What things do I need to play Dungeons & Dragons?

If you have seen the Dungeons & Dragons played on TV or in a live play video, you might suppose that playing requires a lot of maps, miniatures, props, and other gear. While many players enjoy using the accessories, D&D is a game of imagination that requires dice and virtually nothing else. Many players prefer to keep play in their imagination, unburdened by gear.

The things you need for a Dungeons & Dragons game depends on your game’s style and how much you wish to spend.

Required: Rules and Dice

To start, all you really need rules and dice.

Start with the free-to-download Basic Rules. Print some blank character sheets from the one that appear at the end of the basic rules.

D&D uses an unusual set of dice, each with a different number of sides.

d4 d6 d8 d10 d12 d20

4-sided 6-sided 8-sided 10-sided 12-sided 20-sided

d100The ten-sided die shows a 0 on one side, but that counts as a 10. Some dice sets include a second 10-sided die numbered from 00 to 90. To generate a number from 1-100, you add a roll on this die with a roll on the other d10 , with a roll of all zeroes counting as 100.

Ten-sided dice with just 10 sides first appeared for sale in 1980. Before that, players rolled a twenty-sided die numbered from 0 to 9, twice. Those rounder d10s roll better, so I prefer them over the modern version, but I stopped using them. Whenever I made a damage roll with my 20-sided d10s, my players would panic. What sort of monster rolls d20s for damage! I will happily interrupt a post for a gaming history lesson, but not a combat encounter.

You just need one of each die, but many rolls add more than one result from the same size die. If you buy extra dice, you can make these rolls faster by throwing several dice a once. Veteran players tend to collect bags of dice.

More rules options

You could play D&D for years without anything more than the basic rules, but most players eventually seek even more options.

The Player’s Handbook expands your character options and makes a good first purchase.

In Dungeons & Dragons, the Dungeon Master (DM) acts as the games referee and storyteller. If you want to be a Dungeon Master, the Monster Manual adds monsters beyond those in the free Basic Game. The Dungeon Master’s Guide can wait until you’ve run a few games and feel an urge for more advice, options, or magic items.

Some DMs prefer to start with a published adventure. The Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set includes the adventure Lost Mine of Phandelver which ranks as an excellent adventure and a good start for new DMs. Of course, many DMs prefer to dream up their own adventures.

Optional: Battle map

Unlike some earlier editions, the latest version of Dungeons & Dragons enables you to play combats in the theater of the mind, a fancy way of saying in your imagination.

Theater of the mind works well for small battles, but for most encounters, I favor playing on a grid of 1-inch squares called a battle map. Blank, reusable battle maps let you draw walls and other features, and then wipe them clean.Doomvault Golem Foundry

The Pathfinder flip-mat works with both wet- and dry-ease markers and folds for easy storage. When laid out, the mat tents a little at the creases.

The Chessex Battemat rolls out and lays flat, but the rolled map is harder to carry. This vinyl map limits you to wet-erase markers.

Even if you choose to run some fights on a battle map, you do not need to invest in miniatures. Instead, just use any tokens that you can tell apart. For example, a lot of convention judges use Starbust candies to represent creatures on the battle map. They come in a variety of colors, and players like to eat the monsters they slay. You can also use 1-inch washers or game pieces from other games. NewbieM explains how to create tokens from inexpensive materials. D&D is a game of imagination first.

Optional: Dungeon Master Screen

Many DMs prefer to work without a screen that divides them from the group, but I favor a screen.

Mini dungeon master's screen on tableIn my very first post, I listed five reasons I use a DM screen. Mainly, I like keeping my notes secret. Most players avoid snooping, but with a screen no one has to worry about catching sight of a spoiler. If you decide to use a screen, you can purchase one, use my rules inserts, or make your own screen.

Even if you usually opt for a screen, you do not always have to use it. Sometimes when an adventure reaches an interactive section, I lay my screen flat and portray non-player characters without a barrier.

Accessories

For more gear options, see my “Photo Guide To Dungeon Masters Tools.”

This entry was posted in Advice, Dungeon master's tools and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to What things do I need to play Dungeons & Dragons?

  1. Tony says:

    Your link to the ‘how to make cheap tokens’ is broken.

  2. Juan says:

    Hi David,

    thank you so much for all this information.
    I just found your site and it’s full of inspiring stuff!

    I have a couple of questions but they are a bit unrelated to this article, I hope you don’t mind

    1. I’m an English teacher, and I wanna start implementing some ideas from RPG into my class games with teenagers (as in 11-14). Do you have any tips? My idea is to just have a dungeon map to explore with no monsters, just natural obstacles and traps (I wanna avoid upseting their parents by getting their kids excited about killing things :D)

    2. I would like to post an adventure I came up with somewhere on the net for others to give me feedback. It’s not a campaign but a one session adventure. Is there a sort of adventure workshop forum anywhere?

    • DM David says:

      Hi Juan,
      I’m delighted that you find my site useful. Thanks!

      1. I’ve run lots of sessions for kids in that demographic. They will certainly have fun exploring and puzzling through traps, especially if the traps take a small measure of ingenuity to spot and avoid. If you only have roll-to-spot traps, only the thief has fun. (See my post on puzzle traps.) Make your players feel smart for overcoming and avoiding the obstacles. As for monsters, part of the appeal of zombies is that heroes can destroy them with no moral conflicts. If zombies seem a too grotesque, consider skeletons or even constructs. Make a statue animate and attack.

      2. Sorry, but I don’t know of any forums where you can get feedback on adventures. If you haven’t run your adventure yet, start there. Your players will do things you never expected, take interest in elements that seemed forgettable, skip past some of your favorite ideas, and still have a blast.


      Dave

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