Being the nerd that I am, I got into Dungeons and Dragons at an early age. However, I haven’t been able to play a game for a while and I’m going through withdrawal. So I decided that I would make a little guide for new players to the game, using my own failings and victories as an example.

To begin, I’ll explain a few things that will come up in these tips.  Players role dice when their character is about to do something that has a variable of a chance of failing.  You take bonuses and skill levels to come up with a number, if you roll a number higher than the number for the action then you succeed.  If you roll a number lower, than you fail. So if you want to cross a fast moving river, you take the “power of the current” and your strength and figure out that you need to roll higher than a 4 to cross the river.  If you roll a 5 or greater, then you cross the river. If you roll a 2, then the river is too strong for you and you get swept up by the current.

Another term you should know is DM.  The DM or Dungeon Master is sort of like the god of the game.  The DM creates the story, roleplays any character that isn’t the other players, takes the role of monsters during combat, and acts as the mediator for any dice roles that may occur.  If you’re trying to pick a lock, the DM has the information about the lock and decides the number you have to beat in your dice role in order to succeed in picking said lock.  The DM will then tell you what you see when you go through the door, and then roles the dice for the goblin who attacks you when you activate the hidden trap in the room.
Another aspect of the game is the player’s experience in different skills. If your character is really good at picking locks, then you have a lower number you have to beat with your dice role. An example would be a highly skilled thief picking a simple lock. If you have high experience in lock picking, then you only have to roll higher than a 2 to succeed in the lock picking attempt. This concept applies to anything from feats of strength to mastery of a weapon to sweet talking the barmaid. Now that I got that out of the way, I’ll go on with my tips.

#1. You don’t always have to roleplay the situation.

This comes from the time that I almost got my entire party killed due to a simple mistake. It was early in the game and our characters just survived a bar fight. After the fight, we were able to hear the town guards coming to investigate. Everyone decided that we should hide and we all rolled to see if we succeeded in hiding. I ended up rolling a 1 and was left standing in the middle of a bunch of passed out people when the guards showed up. The DM played the role of the guard and asked me what happend. I told them that it was just a little bar fight and that the guilty party ran off. He then asked me if the owner of the bar was alright. I said that he was. I was told that the owner was a woman. This blew my cover and we were nearly killed by the town guard. If I had decided to roll a dice to see if I could lie, I would have only had to role a 2 or better. So unless you’re good at remembering the little details, don’t be afraid to just roll your dice if you need to talk to someone.

#2. Learn who you’re playing with

If you are new to a game where the other players have experience and characters they are going to use in the campaign, learn about them. When I was introduced to a new game, I didn’t get to learn the other player’s characters. I created a character who was a halfling, a race of people who are about 2 to 3 feet tall. Little did I know, one of the characters was a half orc. This player took the time to specialize in the art of throwing halflings as an offensive attack. Needless to say, that game got annoying pretty quick. So learn about the character you’re going to be playing with so you can make your character fit into the dynamic.

#3. Feel free to be a little stupid

When you create a character, don’t worry about how crazy or stupid they may seem. Just make sure you fit into the story, and don’t bite off more than you can chew. One of my early characters was a suave, swashbuckling, lady’s man named Zarr. Now while this sounds like childish self-indulgence, I had alot of fun playing the character. As a result, we all had fun during the champaign. The DM even added little plot points that would give my character the opportunity to fail at flirting or to gain access to a ship. This made the game fun and helped me feel welcome in the group. It was because of this fun that I actually managed to get that character up to level 20, where he ended up becoming the god wine and romance so that I could retire him and start over with a new character.

#4. Learn what your stats mean to roleplaying

When you make a new character, you get a set number of points to put into different attributes like strength, dexterity, charisma, intelligence and so on. different numbers in these stats give you access to and a higher mastery of different skills, high strength makes a fighter better at using his sword while high intelligence makes a wizards spells more effective. But, they also effect how you play the character. If you have low intelligence for example, your character will be illiterate, so you have to play the character knowing that they can’t read. This was the exact situation I was in when I played a dwarf fighter. I put more points in strength and my character couldn’t read. As a result, I played the character off his brother, another player was playing the same type of character so we decided to play the dwarven Smash Brothers. So the two of us would get angry whenever our villian would send us letters. It was alot of fun to go, “Do we smash evil man’s letter?” “No, let smart wizard read letter. Then we smash!”

#5. It’s okay if you don’t know something

I don’t have a funny story for this one. Just know that it’s okay to ask questions or mess up. If you’re playing with friends or a supportive group of people, they won’t have any problem explaining something or letting you know when you make a mistake; after all, they want you to keep playing with them. And you never know when your question reminds the other players that they don’t remember that particular rule themselves.

#6. Work with the rules of the DM

Often times the DM has a particular vision for the campain they are running. As a result, some games will have a grounding in reality, characters stand the risk of drowning and can easily fail at sweet talking people. Or the game may be over the top, characters can swim up waterfalls or convince kings to sign over the deed to the castle. A good DM will let you know what kind of game they are running before it starts. And if you don’t know if the action you’re planing on trying would fit in, then just whisper it to the DM and see if they are willing to do it. I have two stories for this one. In one game, the DM wanted to just have fun and didn’t care if certain actions were unrealistic. So I got an idea and ran it by him, he nearly fell out of his chair laughing at how cool it would be if I pulled it off. This was the game I mentioned earlier with the half orc. So when we got into a fight with a dragon, I told him to throw me at the dragon. Through a lucky series of dice roles, I was able to be thrown onto the dragon’s back, climb up to it’s head where I cut it’s eye out and stabbed it in the brain to kill it. In another game I was playing, my character had to cross a fast moving river. Since this game was was more grounded, I had to roll to see if I made it. Due to a bad dice roll, I was swept up by the river and my level 4 character was killed when he hit his head on a rock and drowned. It was still a fun game though since I made a new character to replace him, who ended up finding my old character’s body so I had high level stuff at level 1.

