Often times, finding a new hobby or pastime can be exciting, and we can draw ourselves in with the prospect of shiny new toys. After all, toys are fun. But they're also expensive. And if you're not careful, you can overlook the true joy of any hobby in the pursuit of shininess. This is true whether you've started yoga, rock climbing, skiing, writing, vlogging, or playing D&D. I would make the argument that the most important thing about yoga isn't spending $500 at Lulu Lemon's, nor is your success in rock-climbing guaranteed by the most expensive shoes, nor do you need to invest in a $2000 guitar if you've never played before. D&D is the same way, and compared to these other examples, D&D has probably the most toys, and the most opportunity to get distracted by shiny objects (literally, in some cases).
So what do you really need to get started? Let's tackle this question first by looking at my personal beliefs, and work our way up from there.
Accessibility is very important to me. I want people to feel like D&D is accessible to them regardless of their financial circumstances. For some people, $50 is nothing to worry about, but for others, $50 is a lot of money. I have often been in this latter category, so how do you justify a hobby where just one out of many rulebooks cost $50?
I'm going to say this a hundred million times, but D&D at its core, is a "cooperative storytelling experience." With this notion in mind, do you need anything to sit down with some friends and start telling a story together? No! Absolutely not! All you need is some friends. So, can you start "playing D&D" right now, without spending any money? Yes, and I'm not being facetious. You will need some friends, and an idea for the kind of story you want to tell. It could literally be as simple as this:
"Let's all pretend that we're wizards at Hogwarts!"
And then one friend will assume the role of DM. What will they do? They'll guide the rest along. They'll decide that the story starts with you all on the Hogwarts Express when the train stops and you hear some fighting coming from the next car over. Or something like that.
And then you'll take turns describing how you interact with the imagined world.
Now, if this sounds kind of cheesy, well I hate to break it to you, but that's basically all D&D is. The books and the dice and the miniature figures are all just icing on the cake. The cake itself is rich enough on its own, even without the icing. (nice metaphor, right?)
Okay, so let's say you're serious about learning the mechanics of the game itself. What do you really need?
Pencil and Paper (or any writing implement, digital or physical)
The first item on this list is pretty self-explanatory.
The second item refers to the core rulebook you need as a player. If you are looking to learn more about being a DM, don't worry, I'll go over this later on. But as a player, you only need the Player's Handbook. I repeat! You don't need the other books! Wizards of the Coast is the publishing company behind D&D, and they release a metric ton of books and content on a regular basis, so it's easy to think you need others, but you don't.
***D&D has been around since the 70's, and has been released in different versions, called "Editions." Everything I will be discussing in these articles will be relevant to the most current version, 5th Edition! If you find anything labeled any other edition, it will not necessarily correspond to the information I share with you here.***
The last item on the list is dice. (Disclaimer, I attached a quick link so that you could visualize what the dice set looks like, not because I am sponsoring any given brand of dice. I do not have any paid promotion.) You can buy dice from wherever you want, but what you're looking for is a set of seven different die: 20 sided, 12 sided, 10 sided (x2), 8 sided, 6 sided, and 4 sided. We'll go over the relevance of each one later on. You can buy dice from a myriad of sources, and can usually find them for around ten dollars a set. I encourage you NOT to shop at Amazon, only because I am adamantly against their business model. Take a look, you can find good deals elsewhere as well.
All in all, if you buy the Player's Handbook (often shortened to just PHB) and a set of dice at full MSRP, you might spend around 60-80 dollars, depending on tax and shipping. However, you most likely can find the PHB at a discounted price, not to mention countless digital versions across the web, if you don't care about having a physical copy. There is also a very popular service called D&D Beyond which has ways to play the game without the need of physical dice even. I'll talk about the pro's and con's of these services later on, but suffice to say D&D Beyond is an official resource created by Wizards of the Coast, and it might be worth looking into if you love digital resources.
Alright, that's enough for today. Next up, I think we'll be going over what to do once you've got your hands on a PHB and how to go about building your first character! After that, I expect we'll start branching out into more nuanced conversations, in no particular order. Thanks for reading!
Dungeon Master T is a professional DM, actor, voice actor, and writer, currently based in NYC.