A Beginners Checklist for Dungeons and Dragons By Gibran Isaacs and Daniel Seib
Early morning mist rises from the fields as the sun crests over the mountains. A group of adventurers is suddenly awoken to the sounds of wolf-riding goblins raiding their camp. Quickly rising to their feet, no time to wipe the sleep from their eyes, they engage their attackers and defend themselves. There is the sound of steel clashing, powerful eldritch blasts of power flashing by, arrows whizzing, goblin screams of pain and adventurer war-cries, and somewhere a lute is playing. Dice clatter across a table and friends call out actions amid laughter. Just another session within the imaginative world of Table-Top Role Playing. It’s summertime, and you’ve been talking with friends about getting into social gaming and playing in the wondrous fantasy worlds of Table-Top Role-Playing Games (TTRPG), but where does one start? Well, at select Graham Crackers Comics stores, of course!
There are a lot of games out there, from Pathfinder to Warhammer, Cyberpunk, Dungeons and Dragons, and many more. All are fun and imaginative and filled with possibilities. We enjoy the worlds of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) ourselves and put together a little guide to help ease you into the fun. It can seem daunting at first, but here are some easy essentials and a basic guide into all you’ll need to get you going.
Dungeons and Dragons, as well as most TTRPGs, require, above all else, friends, a table-top, some rule books, and the most quintessential tool: DICE! Dice are how important decisions are made and are used throughout the game, calculating any number of things. Dice sets contain a certain amount of particular dice, but how those dice look and feel can be all up to you. From simple solid colors to swirling patterns to even stone, metal, and even crystals! Dice can be super basic in style or incredibly fancy. With nigh endless possibilities when it comes to die, you’re bound to find a set that feels perfect for you.
Now with the rolling choice makers in hand, what are you going to do with them? Well, we feel the Essentials Kit from D&D is a fantastic starting point for those who aren’t sure if they will enjoy the gameplay of Dungeons and Dragons. The Essentials Kit provides everything to figure out how to play, including
A 64-page rule book going over how to play. Beginning with how to make characters from a selection of four common races seen in fantasy settings and five different classes. It expounds then on the finer details of gameplay as a player and dungeon master (DM), equipment like weapons and magic items, and a spell list for any magic casters in the party.
A solid 64-page pre-written campaign called Dragon of Icespire Peak, doesn’t that sound like a fantastic story? It’s a great starting point in two ways, and here’s why. It allows whoever is going to DM to have less work on world-building should they choose to run it. It’s a great story and will last a few sessions to get into the flow of Dungeons and Dragons. At the same time, it’s a fantastic source to see how to make and start your campaign for those bursting at the seams to tell their own story. The adventure book has colored maps and all the stat blocks for the enemies the party will encounter in Dragon of Icespire Peak.
The kit also includes a small dungeon master’s screen to roll your dungeon master’s magic behind and has easy accessibility to rules you’ll often encounter, like what being knocked prone does to a creature or character in-game or what cover and half cover does to protect someone from being hit by a weapon or spell.
A double-sided map and a super useful card set are also included. The cards range from status conditions, initiative tracking, the NPCs you’ll meet along the adventure, magic items you could encounter, and the occasional quest you could decide to pick up along the way.
Did I mention it comes with a set of eleven dice too? Because it does, and they’re very helpful when you need to roll a few dice at once.
That’s a lot in a tiny package, and we think the Dungeons and Dragons Essentials Kit is the best point to start and try out D&D.
So now you’ve all played an adventure and really enjoyed roleplaying, working out puzzles and combat, and just plain having fun with your friends at the table and all your (beautiful) dice. Where do you go from there?
Well, for starters, a Player’s Handbook (PHB). This Core Rule Book is needed for everyone to create new and charming characters. It has more class options and more fantastical races to play and a giant selection of backgrounds, spells, items, and other adventuring gear in it as well. Players and DM’s need the PHB to know what they get when they level up ability-wise and to know how a character can function.
A DM will need the Dungeon Master’s Guide (DMG). Another Core Rule Book. It goes over the rules and background magic for the game. It helps with a lot of other cool stuff too. Want to create gear for your players? Maybe a new monster or a spell? The DMG helps with that. And most importantly, it helps with some great ways on how to be the best dungeon master you can be with your friends.
Lastly, there are all the monsters and creatures you’ll face. We offer two options. The first option includes more content for the DM and players, and the second covers the basics of monsters without all the extra bells and draconic whistles.
There are so many creatures in D&D that one book cannot hold them. In fact, as of writing this, there are five different books covering amazing creatures you can meet, fight, and maybe even befriend.
We have the best for beginning with the Monster Manual (MM). It’s the essential beginning monster compendium and the first you should get before any other as the creatures listed will be used more often than any others. After that, there is Volo’s Guide to Monsters (which I might add also has some cool ‘monstrous’ races you can play as), Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes goes into several realms of monsters you can meet, and the history of the realms they live in (and even more playable races and options for your players.) Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons covers tons of exclusive draconic enemies (including GEM DRAGONS) and some new draconic race options, and then the newest book that came out in May of 2022… Mordenkainen Presents Monsters of the Multiverse! It covers over 20 playable races not seen in the PHB, and that alone is wild, but it includes monsters from tons of pre-written campaign books that, till now, were exclusively found in only those books. It’s an excellent opportunity to read about and includes some really cool enemies in your game.
