A checklist of things you need, and don't need, before you can play. We have worked to ensure that you can successfully run your first game without spending any money.
There's tons of D&D supplies out there to buy. But you don't actually need very much for your first game, and there's a free version of everything.
There are also a some optional things you can spend a few dollars on.
We've marked things that cost money with $ shop
These are the things you should make sure you have for your first game.
You will only need to read Part 2 (chapter 7, 8, 9) and the first chapter of Part 3 (chapter 10) as described in Game Preparation.
This free adventure was designed from the ground up to work alongside this guide and support Dungeon Masters who are running their first game.
We have prepared a set of pre made character sheets. We explain how to distribute them to your players in Before the Game.
Pencils and paper, for the retro feel, or any digital note-taking software like Notion, Apple Notes, or Windows Notepad
- Free Digital option: DND Beyond - create an account and any character sheet and you will get access to a very nice looking digital dice roller
- Free Digital option: Avrae is a Discord Bot that lets you roll dice by typing simple commands
- Free Digital option: Dice Maiden is another popular Discord Bot.
- Order RPG dice online in Canada $ shop
- Order RPG dice online in USA $ shop
- Order RPG dice online in Europe $ shop
Assemble the party has more details on how to manage group sizes.
We designed The Green Blight to take approximately 4 hours. This is the standard length for most D&D sessions. Asking a group of humans to stay engaged with one thing for 4 hours is asking a lot. People need planned breaks and nourishment. Not eating is a great way to guarantee that the last half of your game will be less fun when everyone gets distracted and tired. Healthy snacks will keep you more alert than unhealthy ones.
- We recognize that groups can't always be in the same room, but you can still play D&D online! You need a platform that provides text chat, voice, and video, such as Discord, Zoom, or Google Hangouts.
- We recommend using Discord. You and your friends will need to create accounts ahead of time. You will also need to create a server for everyone to join. It is straightforward and you can find clear instructions on YouTube.
These things will be useful for your first game, but you can survive without them.
Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. A whiteboard is particularly useful in combat when players need a quick sketch of the position everyone is standing in.
Digital options: Ziteboard, Google Jamboard
A short summary of the most important points in this guide. We have your back during the game.
A short summary of the key rules of D&D, including useful charts. Think of this as a cheat sheet for the D&D Basic Rules.
Free Resources for Dungeon Masters
Subscribe to the Sword & Source newsletter if you are interested in receiving more free resources. Visit Novus Bestiary for just one example of the content we create.
These are resources you may have heard of but that you don't actually need for your first game.
There are many ways to play D&D and many resources that can enhance your game. Many of the things you have heard about are not actually necessary to run your first game. We have listed the most common ones here in order to clear up any confusion.
We do not recommend investing in any of these items until you have completed running at least one game.
Official Published Materials from Wizards of the Coast
Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Kit or a similar starter kit $ shop
Starter kits are fantastic resources. However, we've assembled everything you need to start in this guide so that you can start sooner – without spending any money. While not necessary for your first game, we do recommend these kits to anyone starting out who can afford them.
Players handbooks for each player $ shop
The Player's Handbook is a core book that provides complete options for character creation and all the rules needed to play. This guide already provides character sheets and links to the basic rules in the D&D Basic Rules. Buying the Player's Handbook comes later when your group is ready to go deeper.
Dungeon Master's Guide $ shop
Although it is called a "Guide", this core book is designed more like an encyclopedia. It is not a manual for running your first game. It includes many options for world building, adventure design, and much more. Consider this later if you enjoy being Dungeon Master.
Monster Manual $ shop
This core book includes hundreds of pages of interesting monsters. It is reference material for populating your world. Our free adventure The Green Blight already contains everything you need to know about the monsters you will run in your first game.
Campaigns like Curse of Strahd or Rime of the Frostmaiden $ shop
These are published Campaigns that could potentially last you for years. You should start with our free adventure The Green Blight as we discussed in the Mindset section.
Other common tools for Dungeon Masters
World-building and Campaign management apps
Apps like LegendKeeper, World Anvil, and Scabard help you organize your campaign and game world. As we discussed in the Mindset section, homebrewing is extremely fun but it is not something you should do right now. Focus on running your first game.
D&D Beyond subscription $ shop
D&D Beyond is a web app that gives you access to official D&D content and tools to run the game. It offers a generous free tier, so buying a subscription today would be premature. Save that money for more snacks.
Official DM Screen $ shop
This resource helps you remember important rules while running the game. You don't need to buy one because we suggest a free, Online DM Screen for your first game.
Miniatures $ shop
Gorgeous dioramas filled with castles and tiny heroes battling tiny monsters are inspiring. Maybe you have seen heroes placed on a 2d battle map to show their position in combat. Miniatures are undoubtedly gorgeous, but you don't need them to run your first game. You don't even need a map. They can also be expensive, especially if you buy terrain. Building up a great collection can take years.
Gridded Maps for Combat
Using a gridded map for combat is an optional rule in 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons. Many players and DMs enjoy this option because it helps them visualize their position in combat. We recommend you try running your first game without one. The mapless style of play is called Theatre of the Mind.
We believe that running a game without a map will better hone your ability to describe environments to your players. This is a core skill of the Dungeon Master.
Another reason we do not recommend using a map for battle is because many games take place online. Using a map to track combat means you must also learn another piece of software.
We recommend you try your first game without using maps for combat and then decide with your group if you want to try adding them later.
Virtual Table Top (VTT)
VTTs provide countless features to assist with playing the game online. One of the core features they provide is the ability for the group to play on a shared digital battle map. We don't believe you need a battle map to run your first game.
Learning how a VTT works is a task you can take on later. The software features add complexity. Keep it simple for now.
Continue to the next section
V. Warm Up
How to start the game session by drawing in your players.
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