What You Need to Start Playing D&D


All hobbies come with two lists: the essentials you need to get started, and the luxury things that are really nice if you’re in it for the long haul. While there is virtually no end of the list of things that you can purchase for your Dungeons & Dragons hobby, the list of things you actually NEED is relatively small.

Grab four to six friends

D&D is a group activity and while there’s not technically a limit to how many people you need, a five (including yourself) is a good starting number. Most pre-generated campaigns assume that there are about four heroes involved (plus a DM). Although more experienced DMs may allow anywhere from two to ten players, starting out it’s a good idea to keep the group small.

Pick up a rulebook


Although the game requires creativity and imagination, there also have to be at least some rules or else things quickly get out of hand. As a player, you’ll really only need the Players Handbook (also abbreviated to PHB) to get started.

If you’re on the fence about spending the money for a paper copy, modern editions of D&D are open source, meaning that the basic information for building a character and playing the game can also be found online for free. The current edition is called 5th Edition, or 5e and unless your DM is running a different version, that’s the one we recommend.

If you’re looking for specific rules or information, then you might also check out the searchable 5th Edition SRD which contains the rules in a Wikipedia-style website. This is especially good for looking up reference things during a session.

For new players, however, we recommend purchasing the print copy so you can take it to your sessions, and use the PDF and SRD as a easily-searchable backup.

Pencil, paper, laptop… any way to write things down

Unlike console or computer RPG games, everything in a D&D campaign happens verbally and in person, which means you’ll need a way to keep track of your character and the happenings in the campaign.

While more tech-savvy gamers may prefer a laptop or tablet for taking notes and keeping character sheets, we recommend keeping it low-tech to decrease distractions. All you really need is a character sheet, a pencil, and a few extra pieces of paper for writing down loot, NPC names, and other important things you’ll inevitably need to remember.

If you have access to a printer, you can download the official 5e character sheets here. There are both blank and form-fillable versions but we prefer the blank ones. You can also copy the version included in the back of the PHB, or simply write it out by hand. If this is your first character, you’ll probably want to print an extra copy in case you mess it up halfway through. Also, you’ll definitely want to use a pencil for your character sheet as there will be a lot of erasing involved as your character levels up.

Pick up a set of polyhedral dice

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Last on the list of must-haves is a standard 7 piece set of polyhedral dice. These are the tools you’ll use the most to determine what happens when your character interacts with the world. Dice can be purchased in any combination of colors and designs and can range from $5 to as much as $100 for specialty or metal dice.

To get started, you’ll only need to purchase one set of dice and a bag or something to keep them in. Your local gaming shop will have dice to choose from or you can order them online from various retailers. While there are dice rollers available online, they tend to be skewed one way or another, so you’ll be better off with purchasing physical dice.

Although the dice may seem a little confusing at first, our next article explains which each is used for and goes more in depth. Check it out below, or go back to D&D Basics for more articles designed for new players. Or you can always head back to the Archives to start browsing more D&D articles.

Next: Guide to Polyhedral Dice →