How to Start Playing Dungeons and Dragons: What Exactly Do You Need?

Let's dig in and see what you REALLY need to get started playing Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). Bare essentials and beyond!
How to Start Playing Dungeons and Dragons: What Exactly Do You Need?

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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!

Here's what you need to know to start playing Dungeons & Dragons, including what you need (and don't need).

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 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 (even cheapies on Amazon). These are what I used when starting out and they served me quite well:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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 luxuries that you'll want to explore for yourself!

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!