How do I prepare?

Going to your first game? Never played Dungeons and Dragons (or any RPG) and you have no idea what to expect. Going to a new game with a new group? Starting over with a new DM you have never played with? I have been in all of the situations many many times. About one year ago I was leaving my apartment and heading to my first D&D 4e game ever. To be honest I had no idea what I was getting into. I had bought the core books, and I read though them a bit, but reading about a game and playing it are totally different experiences. Over the last year I have played in a few different groups, and even began DMing my own campaign. This week I am meeting with a DM to talk about the possibility of my joining his group. So I’m right back in the new group, new DM, new setting dilemma. As I was writing an email to the DM, of what could be my new gaming group, I thought “what could I tell new players, or what could someone have told me, to make this a much easier process?”

#1. Communication! If you read my post about finding a group then you might just remember this being a key point in figuring out if the group is a good fit for you. It is also a very good tool in feeling less discomfort in your first experience with the group. When you communicate with the DM and the group you can ask questions, get a good idea of what the group needs, what roles need to be filled, and what classes they already have. Believe it or not many groups might not be all that excited when you show up and want to be a wizard in a group which already has two. Giving the group information about what your expectations are is also very useful. Do you like heavy role play? Do you like more combat? Do you have a flair for the dramatic? Are you stoic? Should they all be warned that you don’t talk much, so they don’t get the idea you are angry, or just mean? All of these things will help you carve a small niche in the group before you even sit down to play. I recommend your group start and email conversation and bounce questions around before your first game. Google wave, and obsidian portal might also be good tools for this, but with email there is a better chance of everyone in your group having access to it.

#2. Know your character. I’m not talking about back story, I mean the mechanics. Back story is always fun, but the level and depth of the back story you should create for your character should be discussed with the DM ahead of time. Some DMs love the thick deep story, others want simple once sentence descriptions of your character. How do you know what the DM wants? See communication it’s #1. A great way to feel comfortable in your first game is to be comfortable with your characters skills and powers. To start I tell everyone to download the WotC character builder, it’s free up to level three. Now the free download does not always have all of the latest updates and all the powers from the last few books, but if you are making your first character I doubt you have access to every book or option anyway. Play around with the character builder, pick a class you are thinking about playing and build it. Don’t just build it once though, build it two or three times, and don’t save it. Why not save all that hard work? Because you shouldn’t be attached to your first choices, build it for experience and then use all the experience later to build the character you want to use in the game. Would you rather live in the first house a guy builds or the 5th house? More practice means fewer bugs, and if there was a concept you really loved in your first character, chances are it will show up in your final character. Build it all the way to level three so you can look at what you can expect to gain in the next few levels. What powers will you want later? What gear might be nice? This is a really fun activity on a rainy day. Next look up your powers. If you have a Players hand book, or any other supplements use them to look up the powers or skills you have chosen. Did you train in Arcana? You should read up on what options the arcana skill gives you. Did you know you could roll an arcana check to learn about certain monsters? No? That is why you look it up. Knowing more about what your character can do will help you integrate into the party much faster.

#3 Gear up. Ever been back to school shopping? Think of getting ready for your first game as a mini back to school shopping trip. Make sure you have what you need while you play. The math in D&D is not hard, but if you hate math bring a small calculator. Pencils, scratch papers, a folder, or a laptop if you prefer to track your character digitally. Though don’t be upset if the DM wants you to have a hard copy, with 7 players laptops clutter my table and heat up my apartment like and oven, so I have banned them. Dice! Dice a a great investment for anyone who wants to game. They are often a very low cost, $6.00 for a good basic set, more if you want to get fancy. Having your own set of dice will help you feel less at the mercy of the DM or other players in the game. When it comes to not having to borrow, or worry about looking like a “noob” having a set of dice goes a long way.

#4 Know the lingo. This is a short one, but it is very helpful. Know the game lingo. You don’t need to be an expert with the glossary of the players hand book memorized; just know some of the basic terms. Start with the very basics. If you have a players hand book take some time to look at the glossary, learn a few definition you didn’t already know. If you don’t have access to the BHB(Players hand book) go to Wikipedia there is a great amount of basic information there. I have not found a very good list of websites dedicated to explaining the very basic terminology; this might be due to copyrights and what not. Just remember that “Knowing is half the battle” and the other half is your axe in the orc’s face.

#5. Do your homework. What? Homework in D&D?!? Yeah I know it is a game, and it’s all about fun, but stick with me on this one. I just ran into this problem with my group and let me tell you, your DM will really appreciate it if you follow this advice. If you communicate with your DM, (see #1)  you will learn important information about your campaign, like the setting of the game, and home brew rules. Wizards of the Coast has published two settings or worlds for D&D, excluding the general Grey Hawk setting. They also have (at the time of my writing this) one more setting in the pipeline. These worlds have their own more specific rules and history, meaning they might play a bit different than the rules in the players hand book. Learning about these worlds is very helpful. If you learn that your game is set in Eberron for instance, go learn about about the setting. You don’t have to go buy the players guide or the campaign guide; you just need an internet connection. Start with the basics, hit up Wikipedia, they have tons of information about most of the D&D worlds. You can get a ton of back story and general information about the setting. From there you can find more in depth sites like for the Dark Sun setting. These sites should be able to answer any questions you might have which the wiki couldn’t cover. Now I’m not telling you to memorize the complete history of the world, there will not be a final later in the game, but you will spend much less time fitting into the party and more time playing if you know the basics before you site down.

Once you know the world, find out about house rules. House rules are those rules which differ or augment the basic or published rules in Dungeons and Dragons.  Why is it important to find out about hose rules? Because they can drastically change the way you create your character (see #2). A low magic game; a game with little to no magic items or sometimes even no magic classes, might require you to get rid of some gear you might have purchased in creation. You might even end up having to choose a whole new class due to a rule you didn’t know about. You might find out that a power or feat you chose is made less effective due to a house rule, or one you skipped over might be more useful; and altering them at home before the game is much easier to do.

Following even one of these suggestion will make your transition into a new group or new game much smoother. Meaning more fun for you, and less time spent in “new guy land”. There are so many other things I could tell you to do to be ready for your first game. These this is just a short list of what I feel are important. I might make a second post later with a few that didn’t make it to the list. And hey if you have ideas that might help new gamers, or seasoned pros who are joining a new game, feel free to leave a comment, I’ll add them to the list and credit the author.


Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.


About Thadeousc

Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *