How to Play D&D – Episode 1

So, you want to play dungeons and dragons? Maybe you were intrigued after seeing the characters playing the game in shows like stranger things or the big bang theory — or maybe you've heard about the various celebrities who have gotten back into D&D in the last few years. Or perhaps you've heard of shows like critical role and want to see what all the fuss is about.

Critical Role Cast.jpg

No matter what's brought you here, welcome! This series is going to teach you everything you need to know to be able to play the fifth edition of dungeons and dragons in digestible, bite sized chunks.


This series is aimed at folks who have never played D&D or any other roleplaying game, and will give you all the tools you need to play the game.

What is Dungeons & Dragons?


Dungeons and Dragons is a tabletop roleplaying game (ttrpg), originally designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson in 1974, where you assume the role of an epic adventurer in a medieval allegory setting, travelling the realm meeting new characters, fighting monsters, and collecting rewards.


You and your friends tell a dynamic story together over weeks, months, or even years by reacting to situations presented by the dungeon master, or DM.


The dungeon master is another player who establishes the world and creates situations for you and your fellow adventurers to react to.


The dungeon master is part player, part storyteller, and part referee and whenever you want to do something in a game of Dungeons and Dragons; it will be the dungeon master who sets the conditions for your success of failure.


The core of the game is built around the twenty sided dice, or the d20.

Sketch of a 20-sided dice.

Any time you want to do something in the world of dungeons and dragons that has a chance of failing, you roll the d20 and compare it to a number set by the dungeon master, which is usually known as the difficulty class, or DC.


If the result of your d20 roll is equal to or higher than the DC set by the dungeon master, you are successful and can do the thing you were trying to accomplish. If the number is lower, then you fail and there will be consequences.


In addition rolling the d20, you will often have a variety of modifiers that you can apply to your roll to affect the result. Sometimes this will be because you are in cover, other times it will be because you just threw a fistful of sand into your enemy's eyes, but the most common of these modifiers is known as proficiency.




The proficiency system is where we separate the novice from the master, the rookie from the pro, the wheat from the chaff. Your proficiency bonus represents your character's experience level, or their training in a particular area.


Your proficiency bonus starts at a +2 at level one, meaning any time you attempt a task at which you're proficient, you add +2 to the result of your d20 roll. This number increases as you level up, representing your character improving with experience and practice.


But you can't add this modifier to just any old rolls, to use your proficiency bonus, you have to be proficient in whatever it is you're trying to do.


Your proficiency in different tasks and with certain items will usually be determined by your race, the class you choose, or another rule in the game.


If you are proficient in a task, any time you are called upon to make a roll for that thing, you get to add your proficiency bonus to the result.


Advantage & Disadvantage


Sometimes, a task is particularly easy or difficult, or an external force might be helping or hindering your attempts, and in those situations, the DM can require you to make your dice roll with advantage or disadvantage.


Advantage means instead of rolling one d20, adding your modifiers, and comparing the result to a difficulty class, you instead roll two d20, choose the highest number rolled, and then apply your modifiers to that number and compare it to the difficulty class set by the DM.


Disadvantage means instead of rolling one d20, adding your modifiers, and comparing the result to a difficulty class you instead roll two d20, choose the lowest number rolled, and then apply your modifiers to that number and compare it to the difficulty class set by the DM.

A diagram showing the principles of Advantage and Disadvantage in the dungeons and dragons game.


The last rule you need to know about in this episode is inspiration. Inspiration is something your dungeon master can use to reward you for playing your character well.


When you have inspiration, you can spend it to get advantage on an attack roll, a saving throw, or an ability check.


You can also give up your inspiration to another player to reward them directly.


As we go through this series, you'll learn all the different rules you need to know to be able to navigate your way through a game of dungeons and dragons, but it all starts with the humble d20.


In the next episode we're going to take a tour of the player character sheet to introduce you to everything you need to know before we start diving into individual topics.