparation, but the results will be well worth it. Here are some tips to get your own D&D campaign ready to go.
Scheduling, Scheduling, Scheduling
Scheduling is probably the toughest challenge in getting your D&D group off the ground. Accounting for five or more busy adults’ schedules is no simple feat, so party members will need to be open to planning and willing to compromise. A great way to streamline the process is to use a polling app like Doodle Poll or Poll Junkie. It’s also helpful to determine how long sessions will run. It’s easy to go for three hours or more, but some people don’t have that kind of time. Be clear about everyone’s expectations for the session.
Gather the Right Materials
You’re going to need some stuff before you get started on your adventure. The DM — the person actually running the game — at the very least will need a Monster Manual, a Dungeon Master’s Guide, and the book accompanying the campaign you choose. If you’re really new at this and want to start off easy, you can’t do better than the Starter Set, which comes with it’s own beginner campaign and all of the information you need to play without having to invest in the books. You can also find fully legal resources online, too. The official site is a great place to start, and it even has downloadable character sheets. Players will also need a Player’s Handbook. It’s well worth the investment; it’s chock full of everything you could possibly need to know and features gorgeous illustrations.
Apart from the necessary guides, there are a few other bits and bobs that will help you exponentially. Make copies of character sheets before you start so folks have a way to record their characters’ stats and progress. Provide pens and extra paper as well for note-taking. A whiteboard is sometimes helpful for mapping out dungeons and battles so players can easily keep track of character positioning and the places they’ve explored. Most importantly, get some dice! They come in a huge variety, from your basic plastic dice to fancy custom-made “artisan” dice. Or, you can just download a dice-rolling app.
Choose a Campaign
If you’re new to D&D, it’s probably a good idea to use one of the campaigns designed by Wizards of the Coast. You can start with the campaign available in the Starter Set before moving on. There are a few other campaigns well-suited to players starting at level 1, too. Storm King’s Thunder, Curse of Strahd, and Hoard of the Dragon Queen all cater to players starting from scratch. Read up on each to see which story suits you best and then grab a copy of the book.
Select a Dungeon Master
Being a Dungeon Master (DM) is fun, but also gives you additional responsibilities. DMs guide adventurers through the story, describing the scenery and playing the part of the various NPCs players will encounter, while also directing the flow of battle. This is a role best suited for someone already familiar with the inner-workings of Dungeons & Dragons, though it’s perfectly possible for newcomers to try their hand at DMing too. Make sure you familiarize yourself with all of the basic mechanics, and have resources handy if you need to look something up mid-campaign.
The best DMs enable players and put themselves into the story. Go over the part of the campaign you’ll be leading your friends through before the session starts, and get to know the maps and characters you’ll be role-playing as. Some DMs go so far as to make little props for their players, for a nice added layer of immersion. If you need extra inspiration, watch some videos online or listen to a D&D podcast to get a feel for how other people perform as the DM.
Set Aside a Session to Roll Characters
Rolling characters is in itself a bit of a time-consuming undertaking. You’ll make good use of the Player’s Handbook to select a race and a class before using your dice to roll for your stats. It’s helpful to do this together with the group so you can discuss party balance and help each other out. It’s also fun to work together to see how your characters’ backgrounds will mesh and conflict.
Another good idea? Develop a backstory for your character and give it to the DM so they can find ways to work character beats into the campaign. Good storytelling makes the difference between a bland campaign and a rich, developed adventure.
It’s not a party without drinks and snacks, and Dungeons & Dragons is definitely an event that welcomes continuous munching throughout the festivities. If you’re hosting, try baking snacks for your fellow adventures — things like caramel popcorn or cookies are easy to snack on and aren’t too messy. Drinks are also a must. Perhaps aim for some seasonal mead or craft beer fitting with the D&D theme — Dragon’s Milk anyone? You can have fun with non-alcoholic beverages as well: Heat up some warm apple cider for starters.
Appoint a Recorder
When you’re meeting only once a week or less, it can be easy to forget about your fantasy life. It helps to elect someone to take down a brief summary of the events in each meeting. Share the notes with the group in a Google Doc to give easy access. It’s important to remember, say, what the group had actually promised those trolls, or which corrupt politician they’re supposed to be killing.
And with all of that taken care of, you should be ready to (literally) roll. Dungeons & Dragons turns our common love for storytelling into an interactive art form that has yet to be completely replicated. Above all else, have fun!