Getting Started With Dungeons and Dragons (D&D): What Exactly Do I Need?

Let’s dig in and see what you REALLY need to get started playing Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). Bare essentials and beyond!

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From the outside looking in, D&D can be a rather intimidating hobby to get into. There’s a lot of reading and videos to watch in order to learn the nuances of the game.

On top of knowledge, there’s all the stuff you need to buy in order to properly play. Or is there? Do you really need to spend money to play Dungeons & Dragons? Can you get started without spending anything? Yes, you can!

Playing D&D: The Free Path

Technically, to get started playing Dungeon’s & Dragons, you actually don’t need to spend a penny. It sounds crazy, but most towns have comic book shops that offer free D&D sessions that are completely welcoming to new players.

If you go to one of these, the DM (or other players) will usually lend you a set of dice to get you rolling. If no one there has dice, you could always download a free dice-rolling app on your smartphone.

Outside of that, you only really need a copy of the D&D rules. Fortunately, Wizards of the Coast has made them available on their website (here) along with free character sheet templates (here).

Note: Many beginner-friendly games provide premade character sheets for you! You can also make your character sheet online using DND Beyond and view it on your phone or tablet while playing.

Playing D&D: The Cheap Path

If you’ve decided that you want to dive into the game, you can drop a few bucks on some of the basics to make the game a better experience.

First things first, get yourself a set of dice—such as these cheapies on Amazon, which were what I used when starting out and they served me quite well:

Buy on Amazon

In addition, you’ll want to get a copy of the official Player’s Handbook, which covers all of the rules to the game, character creation, and everything else you’d need to know to be a well-rounded D&D player. As of this writing, you’ll want the 5th Edition:

Buy on Amazon

Those are really the only two items you need to be a prepared D&D player. But once you get addicted, you’ll be itching to expand your collection… and that brings us to the next level of D&D shopping!

Playing D&D: The Baller Path

To begin rounding out your D&D addiction, you’ll want a decent dice tray. This allows you to roll your dice without scratching tables or making too much noise. Amazon is your friend here, where you can find collapsable dice trays that flatten for easy storage:

Buy on Amazon

From there, you’ll want to upgrade your dice sets to something a little fancier. We have an entire article dedicated to where you can buy better D&D dice, so check that out when you’re starting to feel like your current dice are letting you down.

As for more D&D books? If you plan to stay a player, you only need the aforementioned Player’s Handbook. But if you have dreams of becoming a dungeon master one day, you’ll eventually want to get the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Monster Manual:

Buy on Amazon

Buy on Amazon

If you haven’t already purchased the books, you can save money by grabbing the Core Rulebooks Gift Set. It comes with the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, Monster Manual, and a robust DM screen for less than $100 total:

Buy on Amazon

Playing D&D: Dungeon Master Path

So, you’ve given in and accepted that Dungeons & Dragons owns your soul. Congratulations, your life is about to get a million times better! And somewhat more expensive.

First of all, you’ll need a DM screen! You could always start with a simple screen, like the one that comes with the D&D Essentials Kit, but cheap screens are flimsy and annoying. Instead, consider getting the more-robust official DM screen by Wizards of the Coast:

Buy on Amazon

That’s just the beginning of what you can buy as a DM.

For example, there are D&D miniatures that can breathe life into your adventures—and they come in painted and unpainted varieties, in case you want to take up painting as a side hobby:

Buy on Amazon

You may also want a battle mat, which is basically a dry-erase grid that you can use to draw fight maps for your miniatures:

Buy on Amazon

And then there are all kinds of awesome tabletop gadgets available, including dice towers, dice vaults, dice rings, tabletop tiles, and more. You could also buy a fancy table that’s designed specifically for tabletop RPGs, with built-in dice features and snack holders. But these are all serious luxuries that you’ll want to explore for yourself!

Tips for New D&D Players

The real beauty of D&D is how flexible it is. If you want to spend nothing, there’s a road you can take. If you want to spend a bit here and there, you can totally do that. And if you have hundreds of dollars to burn on the hobby, that’s your call!

Playing D&D soon? Check out our free cheat sheet with 12 essential tips for D&D beginners, complete with common mistakes and etiquette pointers to ensure you (and everyone else at the table) have the best D&D experience every time:
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