A Fast and Loose Guide to Dungeons and Dragons
by Rich Jones
Too long, didn't read: This guide makes DnD super fun and easy.
This is a guide for new players and dungeon masters who want to play a fast-paced, fun-optimized version of the game. We prefer fun and hilarity over rule-following.
Ideally, this guide should be all you need to play a fun game with friends, newbies, normies, hesitant significant others, skeptics and moms. Typically people who have watched Stranger Things are into it and have a really good time.
Table of Contents
- Basic Overview
- Making Characters
- Character Sheets
- Dungeon Mastering
- Premade Campaigns
- Making Your Own Campaigns
- Other Resources
- Improving this Guide
TL;DR: Friends, a printer, some PDFs, some pens, hecka beers.
- 2-4 players + 1 Dungeon Master
👨 👩 👨 👩
- Pen and paper for each player
📝 📝 📝 📝
- A set of game dice for each player
🎲 🎲 🎲 🎲
- Or, use your phone. You can say "Siri, roll a D20" to an iPhone and it works.
- 4-6 beers per player
🍺 🍺 🍺 🍺
- Speakers for playing epic background music
- Costumes/Hats (Optional)
- The game is more fun if you all get into character with dorky hats.
TL;DR: Invent a character, explore a fantasy world, talk to the people living there, fight crazy monsters, acquire plunder and glory, roll dice, drink beers, yell at your friends and have fun.
Dungeons and Dragons is a fantasy role playing game. The game is played by 2-4 player characters, who play as adventurers exploring a world, and one Dungeon Master, who controls the context of the adventure and plays as the non-player characters and monsters.
There are very few rules to the game, so creativity and ingenuity are rewarded. The players will be placed into challenging situations, (such as fighting an army of monsters, discovering and deciphering mysterious clues, and interrogating, seducing and deceiving non-player characters), and will have to use their imaginations to devise ways to overcome those challenges.
The primary mechanic of the game is the roll of a 20-sided dice known as a D20. Players state what they want to do (for instance, "I want to use the rope to swing across the chasm"), and then roll a D20.
The Dungeon Master decides to themself how difficult that task is (out of 20), and if the dice scores higher than that number then the player succeeds, and if not then they fail. The Dungeon Master then narrates the result of the action ("You try to swing across the gaping chasm, but your grip slips half-way across, and you fall to the canyon floor. You take two damage. You see glowing eyes in the darkness.")
Natural rolls of 1 and 20 result in spectacular failures and success, respectively.
The goal of the game is simply to play the game, because it is fun!
Generally, the Dungeon Master is trying to steer you onto a fun quest, but ultimately, it's all up to you. Want to start a peasant revolt against the evil king? Go ahead! Want to turn a dragon into your pet and become the ruler of the land? Roll for it! Want to start a seedy brothel? Uh, sure!
The only limits are your imagination and the rolls of dice. Have fun!
TL;DR: Choose a character type. Print a premade sheet. In a pinch, pretend to be Han Solo or Darth Vader but as a Lord of the Rings character.
Every player besides the Dungeon Master needs to create a character. This will be something like Riceak Beestinger, Chaotic Gnomish Druid, or Hollyatra Gellantara, Lawful Human Paladin.
Each player will need to choose a race, a class, an alignment, and a name. Then, print the character sheet for that combination from the PDFs in this repository, linked below. Choose a combination that you think will be fun to play as.
You'll probably want to make sure that your party has good a balance of skills and personalities. You can't all be Han Solo!
If you're super lazy, just use these characters for your party, which should suit any starting campaign:
Players can do this themselves before the session starts to save time, or the DM can just print out a bunch of the archetypical character types for players to choose from, or you can print them on demand. A combined PDF of the default party is also provided.
TL;DR: What do you look like?
Race defines the general physical characterics of your character.
Race can affect how people interact with your character. Non-player characters in the games may have their own racial prejudices - for instances, if you go to a Dwarven cave, the Dwarves there might be racist towards your Elf player. This can lead to some funny situations.
Also, big characters can throw small characters, which is always funny.
|Halfling||Tiny||Nimble, brave (basically just Hobbits)|
|Gnome||Very Small||Cunning, sees in the dark|
|Dwarf||Small||Resilient, sees in the dark|
|Elf||Short||Keen senses, sees in the dark|
|Half-Elf||Short-ish||Rare, skilled, diplomatic|
|Tiefling||Regular||Has horns and a tail|
|Human||Regular||You know what humans are|
TL;DR: What can you do?
Class defines the skills and abilities of your character.
Some can use magic, some are good at melee combat, some are good at ranged weaponry, and some are good at seduction. Pick the one that you think would be fun role play as!
|Druid||Natural magic||Potions, plants/animals|
|Monk||Religious kung-fu||Kung-fu, potions, plants/animals|
|Paladin||Religious knight||Religious violence, chivalry|
|Rogue||Criminal||Thievery, lockpicking, ruses|
|Sorcerer||Energy magic||Cool spells|
|Warlock||War magic||Cool spells|
|Wizard||General magic||Cool spells|
TL;DR: How do you behave - good or bad? Lawful or criminal?
