New to Tabletop RPGs, Asking The Easy Questions


I’m in research mode for starting my own D&D campaign with some friends and I’ve been listening to podcasts, watching youtube videos, and reading up on the how-tos, but most of them approach teaching the game with the assumption that I know more than I do. If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to use this thread as a place to kind of air out the obvious and technical stuff that newbies like myself might feel too silly to ask.

I’ll start, but feel free to jump in with any other obvious questions you can think of.

How many die (and how many types of die) should I bring to the table as a DM?

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Awesome that you are looking into D&D and tabletop RPGs. Kinda a meta-response than an answer to your question. It is good that you’re doing research, but also remember that at the end of the day RPG’s are about having fun telling a collective story with friends. This fun experience should be the guiding principle, if you ask people for the favorite D&D memory it is often not some of the things you would think. Many favorite memories is spending time with friends, the moments when things go wrong or role playing moments that are unscripted. So as you get started it is important to learn the rules, don’t let that get in the way of having fun. In other words don’t feel too much pressure. Every DM makes some mistakes in the beginning and that is ok as long as people are having fun. While there are some people that take the rules etc deadly serious, there are others that make sure the experience is fun and that trumps the rest.

As for dice, it depends. Most of my games people bring their own dice. And honestly, in the beginning you can get buy with a single copy of each. having a second 10 sided die to roll percentages and having multiple copies of common damage die d6,d8,d10’s helps too. if you want to error on the side of caution a pound O’ dice can be had fairly cheaply on Amazon.

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I started using the dice roller Wizards of the Coast has on their site on my phone as a backup, it’s a lifesaver too for the occasions where someone needs to roll and absurd quantity of dice (usually not a huge issue in D&D but some games are nuts with that).

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Well, and the nice thing about the people I want to D&D with is that they will also be fairly new so we can all approach the game without as much baggage. I’ve played once or twice before a long time ago and everything was so by-the-book that I carry some residual concern going into a game now. Even something as simple as how many die can seem…non-trivial.

Usually you’ll want each player and the GM to have their own set (typically 1d4, 4d6, 1d8, 2d10 (or percentile dice), 1d12, and 1d20). For starting out, you’ll be fine with 2 sets (one for players, one for the GM) though more is better.

Some general advice:

The first thing I always do when trying a new system, or with completely new players (and what my group did when everyone was a newbie) is to run a one-shot game. Your first game is most likely not going to go smoothly, mistakes will be made, and it’s better to have a test run to get a feel for the system before engaging in a longer campaign.

I also generally would take stock of the players and their backgrounds before actually deciding on a system. Some players prefer more mechanics and systems while others prefer looser rule sets and more open character creation. Personally, I don’t like starting new players on D&D because it is so mechanics-heavy and tends to lend itself to powergamers (though 5e isn’t as bad as Pathfinder or older D&D versions). No matter the system, keep in mind that as a GM, your role is to direct a fun game, and sometimes that means breaking the rules and fudging dice.

For dice, I prefer to have a set for each player, but there are plenty of phone apps that do the trick. MTG Familiar has dice rollers built into it if they also happen to play Magic the Gathering.

Second vote for not playing D&D, and maybe picking up a different system like Apocalypse World or Fate.

Real talk, play some World of Darkness. Love that stuff so much. Play some Mage. Feel real good.

Chronicles of Darkness (the new New World of Darkness) is my go to game and what I would generally suggest. Though Mage is not a beginner game for GM or players. That said, some of the most epic game moments where in Mage.

Yeah, you are right, but it has the most fun idea space! I know I cut my gaming teeth on Werewolf. Catharsis ensues after some metaphysically justified eco-terrorism against corporations that are literally trying to destroy the spirit of the world with pollution and consumerism.

Many of those books have problematic areas with race and stereotyping, though. I think the games are worth the trouble.

Edit: Oops, you were talking about CoD. Those are a bit better in terms of not being quite as outwardly racist, but lack a bit of a reason to do anything. I believe there is also a saying with Mage that Ascension is better at doing awakenings and Awakening is better at doing ascensions. Really want to get a game going at some point, especially with this Changeling 20th Edition in my tablet.

I’d recommend having dice for yourself plus at least one extra set in case someone forgets theirs. Someone will forget theirs.

I haven’t found D&D 5e too hard to teach my new players, and learn as a new DM, but I played 3.5 previously and 5e is dead simple in comparison. The mechanics aren’t too bad, I have more trouble helping my players use Roll20 since we play online. It’s a great system but not always intuitive.

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Concentration in 5e is kind of a drag to learn if you have players playing casters who are used to older editions/pathfinder. You have to be a lot more careful about your spell selection lest you have a ton of spells competing for being the one being concentrated on. As a general rule of thumb when spell picking in 5e, any spell that doesn’t require concentration is probably better than it sounds (I mean depending on how much of a stickler the DM is for concentration I guess, some tables house rule the limitation away entirely).

The correct number of dice to have at the table is perhaps best expressed as, “Never enough.” People get superstitious about dice, they develop favorites, they think that their “hot” dice cool off, etc.

One of the best investments you can make is the classic Pound-o-Dice:

Since this original post I’ve DM’d four games of D&D with some friends. We’ve got a super fun campaign going and I’m learning a LOT during play. Started using GameMaster5 app to manage encounters and streamline stuff and it’s been amazing. Wish I had more time to DM more games as I think I’ve got the D&D fever. :stuck_out_tongue:


which parts of D&D did you and your friends end up enjoying the most? I’m thinking of doing a similar thing but I’m not sure if newer players would like more structured gameplay+plots or more improvisation.

