An Introduction to D&D for Beginners

Posted by Annabelle Collins on


Modular Realms - how to play Dungeons and Dragons. A D&D character casting a spell.

Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is a co-operative story-telling game.

Players play as their characters, going on adventures in a world narrated by the Dungeon Master (DM).

Each Player Character has their own unique set of skills and abilities, determined by their race and class.

The party work together as a team to complete quests.

The DM plays the game in a different way to the rest of the players. Their role is to guide the story and controls the non-player characters (NPCs).


In many ways, playing in a weekly campaign is much watching an episode of your favourite show with friends ... except you aren’t watching it - you’re living it!


In this guide, we will go over the basics of how D&D works for those who are new to the game.



How D&D is Played (Describe, Decide, Roll the Di!)


At the heart of it D&D is played by the DM describing a situation, players stating their characters intentions, with dice rolled to determine the outcome.



The Dungeon Master serves as the narrator and referee, describing the setting, actions of the NPCs and obstacles characters may face.

Modular Realms D&D for Beginners - A party of D&D adventurers looking out over a fantasy landscape


During the game, players interact with each other and the world around them by speaking in character.


Roll the Dice!

A D&D Rogue checking for traps in the forgotten ruins of a dungeon

When Players decide what their characters want to do, the DM tells them what dice they’ll need to roll and what ability modifiers to add.

For example, you might decide you want to try and pick the lock on a dungeon door.

In that case, the DM would tell you to roll a d20 (a 20-sided di) and add your character's thieves tools proficiency bonus to the roll.


The DM narrates the outcome and we start the cycle again. (It's a lot more exciting playing compared to reading - I promise!)



How DnD Dice Work


Dungeons and Dragons uses polyhedral dice to introduce chance when determining an outcome.

The most commonly used dice is the D20.

The D20 is used to determine the relative success of skill checks, attack rolls and saving throws. A higher roll means your character is more likely to succeed with what they were trying to achieve.

After rolling the D20, a player adds the relevant modifier from their character’s stat block (see more on that in this post here).

Image showing a D20 being rolled, adding the relevant modifier to make an animal handling skill check for DnD 5e

If the result is higher than the locks Difficulty Class (DC), the character succeeds on their attempt.

In your set of DnD dice, alongside the D20 there is also a D12, D10, D8, D6 and D4

A set of polyhedral DnD Dice including a D20, D12, D10 (percentile), D10, D8, D6 and D4, used for playing Dungeons and Dragons

You will usually roll these dice to see how much damage you do but they can also be used for spells or abilities like Bardic Inspiration.

You can read more about D&D Character sheets in my post here.



How DnD Combat Works


A watercolor image of an axe and shield symbolising DnD 5e combat

Sooner or later the party is bound to get into trouble...

Combat in D&D is turn-based, with each character taking their turn to perform actions such as attacking, casting spells, or using abilities.

Players can move a certain distance on their turn, and can take one action and one bonus action.

They can also choose to take a reaction outside of their turn, such as an opportunity attack against an enemy who moves out of their range.

You can read about what you can do in a D&D combat turn in more detail here.

watercolor sword and scabbard symbolising DnD Combat


One-shots Vs Campaigns


The difference between one-shots and Campaigns is like the difference between watching a movie or a TV series.

A watercolor image of a small single-volume book symbolising a single-adventure DnD game like a one-shot

One-shots are a single game that tells a complete story with beginning, middle and end and can be played in a day.

They can range from an hour or two in length to 8-10 hours (sometimes us nerds can get intense ;) ).

A campaign generally has sessions that are shorter, and on-going.
It might be a game that lasts two hours after work once a week, with story arcs spanning months.
I personally much prefer campaigns as it allows me to tell much deeper, more complex stories. It’s all down to personal preference though!
a watercolor illustration of forget me not flowers


Final thoughts


To sum it up; Dungeons and Dragons is a fun and exciting game that allows you to embark on quests and adventures together with your friends.

A party of 3 D&D adventurers about to embark on their next quest overlooking a fantasy landscape of an overgrown ravine

If you want to learn more about how to play Dungeons and Dragons, make sure to check out my other blog posts.

If you learn by watching, I recommend checking out D&D campaigns on Youtube such as NPC D&D (for 30 min episodes) or Critical Role (the worlds most popular D&D show).


Whoever you are, I recommend you give Dungeons and Dragons a go at least once.

With imagination, a DM, and a set of dice, anything is possible!

Adventures and shenanigans await!

A watercolor illustration of a beautiful fantasy landscape just waiting to be explored
I make magnetic modular dnd dungeon tiles to make epic snap-together battlemaps for all your TTRPG needs!

Annabelle Collins, Chief Artificer of Modular Realms and inventor of the auto-snapping magnetic system. She loves playing DnD games with her friends and crafting DnD Scenery


Hi! I'm Annabelle! I'm the author of this blog and a huge nerd!

I also make magnetic, double-sided, modular dungeon tiles!

My DnD terrain contains secret spinning magnets so that each piece snaps instantly to every other. They even come in a box disguised as a spellbook to store away on your bookshelf!

They're really cool, you should totally check them out here!

Modular Realms magnetic dnd terrain, basically a banner with a dungeon tileset I do laid out as different battlemaps and shown with the book box packaging

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