Alignment describes your character's motivations and behavior. There are two axis here: good and evil, lawful and chaotic. These map pretty well to archetypical movie characters, Darth Vader is lawful evil, Han Solo is chaotic neutral, etc.
Again, choose one you think would be fun:
|Lawful Good (Superman)||Neutral Good (Gandalf)||Chaotic Good (Batman)|
|Lawful Neutral (Stannis Baratheon)||True Neutral (Saul Goodman)||Chaotic Neutral (Han "Shot First" Solo)|
|Lawful Evil (Darth Vader)||Neutral Evil (Voldemort)||Chaotic Evil (The Joker)|
Finally, make a name. A good DM will enforce that you call all the other players by their character names, so make sure yours is funny. Try a dick or poop joke here.
Alternately, you can just use this character name generator and see what happens.
Now that you've chosen your race, class, alignment and name, find the right character sheet for that combination of race and class in this directory and print it out. This is yours now. Fill in your alignment and name at the top, then read over the sheet. You'll see that you already have your stats calculated and a list of weapons and items in your inventory that you'll start the game with. Hooray!
On your sheet, there are a few important numbers (and some unimportant ones that we're going to ignore). Hit Points (HP), which are how much damage you can take before you die, Armour Class (AC), which is how well you are defended against enemy blows, and six ability modifiers, which are numbers added to your rolls for certain tasks. They correspond to:
|Strength (STR)||Physical strength||Moving things, hitting things, breaking doors, doing damage|
|Dexterity (DEX)||Gymnastic ability||Generates armour class, climbing, dodging, balancing, archery|
|Constitution (CON)||Health and stamina||Generates hit points, concentration|
|Intelligence (INT)||Reasoning and learning||Deciphering, appraising, forgery, searching, spellcasting|
|Wisdom (WIS)||Knowledge, gut feelings||Knowing arcane knowledge, sensing traps and secrets, listening, healing|
|Charisma (CHA)||Seductive ability||Seduction, charm, deception, disguise, animal taming|
When you try to do one of the those types of things, add your modifier to your roll.
TL;DR: Just roll a D20 and see what happens.
Okay! Now you're ready to play. The Dungeon Master is going to read a little narative exposition, then you're off!
Choose the player with the highest Speed value on their sheet to go first. Players then take turns interacting with the world, passing to the left after their turn is over. If the turn passes to the Dungeon Master while there are enemy monsters in play, the Dungeon Master plays a turn for each of those monsters before passing again.
There are three pillars to gameplay: exploration of the game world, interaction with non-player characters, and combat with monsters.
TL;DR: Look for clues, traps, treasure and secrets.
Exploration is the primary mechanic when there are no non-player characters or monsters around. This usually means looking around the environment for clues or secrets, discovering or using items, or solving puzzles. Gameplay elements often involve, but aren't limited to:
- Solving puzzles
- Surmounting obstacles (climbing walls, lockpicking, etc.)
- Looking for treasure
- Taming animals
- Stealthy intrusion and escape
- Discovering and setting traps
- Starting fires and other diversions
TL;DR: Use disguises and sexuality to acquire information.
Eventually, players will encounter non-player characters. These might be guards, townsfolk, nobility, evil generals, holy spirits or anything else. Generally, they will have some information for the players that they'll need to acquire somehow. This isn't always easy, and often involves the use of:
- Sexual seduction
- Threats of violence
- Disguise, forgery, trickery and slight-of-hand
- Kidnapping, interrogation, and torture
- Navigating racial discrimination and crossing language barriers
TL;DR: Roll a D20 to see if you hit or not, then roll another dice to see how much damage you did.
At some point, players will encounter violent monsters. There are no limits to how they can interact with those monsters, but there are rules for melee (sword-type), ranged (bow-type) and magic combat.
As a rule of thumb, a player's turn represents about 10 seconds of elapsed game time. So, if a player wants to climb a ladder, untie a rope and swing into a monster, that would take successful rolls across three turns.
The Dungeon Master should try to keep track of the general positions of the players and the monsters so that they can only hit each other if they're close to each other. Generally though, they shouldn't be too strict about this and should just let the combat flow naturally.
Combat strikes happen in two phases (in the same turn): rolls to hit, and rolls to deal damage.
To attack, a player declares who they are going to hit and what they want to hit with. For example, "I strike at the nearest Goblin with my hand-axe."
The attack roll is a normal D20 roll, plus the Attack bonus (STR or DEX + Proficiency) listed on the character sheet for that weapon. If the resulting number is greater than or equal to the enemy's Armour Class, then the attack counts as a hit. If not, then the attack misses, and the turn passes to the next player.
If the attack roll is a hit, then the player rolls another dice (listed on the character sheet for each weapon), and that number is subtracted from the monster's hit points. If resulting hit points are less than zero, then the monster dies.
To spice up the combat, the Dungeon Master should narrate all attacks in explicit gory detail. Natural 1s and natural 20s should result in spectular self-inflicted wounds and damaging strikes, respectively.
