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How to Start a D&D Campaign

How to Start a Campaign

What the heck is a D&D?

D&D stands for Dungeons and Dragons and is the most popular tabletop role-playing game. If you haven’t heard of it by now, you must have been living under a rock....or in a dungeon. The original game was published in 1974 and consisted of rules for creating characters, running combat and other encounters, and casting magic spells.

I’m intrigued...what do I need to get started?

3-6 players who are willing to learn basic rules and have fun 1 Dungeon Master who is willing to learn the rules more in depth and run the gameplay A hard copy or digital copy of The Player’s Handbook, The Dungeon Master’s Guide and The Monster Manual, A set of dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20)

Ooof...looks like a lot of reading...

There is a fair amount of reading involved in playing the game. If that’s never been your strong suit, maybe the prospect of engaging in an imaginative exercise with your best friends will be good motivation. This goes double for the DM (hopefully, whoever is reading this). The Dungeon Master is responsible for adjudicating rules and explaining to the players their scenario (description, challenges, people they meet in the world).

I don’t get it, there is no screen...

D&D takes place in what some call “the theater of the mind.” Instead of using a controller or a mouse and keyboard to control your character, outcomes are determined by rolling dice. These dice rolls represent your character's skills and are enhanced or influenced by your character’s abilities.

THERE IS NO SCREEN! THERE IS NO RAM, HARD DRIVE, OR STEAM PURCHASE! To play D&D, you only need to be able to communicate verbally and use your imagination. Many Dungeon Masters (DMs - the people who run the world and don’t control a character) will use physical map handouts to represent certain encounters, but these are optional. More on this later.

If you’ve ever played Skyrim or Fallout or any RPG game on a console or PC, it is important to understand that the gameplay you’re experiencing was most likely influenced by D&D, a game that began with paper, pencil, and dice.

*Most of this article assumes you will be using the 5th edition of DnD, which is what you’ll mostly find on book and game store shelves. There is no right or wrong way to run a campaign and this article merely serves as a primer. The amount of resources and articles that exists on the internet is awe-inspiring

Pre-made Adventures-

If starting a campaign seems daunting, never fear; there are books to help you. The publishers of D&D content have a vast amount of published adventures that a DM can pick up and read and guide their players through. This can be an excellent option for those looking to get their feet wet, as much of the heavy lifting of world-building and NPC generation has already been done. Think of these books as “Choose Your Own Adventure” on steroids.

D&D Beyond

  • D&D Beyond is a website set up to facilitate the somewhat complicated task of making and managing a character, as well as campaigns. It requires creation of an account but once you do this you will have access to a number of great features:

    • digital character sheets saved on the cloud

    • step-by-step help in creating these characters

    • the ability to “host” campaigns where all the character sheets of a given campaign will be displayed

    • ability to unlock digital content, such as the pre-made adventures, outline above

    • the ability to roll digital dice for your skill checks, as well as a live log of all rolls ever made in the campaign

Roll 20

In the course of your campaign, players will come across new wildnernesses, sprawling cities and be locked into intense battles. To represent all this, maps are your best bet. Since few of us have the time or talent to draw our own maps, websites like Roll20 exist. Like DnD Beyond, sign-in is required, but you will get access to:

  • your own battlemaps, with grids and rulers 

  • battle music to add effects to your campaign

  • the ability to upload custom tokens, to represent your player’s characters and any creatures they may encounter

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