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

Let’s take a minute to dig in and see what you actually need to get started with Dungeons and Dragons (D&D).

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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?

Let’s take a minute to dig in and see what you actually need to get started with D&D.

Playing D&D: Free Mode

Technically, to get started playing Dungeon’s & Dragons, you actually don’t need to spend a penny. It sounds crazy, but most towns have some sort of comic book shop that offers 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 can easily download a dice-rolling app on your smartphone for free.

Outside of that, you only really need a copy of the D&D rules, which Wizards of the Coast has made available for free on its website. You can also download free character sheet templates (though many beginner-friendly games will have premade characters for you to play). Either that, or you can make and print your character sheet on DNDBeyond.com.

If you’re going to play D&D online, then you really don’t need to buy anything—you can’ simply find a game on Roll20 and start playing.

Playing D&D: Cheap Mode

Once you’ve decided that you want to actually get into the game, you can drop a few bucks on some of the basics to make the game a better experience. First of all, you can get yourself a set of dice. You can find them on Amazon for quite cheap. (I bought this linked set when I was starting out, and it has served me well.)

In addition, you’ll want to get a copy of the Players Handbook, which goes far deeper into the rules of the game, character creation, and all the other stuff a player needs to know to be a more well-rounded D&D player. You can usually find it for well below MSRP on Amazon, and if you’re a D&D Beyond user, you can get a digital version that works with its character creator for $30.

Those are really the only two items you need to be a prepared D&D player. But for many, these won’t quite scratch the D&D shopping itch, which brings us to the next level of D&D shopping.

Playing D&D: Baller Mode

The first thing you’ll want to buy when you reach the third level of your D&D addiction is a decent dice tray. These let you roll your dice without scratching your table. Again, Amazon is your friend here, as you can find collapsable dice trays for quite cheap.

From there, you’ll want to upgrade your dice to something a little fancier. We actually have an entire article dedicated to places that sell D&D dice, so when you decide the cheap ones from Amazon aren’t cutting it anymore, that’s where you want to go.

As for books, if you plan to stay a player, you only need the aforementioned Player’s Handbook. However, if you have dreams of becoming a dungeon master, you might want to look into the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Monster Manual, which are both available at local game stores, Amazon, and on D&D Beyond.

Playing D&D: Dungeon Masters

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 can go with a simple screen that comes with the Essentials Kit, but it’s pretty flimsy. Instead, you might want to look at the official one from Wizards of the Coast that’s made with more stable material. Or you could go all out and custom wood one and be like Critical Role’s Matthew Mercer.

A good way to save a bit of money if you haven’t already purchased the books is to get the Core Rulebooks gift set. You get all three—Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual—and a DM screen for just over $100.

But that’s just the beginning of what you can buy as the DM. There are all kinds of awesome tabletop gadgets available. You can get a fancy table that’s designed specifically for tabletop RPGs, dice towers, dice vaults, and all kinds of other stuff from Wyrmwood. You can even get a set of dice that’s made of Tungsten.

And then there are miniatures. You can look into some cheaper alternatives to miniatures, but if you want to go crazy, websites like Miniature Market that sell them by the boatload. But that’s not enough, you also need a battle mat to play them on and paints to make them look awesome.

You Decide…

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 reasonable amount of money, you can totally do that. And if you have money to burn and want to drop hundreds or thousands on the hobby, you totally can.