Defending is the same process as attacking, but in reverse. The Dungeon Master rolls for each attacking creature, and deals damage if the attack rolls are higher than the defending player's Armour Class.
If a player's HP drops below 0, they have suffered a mortal wound and can no longer attack. Give them a free roll to try to stuff their guts back in, or let other players take them out of immediate danger before they die completely.
Total death generally isn't very much fun for that player, so the Dungeon Master may choose to use divine inspiration to help that player out before or after they die.
You can also introduce ＤＥＡＴＨ as a non-player character and have the player barter with ＤＥＡＴＨ in exchange for humiliating punishments, or challenge them to a game of "street craps", where you each throw all of your dice and count the number of pairwise wins.
If a player dies completely, you can have them hang around as a ghost who has no items but can still gently interact with objects, and, if they roll exceptionally well, lightly posess nearby non-player characters. The other players are responsible for dragging the corpse along for the rest of the quest until it can be revived.
If all your players die, you can send them on the fan-made Fires of Hell campaign, which lets the players fight their way out of Hell and back to your game world.
Experience Points and Levels
After winning a combat round or complete a quest, players are rewarded with Experience Points (XP). When a player gets enough XP, they increase their level by one.
Levelling up gives a player two +1 points to improve their abilities of their choosing, and adds 6 + CON to that player's Hit Points. They don't immediately heal to full health, but they do get the new hit points.
XP is cumulative, and levelling up happens at 300, 900, 2700, 6500, 14000, 23000, 34000, 48000, 64000, 85000, 100000, 120000, 140000, 165000, 195000, 225000, 265000, 305000 and 355000 points.
TL;DR: Make your players have as much fun as possible by being kind of a dick to them.
As a dungeon master, your job is to make the other players have as much fun as possible.
Make sure that all the players at the table are engaged, and that nobody is hogging all the action. If somebody is trying to derail your game too much, feel throw to use divine intervention to throw punishments at them.
Don't let players take too long for their turns or the game becomes boring. It really shouldn't take more than 30 seconds a turn. If this becomes a problem, use a timer.
To make sure that the game moves along quickly, if somebody asks you if they can do something, the best answer to give them is "roll for it!"
If the players are all playing along nicely, solving your puzzles and coming up with creative solutions to your problems, you can reward them with inspiration points, which acts like a currency that they can use to improve the results of their rolls.
Different players like different things, so feel free to adjust your campaign to suit their needs. If they like combat, throw a bunch of enemies at them. If they like exploration, create puzzles for them to solve. If they like interaction, create interesting characters for them to talk to. A good campaign will have a balance of all these.
Your players will have different motivations for playing. Newer players generally just want to aquire new weapons and armour to improve their character's fighting skills, but other players may just be more interested in discovering more about the plot of the campaign. Figure out what different people like and adjust the campaign accordingly.
The internet is full of pre-made campaigns of varying quality. Most of the official ones can be bought for a few bucks each, but you can also generally find the PDFs on sketchy Russian download websites.
I like the Adventurer's League series because the missions are short and the files are well formatted, but because the missions are short they don't go as deep. Try to find one that's right for your players!
There are also many unofficial fan-made campaigns that are just as good as the official ones. (If you have any favorites, please send pull requests to this repository!)
- Fires of Hell - A quest for when all of your players are dead.
- The Mad Wizard: Meatworld is a Place of Madness - A Lovecraftian horror.
- The Ancient's Lab - A one-shot adventure based on The Thing.
Making Your Own Campaigns
I haven't done this yet. Advice welcome!
A popular approach is to simply repurpose scenarios and characters from popular media. For instance, maybe take the plot of Alien but replace the alien with a dragon. Or maybe have your adventureres go on the train-robbery mission from Firefly. You get the idea!
There's also no reason why your quest has to be in a Tolkein-esque fantasy universe. Just port the characters into whatever type of world you want (steampunk and sci-fi worlds are pretty popular alternatives).
- Ronny's Character Creation Guide
- Old Dungeon Master Blog
- r/DnD Subreddit
- D and D Wiki
- Elven Tower Map Vault
- Donjon's Printable Random Dungeon Generator
- Dungeon World - another simplified tabletop game
- The Homebrewery - Lets you write campaigns in Markdown, but renders them as if they were official guides. Pretty awesome.
- OrcPub - Online 5e character generator tool.
- Kobold Fight Club - An online encounter building tool.
- The Trove - Huge archive of official and fan-made rule books, adventures and guides.
- Random Magic Items by Birdoge - Roll to generate magical item drops.
- Dungeon Master's Cheat Sheet - Handy! by /u/dm_magic
- Sane Item Prices - A PDF of items which you can let your players shop for.
- Sane Item Prices, Searchable - Same as above, but as a Google Docs spreadsheet.
- 5etools - A pretty comprehensive toolset for players & GMs, contains a lot of content for referencing.
- D&D Compendium - A resource for over 700 D&D resources.
- D&D Shop Catalog v1.8 - Shop item list.
Improving this Guide
Got ways to improve this guide? Just send a pull request!