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Not the OP, but I’d say it depends on the sort of players you have! Generally speaking having an in-universe reason for the party gathering is the starting point, but when I’m getting a feel for new players I rarely have any significant plot going for a little while. I’ll roll out something localized, like the village is being mind controlled by an angry succubus and see how the players progress.

Take it session by session. Ultimately, have things prepared but be ready to toss it out and the window if they just aren’t into it.

Though, I will say that I think brand new players would like something structured to begin with. Easier to learn the rules that way–the sandbox approach throws a lot of people off, or it results in some really untenable situations.


Yeah, I think too much improvisation could be a little paralyzing if you’re just starting out. I briefly did a very loose, rules-light session with some friends and it led to some people being a bit left out of the action because they weren’t as experienced at making stories up on the fly. I’m thinking something like Mouse Guard right now? And then just do a single-shot session to start with.

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I’ve found that improv comes naturally when people aren’t thinking about it, especially after a session or two. One thing that helps people get more into it is calling them by their character’s name instead of their real name while y’all are playing. They’ll start responding to it and that tends to encourage them to act more “in-character”.

Mouse Guard is rad and I definitely think people will enjoy it. It has some really fun fantastical elements to it and it’s always invoked a lot of nostalgia with people I’ve played with (Redwall ahoy!).


I’ve been in a long-running campaign in D&D for some time now (think over 10 years), and our DM is awesome. One of the things he does well is be open to discuss ambiguous rules and interpretations, but ultimately make a decision that we all have to adhere to. Because our sessions are strung out (once every 3-4 months) we can end up discussing the same rule more than once, but if he makes a ruling then that stands for the one session and that lets up focus on the action/story and enjoy ourselves rather than get bogged down talking about rules.

The DM also somehow manages to keep us on the edge of danger/death without tipping over, which keeps things tense but gives a great sense of achievement. Whether he fudges the dice or is just superhuman at picking adversaries I’m not sure - perhaps it’s the number of reinforcements that arrive (which is easy to control when they are arriving from off-scene), which seems to just about deplete our magic/abilities without being completely overwhelming.

There are also puzzles/cryptic rhymes/visions to interpret to give us clues on what to do or how to do it, and sometimes he can be a bit too cryptic for us, but usually will help us when we either go completely off track or start to think along the right lines.

I’m not sure if any of that is actually helpful, but I can ask where he gets inspiration or tips from. He’s been doing it a LONG time, but still impresses us.

The one thing we did recently is start new characters. Our old ones weren’t dead, but they were level 18+ and starting to get really complicated to play and their actions were almost demi-god level stuff. Going back to basics really invigorated our fun and made it a joy to play again. Our old characters are still ‘in play’, but more remotely and occasionally, just to keep the top level campaign moving.

There are lots of mythical references, particularly Norse - but also Greek, Egyptian and oriental. Adapting existing legends to your world can make a relatively easy but complex world of good vs evil, positive vs negative, elemental balance, or whatever takes your fancy.

Above all - have fun with friends and enjoy it!


Since our group is only four sessions in, we’re still finding our groove. The best responses I’ve gotten have been with my puzzles, traps and combat, and the worst responses have been when things opened up and been more social in nature, and some of that is me not being 100% prepared for that level of improvisation. I didn’t realize that people were interested in perusing shops and buying things with their newfound gold, so I was scrambling to find cool things to sell to my players.

Each session has been a learning experience for me and has helped me become a better DM. I’ve started to add more voices to my NPCs and flesh out the world more to try and really sell it for my players. I’ve been learning about the creatures and their difficulties and how my party stacks up against that. Going to be putting them through the wringer here on Saturday as we delve into some mines to face an ancient evil, and I’m curious to see how they handle a more combat heavy session.

As to your question, I’ve come to realize that a much more structured and linear start is best. The next game I set up is going to have a more strictly linear adventure that gets them to at least level 4 before opening up and allowing them to go to shops and do the “social game.” I figure that way it will give them time to live in their characters for a bit longer than if I just started them out in a city.


Recent developments around New White Wolf, and some of the people they’ve gotten involved with the game (one of the people they’ve brought on board has an issue with harassment, and the head of the line has had some problems with the Nordic LARPs he’s organized in the past, particularly in terms of not handling mental health issues well) have burned me off of them for now.

D&D 5th Edition is one of the simplest versions of D&D, and I’d consider that a good recommendation for new players. I’m a little iffy on recommending super freeform player-narrative-control focused RPGs to completely new players, as I’ve run into situations where you can actually have too little structure - either causing the players to get kind of confused, or for a new GM to run into problems adapting. The more freeform a system, the more prep I feel like I have to do, because I have to make sure that no matter what crazy thing the players are doing, that they’re still having fun.

Honestly - if I was going to recommend a game to new players that wasn’t D&D, I wouldn’t go with anything by White Wolf (except maybe Vampire), I’d go with Feng Shui. Feng shui operates from a set of genre conventions that most players will be familiar with - action films (the new edition of Feng Shui covers pretty much everything), and only uses 6 sided dice.

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Oh, I agree. I assume you are talking about the app and Zack Smith. Really, everything the new company has been a part of has not been good. However, I’ve really enjoyed the things that Onyx Path has put out. As long as they keep doing the 20th books, I’ll probably keep grabbing them.

Really, new White Wolf, the first game you licence is a Vampire slot machine? And not a Crusader Kings expansion? How do you miss that lay up?