#7. It’s okay if your character dies

I know it may suck to have a character that you put time and energy into die, but it’s part of the game. A good DM will make sure that your character doesn’t die in an unfair fight, unless that was part of a well crafted story. Plus, a character death can be a good thing. You get to start over and play a different type of character. You can also play the game in the spirit world with the new 4th edition expansions. My story about this is about my half-elf bard, Haste. Haste had gotten to level 12, which is pretty powerful, when he was killed by an evil wizard. I kept playing the game with a new character, but the entire group and I had alot of fun with Haste. So our characters held a little service for the character in the game and went to avenge his death. The DM, who also liked the character, went out of his way to bring Haste’s ghost into the story a few days later. He told me he was going to do this and we suprised the group by having the ghost of Haste come back and help the party kill the wizard. After we killed the wizard, I was able to send Haste off to the afterlife, where he continued to adventure with other lost souls in other planes of existence. It made the game very dramatic and was a fun way to say goodbye to a character I had been playing for about two months.  I should also note that characters actually dying is pretty hard to achieve.  Your character has to go into negative health point to be at risk of death.  So a monster would have to cause alot of damage to put you at risk, or keep attacking you after you hit 0 hit points.  So just remember to have a player who can revive or have characters carry your body to town and have someone revive you.  You should be fine.

#8.  Think about your alignment before you pick it.

This is one that many people don’t mention that often, but it is important.  There are three moral alignments, Good, Evil, and Neutral.  There are also three sub-alignments, Lawful, Chaotic, and Neutral.  You pick from these two sets and that’s how your character behaves in the world.  A Chaotic Good character would play like Robin Hood, it doesn’t matter what I do as long as it helps people.  A Lawful Neutral character will do whatever they want as long as  the law of the land is obeyed.  And finally, a Chaotic Evil character would be alot like The Joker from the new Batman movie, they would just want to spread death and chaos for the sake of being crazy and evil.  Where this comes into play, is when you play with the other players.  If you are Lawful Evil, a person who acts alot like a mob boss, then you will most likely be forced to oppose characters who are Good.  While this can make for a very fun game, it’s not a good idea for a new players.  When you start out, talk to the other players and get a basic idea about what alignments you want to be.  Feel free to mix it up, but try to stay in an alignment that can work with everybody enough for the characters to be alright with traveling together.

#8.5/9  Don’t be true True Neutral for a while/ Don’t be a Druid for a while

This plays off the last tip.  The alignment True Neutral is a Neutral Neutral character.  The reason I say tell you to avoid this for a while is that it is a complicated alignment.  Since your character is completly Neutral, they have an oblication to not become Good or Evil, or Lawful or Chaotic.  What this means is that you have to look at everything your character does and balance it.  If you were kind and giving to a homeless man, you need to pick a fight in the bar.  If you helped arrest a criminal, you have to pick someone’s pocket.  While this can be fun, it’s very hard when you’re still getting used to the game itself.  This applies to the other two Neutral alignment to a lesser extent.  Relating to this, the Druid class is forced to be True Neutral.  While I love the Druid Class, playing a True Neutral character can be complicated when you’re new to the game.  Get used to the alignment system and then start messing around with it.  My story in this tip is my Human Druid, Oakleaf.  While we were traveling, the other players were all some form of Good.  My character only engaged in Good activities when it served him, but I was only doing good.  So I ended up stealing my friend’s equipment while they slept.  I then got about 9 or 10 Dire Bears to follow me and led them into the camp before running away.  My friends just bairly survived.  Luckily the dice role I made said that the other characters didn’t think that I did it on purpose, I claimed that I was chasing the men who stole their stuff when the bears attacked.

#10.  Understand the importance of the levels

Now the 4th edition has changed the level end that characters have.  It used to be 20, but now it’s 30.  However, this basic layout is still the same.  The best way I can explain this is by going through three levels and explaining what they mean to the world.

Level 1- your character is just like anyone else.  You aren’t that strong, you don’t have much magic, and you can’t do anything too amazing.  Playing a low level character should be like playing a normal person, don’t expect to scale mountains or slay dragons for a while.

Level 10- your character is a legend.  Characters who are level 10 to 15 or so are super powered.  These characters can do things that most normal people only dream of.  You’re really good with your weapon, your magic is very powerful, and you are probably very rich.  This is the women want you, men want to be you levels.  However, you are still a mortal and can be defeated by many monsters.

Level 20-  You are seen as a god.  At level 20, only the most powerful of being pose a real threat to you.  Your skin is like diamond, you can cleave though anything with your ax, and you draw admiration or fear from all who meet you.   At this point in your D&D career, you have to play the game in a way that actually poses a threat to you.  From what I understand, the 4th edition set the highest level at 30 so that you can play in “god mode” without manipulating the game or making stuff up when you get that powerful.  At level 20, or level 30 for 4th edition, it’s probably a good idea to play a few games at that power and then give your character a good sendoff.  You can have your character turn into a god, like my character, Zarr the Bard-Pirate who became the god of wine and romance.  Or you can have the character wander off into the world, inspiring your new character to go on their adventure, or play on old Gygax adventure.  Gygax was the inventor of D&D and he is known for having made adventures that could kill entire parties of level 20 characters if they were unlucky.

I hope that this “little” list has helped anyone who is new to the game.  Despite everything that I have said, D&D is actually a pretty easy game.  You can change or ignore rules to make it easier or harder, and it really just comes down to rolling dice and playing make-believe with your friends.  Have fun playing guys.  And feel free to add your own tips and advice.