V. Warm Up

How to start the game session by drawing in your players.

This is part V of a guide for running your first Dungeons & Dragons game. Start at the beginning.

Artwork © Dean Spencer

You've prepared yourself by following the steps in Game Preparation and gathered your Supplies. Now it's game day. Your friends have arrived eager for adventure and it is time for you to take your rightful place as Dungeon Master for the session.

The next three sections Warm Up, Running the Adventure, and Wrap Up will describe what to expect and think about during the game session.

You should read these sections in advance but there is no need to bring this whole guide to the game. The Green Blight and the Cheat Sheet have everything you need at a glance.

Give a warm welcome and review expectations

Welcome your players to the game by thanking them for heeding your call to adventure. Remind them of the roles and expectations you set:

  • Snack bringers can lay out some food (if the game is in person).
  • The note taker will write down rules you aren’t sure of so you can keep the game moving along.
  • You don’t know every single rule and that’s okay. Players are encouraged to help out if they know them.
  • Everyone is here to have fun and escape to a fantasy world together. That is the main goal!

Review the character sheet structure

Using our character sheet walkthrough, walk everyone through the most important sections. This will help your players understand a few things:

  • What they are looking at. This sheet has all my character's moves and numbers.
  • Where to look during the game. This part is good for combat.
  • The important themes of their character – even if they don't understand all the details. My moody wizard is mostly about doing damage with spells.

Deliver the start signal

It may surprise you to hear this, but this is one of the hardest parts of the game session. There is a crucial moment in every Dungeons & Dragons session where people transform. They go from being a bunch of friends sitting around a table, to being a group of adventurers ready to explore, interact, and battle in a world of fantasy.

Delivering a physical cue helps make that transition happen for the entire table at the same time. This ensures that half of your adventurers aren't still checking social media while the other half are hefting their swords.

Use this recommended start signal to draw everyone in:

The Start Signal

  1. Dim the lights (sight)
  2. Stand up and spread your hands slowly to the sides with your palms facing up, as if issuing an invitation. (movement)
  3. Say: Welcome adventurers! Tonight you will work together to solve the mystery of the blighted town of Wildbirch in our story The Green Blight. Prepare yourselves for we begin right now.

If our start signal is not your style, do your own thing! We recommend that you do something clear to signal to your friends: pay attention because we are starting to play.

Try to incorporate sight, sound, and body movement into your own signal.

Tell the characters why they are here

From this point on, you should address the characters and not the players. Talk to the fictional player characters as if they are sitting beside you.

You should now explain to the characters (not players!) what brought them together as a group. You will give them a common goal and a reason for being together which will prompt them to move in the right direction from the beginning.

Refer to The Green Blight for the explanation.

Have each player describe their character

Now that the players have the starting context for the story, go around the group and ask everyone to describe their name, race, class, and the physical appearance of their character. This is one of the most effective ice breakers to get everyone started.

As your friends start to visualize their characters as more than just numbers on a sheet, they're beginning to roleplay.

Getting to know characters

It’s expected that players won’t be completely familiar with their character at this stage. This is OK! They will get to know them better after they have played for some time.

Part of the fun for players is getting to discover more about their character as they experience adventures.

Deliver a strong start

Great stories grip you right from the start. So do great adventures. Starting strong kickstarts the game with lots of energy that the players can use to drive their roleplaying.

In The Green Blight, the strong start is the combat encounter in Part I called Ambush at the Gate.


In this section you learned how to ease people into the game session and ensure a smooth start.

Items marked with a 🐉 also appear in The Green Blight for your reference.

  • Give a warm welcome and review expectations
  • Review the character sheet structure
  • Deliver the start signal
  • Tell the characters why they are here 🐉
  • Have each player describe their character
  • Deliver a strong start 🐉

The next section focuses on tips you can use during the main part of your game session.

Continue to the next section

VI. Running the Adventure

Things to keep in mind while the party is adventuring.

9 min read

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