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D&D Basics of Play


Dungeons and Dragons is, at its heart, a roleplaying game about storytelling. Like most make-believe games, D&D is powered by imagination. Unlike most games, however, you have complete freedom to be whoever you want to be in this world. D&D is a narrative game, meaning it is primarily played through an ongoing conversation in the group. It is supplemented by maps and character sheets, but D&D lives primarily in discussions between players and the DM.

Though lots of D&D comes from pure imagination, the game uses dice and mechanics to create a system of consequences and results to the players actions. Be it climbing a cliff, persuading a merchant to give you a discount, or dodging away from a fireball, D&D uses dice to determine the outcome of any given action.

D&D can seem like a complicated game, but it is just a system to support storytelling. In this document, I’ll go over some basics of how to play D&D if you’re a first time player.

The DM

In D&D, the DM plays the role of the storyteller and the referee. They narrate the world around the players, play the NPCs, and orchestrate villainous plots for the players to overcome. Whatever the players do, it is up to the DM to determine the outcome of their actions, and how the world reacts. Whatever the DM says, goes, and is considered a fact of the world.

The DM will describe the situation the players find themselves in, as well as things around them. Players are then free to explore or interact with things, and the DM will explain what the results of their actions are and call, or ask players to roll, for any necessary checks.

When first starting out, the DM will also help you create your character. If at any point you can’t remember something or have a question, the DM can usually answer. However, be careful not to interrupt the DM when they are speaking!

Core Stats

Every creature in D&D is defined by six stats: Strength (Physical power), Dexterity (Nimbleness and speed), Constitution (Health and Toughness), Intelligence (Memory and reasoning), Wisdom (Senses and Awareness), and Charisma (Friendliness and Personality). The value of a stat corresponds to a modifier, as shown in the table below:

Stat Value 8-9 10-11 12-13 14-15 16-17 18-19 20

Modifier -1 +0 +1 +2 +3 +4 +5

A stat’s modifier is more important than its raw value, because the modifier is added to major dice rolls.

Proficiency: All D&D characters have a proficiency bonus, which starts at +2. The proficiency bonus is added to dice rolls corresponding to things a character is proficient, or trained/experienced, in.

Dice Rolls

D&D is a game that involves many types of dice used for many different purposes. Dice are referred to by the number of faces they have, such as a d4 having 4 sides and a d12 having 12 sides. The most important dice, however, is the d20, which is mainly used to Attack Rolls, Ability Checks, and Saving Throws:

Attack Rolls: The first major type of d20 roll is attack rolls, which are used whenever you are attacking a creature or object with a weapon or some kind of magic. Attack rolls are each associated with a stat, such as Strength for a hammer, Dexterity for a dagger, or Intelligence for a wizard’s spell. To make an attack, roll a d20 and add your bonuses, then compare it to the target’s armor class. Armor Class is a measure of how tough something is to hit, and is determined for players by the armor they wear. If your attack roll meets or exceeds the target’s AC, your attack hits. Otherwise, it misses.

Ability Checks: The second major type of d20 rolls are ability checks, which occur whenever the player tries to do something that may have an uncertain activity. A higher roll generally indicates greater success, while a lower roll generally indicates less success.There is a standard list of abilities on every character sheet, which generally encompass any type of rolls that would be necessary. These skills will all have set bonuses based on the player’s core stats and proficiencies. Players will be proficient in a number of skills from both their class and their background, and will add the bonus to those specific skills. In play, the DM will often call for the players to make ability checks. However, if players want to attempt something specific, they can also ask to make a check. A check is not valid unless it is called for by the DM.

Saving Throws: The final type of d20 roll is a saving throw, which is used when trying to avoid some sort of effect. There are six types of saving throws, one for each stat, and players are generally proficient in two of them, determined by their class. Saving throws are always called for by the DM, and may include examples like resisting a charm spell (Wis), not getting thrown off a cliff (Str), dodging away from a fireball (Dex), or powering through a poison (Con). Generally, success means lessened or no damage/effect, while failure means suffering the full effect.

Races and Classes

When you create your character in D&D, you will have to assign them a race and a class which will determine a good amount of what they can do. While the DM will go over both of these with you during character creation, you can take a quick peek at what some of the Races and Classes are. When you do, make sure to focus on the ones designated under Player’s Handbook/Basic Rules

When the party comes together, ideally each player will have a different class. This will enable them to complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses throughout the Adventure.

Though D&D involves many more rules than this, this quick primer should be enough to get you started with your D&D Adventures, and you’ll pick up more along the way. Don’t forget, you can always ask the DM for help if you have questions or get confused. We’re excited to Adventure with you soon!

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