Between the podcasts, TV shows, and your friends laughing about a story that they were a part of, Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop games like Pathfinder and Cyberpunk are here to stay. The ritual of gathering either around a kitchen table or over a Discord call, creating characters that are an extension of the people that made them, and creating a story that will be remembered for years has resurged as a popular pastime in the past few years. The sudden return of tabletop role playing games (TTRPGs) can be overwhelming, between the archaic sounding terminology to the massive number of resources and guides available to players, it’s easy to get lost.
If you’re here, odds are you want to start playing D&D. Maybe your friends have been playing and they’ve invited you to join them, or you’re wanting to start a group of your own. That’s why this guide is here – a short introduction on how to get started and what you can use to bring your game to the next level. Whether it’s your first game or your fiftieth, this guide has resources for players of all levels. Best of all, all the resources here are free to use!
Before We Begin: A Note on Systems
This guide was written with Dungeons and Dragons: 5th Edition (commonly referred to as DnD 5e or just 5e) in mind. However, there are many, many more systems of TTRPGs. Pathfinder is another popular system; it was born out of D&D 3.5e and based on the Open Game License that Wizards of the Coast – the owners of D&D – made for people who wanted to modify D&D while keeping the core experience. While the individual rules may differ, the core concept is the same: make a character and roleplay them in a collaborative story. All systems have their strengths and weaknesses, and the resources here can be used for different systems. So, if 5e isn’t your jam, check out Pathfinder, Cyberpunk, Trail of Cthulhu, or one of the other numerous systems available.
Step 1: Read The Books
It may seem silly to mention, but the number one resource for your game is the source material. It may seem daunting, but the books will answer most of the small questions you’ll have about your game.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the literature (hello ADHD!), but your books will have the answers you seek. The books are less daunting than they seem. While 5e’s Player’s Handbook is a little over 300 pages, approximately 100 of those pages are reference material – things like weapon stats, class details, and tables of spells to be referenced later that aren’t vital to how the game is run. You don’t have to have these memorized to enjoy the game. The books also will have snippets of how games are run and how characters are made. You could 100% create and run a game using only the Player’s Handbook and the Dungeon Master’s Guide. However, the idea of only having a few books that are 300+ pages each can be a little daunting. So, we’ll go over some other resources for players and dungeon masters alike.
Step 2: Go Beyond the Books
Firstly, all the websites listed here are from our own opinion – no site here has reached out to us or asked to be included. We don't receive any commission or kickback from these sites.
D&D Beyond – Best Website for Official D&D Content
The Swiss army knife for 5e players and DMs, D&D Beyond is the official digital toolkit for fifth edition. Operated by Wizards of the Coast, Beyond features a character creator, encounter builder and digital copies of official sourcebooks from WotC. Beyond also has a collection of homebrew content, which is content created by the community to be used in games.
While Beyond has a character builder, it assumes that you know what character you want. If you don’t know what kind of character you want to make, we make starter kits that net you a character, a mini, a free set of dice, and more!
D&D Wiki – Best Website for Homebrew Content
If you’re looking for more homebrew content, D&D Wiki is my go-to for finding things that were created by the community. Boasting tens of thousands of pages of content, D&D Wiki contains resources for characters such as races, classes, and backgrounds; new environments, weapons, and rewards for DMs; and tons of house rules, quests, locations, and other things to spice up a game. Further, it has content for D&D revisions as far back as 2e (or Advanced D&D, if you’re old school), Pathfinder, and d20 Modern.
Donjon – Best Website for Generating Content
While not the flashiest website on this list, Donjon has by far been the most useful for myself as a DM. If you need to generate content for a campaign, this website has tons of random generators for maps, items, encounters, quests, you name it. It’s 100% free and has content across multiple systems.
Tabletop Audio – Best Website for Table Ambiance
Being in the right headspace both as a player and a DM is one of the key factors in having a successful campaign. To aid with this, Tabletop Audio has a ton of tracks that provide background music and ambiance for your game, no matter the setting. All the tracks are free to use, with an option for tons of more music for Patreon supporters.
GM Binder – Best Website for Making Your Homebrew Content Look Official
Another great website for making homebrew content is GM Binder. GM Binder features a fantastic document editor that can make your homebrew concepts look official by presenting them in the style of the D&D source books. It gives your content a polished look and allows you to share it with the world through their library system.
Step 3: Bring It All Together
So now you’ve got a grip on how the game works, and you got a few extra resources to make things easier at the table. The next step is to bring it all together. Grab some dice, make a character, and get adventuring!
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