Now that’s a big chunk to read through, and maybe you don’t want to read through a book on monsters, let alone five. We understand. Thankfully three of these monster manuals have had monster stat cards made with every enemy in them. Fizban and Monsters of the Multiverse have yet to have any made, but they’re very new. We should see them in the future. Many cards have artwork on one side, and the other has all the essential info needed for gameplay. Perfect for those who just want to pick up the monsters and use them and for the DM who doesn’t want to rush to get everything written on index cards because they forget until fifteen minutes before the next game session… we say this from experience. There are even cards for creatures and NPCs! Your Druid party member could have an actual stat block for that squirrel they’ve befriended or that swarm of spiders that gets all over the Rogue when they weren’t paying attention sneaking in the shadows. The stats for Barons and Bandits and all those simple characters and animals you meet in the world of D&D all in one deck of cards.
There are sets of spell cards for every available spell casting class, and they’re perfect for players and DMs to reference spells quickly and easily without having to flip through a book every time you intend to use it.
Let’s say you want to expand your options as a player, though (enough with monsters and cards and monster cards).
Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything are the right books to reach for. Both include new subclasses for players to go into; Tasha’s contains a whole new class as well, and tons of new abilities, spells, and items. They grant a whole new variety for players outside of the PHB. Warlocks in a pack with a Celestial? Tieflings who can gain the ability to resist new damage? Again, MORE SPELLS. Your characters can find a way to diversify their teams in brand new ways between these two books, and for people who have been playing with just the PHB for a while, I suggest picking one up to help get new fresh options to play with.
Oh, did I mention they cover how to make and run puzzles and traps for DM’s that weren’t brought up before in the DMG? Because we really mean it when we say, “Xanathar and Tasha’s are the gifts that keep on giving.”
This is what you need to really get going and play in a world of imagination. After an Essentials Kit, a PHB, a DMG, and a Monster Manuel, you are honestly good to go. The other books and reference cards are optional but incredibly helpful in expanding what you do and explore and create within the world. There are worlds of possibilities out there. The only limitation is your imagination!
We understand that not everyone feels like they may feel they are a good storyteller, and that’s okay. There are plenty of pre-written campaigns on the shelf that a DM can guide players through. Here is a bit of extra fun we offer you some of our favorites:
Waterdeep Dragon Heist is probably the best bang for its buck campaign if we say so ourselves. It is a heist adventure that has not one story, not two, but four separate play-through stories that differ based on the season in the game: new villains, new allies, a heist in the making each time. Beyond the complex and compelling characters you’ll meet, fight, and befriend, you’ll adventure through the amazing city of Waterdeep and delve into its secrets and treasures.
A heist not what you’re feeling? How about a gothic mystery? Curse of Strahd may be the campaign for you. A land you aren’t sure how you found yourself in, endless storm clouds swirling around the surrounding landscape, fortune tellers, vampire counts, sacred items to find, and a tale to reveal the truth of Barovia and Castle Ravenloft.
Want to lean more towards horror? Then may we introduce you to Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden. We can’t begin to explain the terror the Spine of the World puts you in as your characters try to survive the harsh cold that envelops Ten Towns. But, we can tell you that the ancient mysteries beyond the ice and Caves of Hunger will leave your players desperate to get the power of the god of winter’s wrath before the Arcane Brotherhood does.
Maybe you aren’t ready for a long campaign or just need a break between another long story mission. Why not have the equivalent to an anime beach episode as you explore these three books filled with one-shot adventures you can string together, leave as is, or add to your current game.
Tales of the Yawning Portal brings seven remastered adventures, brought to you by Durnan, the owner of the Yawning Portal in Waterdeep. Take a trip to the Sunless Citadel and face off with warring Kobolds and Goblins, dangerous ancient traps, and discover the truth of the Twilight Grove. You can also visit the Tomb of Horrors if your party isn’t feeling particularly attached to their characters or want to put them to the test. The tomb has consumed many an adventure. Will your party be next?
Saltmarsh revisits a classic coast in the D&D lore and lets you explore seven seaside and faring adventures. From investigating a coastal town’s haunted abandoned seaside home to exploring a wrecked ship and diving into its watery lower decks, facing whatever lurks within its hull. Saltmarsh gives your characters a breath of salty air as they explore ports, set sail across islands, and combat enemy vessels.
Lastly, we have Candlekeep Mysteries. Welcome to Candlekeep, a citadel on a rocky crag on the Sea of Swords. Explore its libraries and discover seventeen mysteries that your party can choose to solve, with adventure and intrigue, of course! Honestly, we’ll just list some of the names because they sound cool all by themselves: The Joy of Extradimensional Spaces, Book of the Raven, Candlekeep Dekonstruktion, The Curious Tale of Wisteria Vale, and A Deep and Creeping Darkness. Don’t those sound rad? They’re all unique stories, and each one is a fantastic mini adventure on its own.
All these books and the many more that are out there in the world of TTRPGs are delightful games that can explore many facets of life, story, and imagination. These were just some of our favorites. Go out and explore them yourselves! Come on in and ask us about what games we can offer and what worlds you and your friends can get lost within.