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What you need for D&D – the essentials to start playing Dungeons and Dragons

Whether you’re drawn to tales of pitch-black horror or swords, dragons and sorcery – there’s plenty of strange new worlds waiting to be explored in Dungeons and Dragons. It’s ideal for anyone who has ever pictured outsmarting a deadly monster or waging war on a haunted hill and thought: I want to go to there.

Fancy being a flesh-eating lizard with a giant mulch hammer and a penchant for oblivion? Done. A lute fiddling cat with a less-than-wordly patron that demands cursed artefacts? Roll yourself a Tabaxi warlock with a background in thievery and song. Or perhaps you would like to create your own cosmos for others to traverse; training to be a fabled Dungeon Master. Wherever the dice may fall, we’ve uncovered the best supplies, books and stories that’ll land you and your party merriment and mishaps aplenty.

How to play Dungeons and Dragons

Each player creates a character and embarks on  adventures: aggravating dragons, raising armies and haggling with NPCs – the sky’s the limit. The narrator-cum-referee known as the Dungeon Master reports all events and non-player dialogue, as well as playing the numerous enemies the party will encounter on their adventures. Dice-rolls and the DM’s discretion determine player’s fates subsequent to their decisions.

In order to start your own Dungeons and Dragons adventure(s), secure the following: polyhedral dice, character sheets, rule-books and an official campaign – which lays out the foundation plot, characters and enemies of a Dungeons and Dragons universe. Seek out a curious friend or two to join the game, and remember, fortune favours the bold!

Get Adventuring A.S.AP: Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set

The starter set provides you with the bare bones of what you’ll need to run a basic Dungeons and Dragons campaign – a series of sessions based around an overarching main story and group of players. Character sheets, one set of dice and a basic rulebook and adventure are included in this kit. Be sure to grab some supplementary dice, because sharing one set between multiple players can become pretty tiresome. Additionally, if you like visual aids, a whiteboard or RPG map can be scrawled upon.

The Core Rulebook and Guide for Everyone: Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook

An essential reference point for both players and potential Dungeon Masters, this gorgeously illustrated guide lays out the fundamentals of the game in vivid detail, including character creation (where you can choose from a plethora of iconic fantasy races), exploration, combat, equipment and spells. It also includes all the base mechanics you’ll need to play, and some useful guidance on how to super-charge your story-telling as a Dungeon Master, with recommended hooks and role-play tips.

There be Monsters: Monster Manual

Learn all about dragons, giants, mind flayers and beholders in this handy monster manual that can be applied to any campaign. There are handy statistics for fighting each monster, and plenty of thrilling lore and beautifully rendered artwork to feed the imagination. A handy bestiary that adds some real flavour to the game on both a player and Dungeon Master level.

Moar Monsters: Volo’s Guide to Monsters – Monster Manual Expansion

A full on deep-dive behind the lore of Dungeons and Dragons monsters to supplement the Monster Manual, plus a few new playable races for monstrously inclined players such as Lizardfolk, Giants, and the angelic Aasimar, among others. The book kicks off with a detailed breakdown of the nine classic Dungeons and Dragons monster types, rules and lore for additional playable monstrous races – which provide plenty of creative role-playing opportunities – and most glorious of all, an illustrated bestiary comprised of over 120 monsters, complete with in-depth mythology and story inspiration.

Don’t DM without it: The Dungeon Master’s Guide

Hands down the best resource for a budding Dungeon Master. It’s chock-full of world-building tools, tons of storytelling tips and tricks, guidelines for creating NPCs and monsters, and a breakdown of the game’s rules.

Core Rulebook Expansion: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

An expansion to the current rulebook, this is great if you’d like to get additional game goodies, such as more character subclasses – including a Sherlock Holmes-esque investigator or a swashbuckling’ pirate – some really hench spells, and a system that gives characters a randomised backstory. There’s plenty of additional inspiration for the Dungeon Master too, such as horrifying new ways to use traps (fire blast pit anyone?), strange and probably cursed magic items and suggestions to keep a campaign engaging: such as encouraging characters to explore religion (or gambling) in their downtime. Not to mention oodles of lore, backstory and world building suggestions to really sink your teeth into.

Adventure – Curse of Strahd: Dracula, sacrilege and madness

Vampires, witches, curses and mysticism abound in Curse of Strahd, where you traverse through the haunted mists of Borovia under the watchful eye of an all-powerful Dracula figure. It’s probably the heaviest subject-matter wise of the official campaigns; the topics and themes Curse of Strahd delves into are most definitely adult, and run dark and deep. A unique spooky atmosphere prevails, with the book providing extensive guidance on how to that suspense and dread among players. To go full folk horror, you can grab the Curse of Strahd Tarroka – a unique tarot deck that works with the book to deliver weird futuristic visions unto your party.

Adventure – Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat: All the Dragons

This two-parter campaign features many, many dragons and is set in the Forgotten Realms – the fantastical setting traditionally associated with Dungeons and Dragons and a huge chunk of RPG video games. Featuring all the trimmings you’d expect from the genre like wizards, castles and intrigue, this campaign is ideal for fans of fantasy and wonderment.

Adventure -Tomb of Annihilation: Welcome to the jungle

If you’re looking for fun times raiding tombs and exploring lush jungles, campaign Tomb of Annihilation is for you. Players seek out an ancient treasure on the mysterious land of Chult, where pirates, monuments and lost cities abound. Some highlights include a floating cave and zombie gorilla beasts.

Adventure – Out of the Abyss: Flee the heart of darkness

Descend, Alice in Wonderland style, into the Underdark, a vast labyrinth home to horrifying monsters and a bonus demon portal. It’s ideal if you want a more linear campaign with a rail-road feel: travelling through the Underdark leaves little room for free-wandering. For Stranger Things fans, it features the original Demogorgon. Be warned, the theme is more survival horror than flight of fantasy.

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