A Guide to Helping New Players Get Started

As a Dungeon Master, Player, and all around fan of Dungeons and Dragons I am happy to find that in a community of diehard, fantasy nerds; we tend to be very welcoming and receptive to new players. Something that I see a lot of and personally have trouble with sometimes is remembering how to get a new person started, especially getting them started without overloading them with gratuitous amounts of details. So I decided to write a post about some tips for new players, old players, and Dungeon Masters to reference. For this guide, I will focus on fifth edition D&D.

New Players or Reborn Players

First and foremost, welcome to the community. You have somehow stumbled upon probably one of the most fun games there is; I think that this is mainly because the game is driven by collective storytelling. Know that being new means that there is a bit of a learning curve, but don’t feel intimidated, Fifth Edition is a very well designed edition. It is simple and easy to pick up, and the DM and players at the table will be more than happy to help if you have questions or don’t understand something. There is, however, a few core things to read before your first session and there is the matter of character creation.  

So to get started, get your hands on the fifth edition Player’s Handbook. Got it? Good. Alright, I would suggest first and foremost read the Preface and Introduction. These sections will give you context to the game and a little bit of what to expect. Now, something to remember is that this is a sourcebook, and over the years Wizards of the Coast have really tried to make the Player’s Handbook less of a dry read. That being said, remember that it is a reference book and you are here to really just get the basics. As long as you have a solid foundation you will be able to understand most of what is going on when you play your first session.

So where to next? After going through the Preface and Introduction, I would suggest starting in Chapter one, this will get you started, and I would suggest briefly browsing chapters two and three. These are critical while building a character in Chapter one. One thing the book does well is it leads you through the book from Chapter one. By this I mean, that you will probably read something in Chapter one and want more information on it. I would highly encourage you to jump to the chapter in question and browse it for information. Chapter one will involve things like selecting a race, a class, gear, character backgrounds, and more. It is all integral to building a character and like any good RPG, you can literally spend hours and hours on character creation. So as a first-time player I encourage you to jump in and play here for a bit. Get the lay of the land and try to come up with a character combo that is what fits your wants. Play who you want to play.

After you have figured out what type of person you want to play and fleshed out who that person is to some degree, then we are ready for chapters seven, eight, nine and maybe Chapter ten if you are feeling confident enough to play a spellcaster for your first character. Give those chapters a quick once over and try to make note of what the chapters are talking about. Key in on game mechanics like ability checks and combat, this will make up most of the game. Feel free to dive into all the other rules, but like I said this is a reference material, and you really don't need to read everything the first time through.

Now you should be ready for some D&D. Get some dice and get ready for your first session. Something I personally like to do at the table is to take note of rules that come up that might be questionable, like a someone questions a rule, or things that I don't understand clearly, I would suggest doing the same. Then away from the table, or in between your turns, review the notes and look them up in the book. This will help you learn the rules more in depth. Also, don’t forget that the other players and DM are there if you have any questions.  

Old Players

As an actively practicing player with someone new to the edition at the table, remember that the biggest parts of D&D is inclusivity and community. If you stand by these ideals, you will see that the table is enabled to mesh better. Help new players out, give them gentle tips about actions available to them. Whatever you do though, don't steamroll them. Let the new player play the way that makes them most comfortable, if they like doing voices then let them do voices. Dungeons and Dragons community is made up of people from all walks of life.  

Dungeon Masters

As a Dungeon Master, bringing in a new player can be slightly difficult but can also produce some of the most fun times. Remember that new players are coming into this game with a fresh mindset, and have very little preconceived notions on how things should be at the table. This can make for interesting problem solving and can even revitalize a group that has fallen into a murder-hobo Rut. Expect them to have many questions, as you once did, and try your hardest to not overload them with options on what they can do or decide. Most people shut down if they have more than three options in front of them.

If your game is lore heavy, give them a crash course in the area and some bite-sized supplemental reading material that can help them out with the area and what is going on in the world currently. It is important for the player to quickly fall into that feeling of “this is my world”, they will have buy-in and can help them make rational decisions.  

That is where I am going to leave it for this week. As always, thank you so much for stopping in and reading. Feel free to comment, I love to read constructive feedback and love discussing topics like these. Check back in next week to see what else I have on my mind or decide to analyze. Remember to follow The DM’s Table on Facebook or on Twitter @dmstable for updates and to let me know what is on your mind, or what you might want to read about. Also, go check out Roll with Advantage! It is a Dungeons and Dragons podcast that releases every Monday at 5 pm Eastern Time. We play, laugh, and have a good time playing a game we all love. Thank you for reading.

― The DM