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D&D essentials – everything you need to play Dungeons and Dragons

There’s no shortage of heroics, adventure and peril when it comes to Dungeons and Dragons. With limitless fantasy scope that touches on every tone and dream imaginable, it allows for any and every kind of scenario possible. So yes, playing D&D is a lot of fun, but like anything worth investing in, you’ll need a few bits and pieces to do so. and it’s not always easy to know what you need to play Dungeons and Dragons. Fortunately we’ve outlined everything you need to play D&D, what books and dice you need, as well as what extras can enhance the experience, and what you can do to get the most from your game and your players!

What do I need to play Dungeons and Dragons?

There are a few D&D essentials you’ll need to have to play, as well as some extras that can help. We’ll go into them all in more detail below, but the list, for now, goes as follows:

Polyhedral Dice Sets

Five sets of polyhedral dice used to play Dungeons & Dragons.

A set of polyhedral dice is essential to Dungeons and Dragons, as the game is centred around dice rolls and games of chance whenever characters attempt something difficult. A full set has seven types of dice in total (though it never hurts to have some spares), and ideally, you’ll be entering a game with every player having their own set, purely for expediency. There’s no shortage of dice materials and aesthetics to pick from, but a basic starter set should do just fine if you’re starting off. Alternatively, keep an eye out for anything more elaborate – a set of metal or engraved dice can make an excellent gift for a seasoned player.

Player’s Handbook

The cover of the D&D Player's Handbook.

The Player’s Handbook has all the rules used by everybody who isn’t the Dungeon Master, and a few even they’ll need, with all the abilities, spells and powers used by characters within the game. This teaches you what different races, classes, backgrounds and more there are to offer your character, as well as walking you through the character creation process. This is one of those books that everybody around the table is going to use multiple times over the course of one session, so while a single copy will serve you fine, it doesn’t hurt to have more around so people don’t have to fight over it.

Dungeon Master’s Guide

The cover of the D&D Dungeon Master's Guide.

Often abbreviated to the “DM’s Guide”, this book holds all the rules used by the Dungeon Master themselves, as well as some good guidelines for designing and running your own adventure. It’s also full of various environmental and non-living threats, including poisons, traps and even insanity.

Monster Manual

The cover of the D&D Monster Manual.

The Monster Manual is the undeniable companion to the Dungeon Master’s Guide, holding the stats and details for the hundreds of monsters, minions and mortals who populate your game. This book is the DM’s point of reference for every living creature, with their health, weaknesses and abilities all laid out, as well as having lore and flavour text to help inform and inspire the way you run adventures. Want a great boss for your players to fight? Want an ally they’ll enjoy having around? Want to give your summoners more options on what to create? This is the book for you.

Adventure Grid

Though you can just describe combat scenarios to your players in a manner often referred to as “theatre of the mind,” it can do a lot in complex battles and weaving dungeons to have an adventure grid, a map divided into squares that can be drawn on with a marker pen and just as easily erased, allowing you to quickly lay out battle scenarios and twisting dungeon floors in an instant!


A set of Goblin Minis for Dungeons & Dragons.

Miniatures are basically tiny models of characters, whether players or NPCs, that can be used either to represent people on the adventure grid or just as fun mementos of your characters once the campaign’s over. They’re by no means vital – you could represent your tabaxi warlock with a rock or a button if you wanted to – but it’s a lot more fun to have little statues snarling at each other from across the table. There’s a huge range of miniatures to pick from, and some of them come unpainted, allowing you to customise and colour them yourself for that extra personal touch.

Dungeon Master’s Screen

The box for the D&D Dungeon Master's Screen Reincarnated.

This little partition serves two purposes: one, to hide the DM’s notes and machinations from prying eyes (it’s more common than you think), but it also has a lot of useful rules on the back, usually the most commonly-invoked ones for ease of use. Not sure what it means when a character is charmed or exhausted? That’s right there, without having to check the books for that information. There are actually two official DM Screens available, but the “Reincarnated” screen is the better one, as the rules it displays are a lot more helpful on a moment-to-moment basis.

Expansion and Setting Books

The cover of the D&D Eberron setting book.

These kinds of texts don’t offer new adventures wholesale, but they do offer new options – new monsters, new classes, races, spells, rules and more, giving new opportunities to enhance and craft your own characters and campaigns. There’s a huge amount to pick from, but Eberron: Rising from the Last War and Volo’s Guide to Monsters are excellent starting points, as the first one leans hard into steampunk magic (with options for magic robot characters and flying pirate ships), while the latter offers a huge range of new beasts and abilities for both players and DMs. You can actually check our sister site, Dicebreaker, for reviews of Eberron or a full range of easy-read how-to guides for Dungeons and Dragons as a whole.

Campaign Books

If you don’t feel like writing your own adventure or just like the sound of one of the existing ones, D&D has a huge range of campaign “modules” designed to provide countless hours of entertainment. There are different genres, difficulty levels and twists to each one. There’s actually too many to go into now, but we’ve laid out a more comprehensive guide to Dungeons and Dragon 5E Campaign Adventure Books right here.

And that about covers all the D&D essentials you need right now. We’ll be sure to return to this list and update it with any useful new items as and when we find them. Until then, enjoy your first Dungeons and Dragons adventure!

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