D&D: How to Find and Play in Your First Game Online 

Do you crave companionship? Are you tired of trudging your way through dungeons with people that usually ignore every word you say? Does the idea of a sausage being your primary weapon entice and appeal to you? If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then I’ve got some good news—today you’re going to learn how to play what is arguably the greatest RPG of all time, and the father of all role-playing games: Dungeons & Dragons! 

A group of adventurers playing a game at their local tavern.

Dungeons and Dragons is much simpler to play than many people think—if you can read and do basic math, you have the mental capacity required to play this wonderful game, and you should! Today, you will be learning how to play and find a group for the 5th iteration of the game, D&D 5e; While the game can be played both online and in person, take it from a pro: you should play it online first.

What is D&D?

A typical market that can be found in many of the towns across the Forgotten Realms—especially in the city of splendors, Waterdeep.

D&D is a game that involves rolling dice to achieve your goals, assuming the role of a character you create—in the sense that you pretend you are the character in real life—along with several other people, and collaboratively crafting a story that is mostly told by the DM—otherwise known as the dungeon master. You, the player, take part in the creation of the story as well, through the choices you make when the DM throws various problems your way. D&D can be played both online and offline, though I recommend starting out with an online game before you seek out a group of people to play with in real life—it will be much easier for you, and you will feel much more comfortable.

Just like in today’s traditional RPGs and MMORPGs, the game starts by having you, the player, select a class that appeals to you the most; D&D has several classes for you to choose from, and each class comes with a series of “archetypes”, perhaps better known by most as subclasses. A druid, for example, can be played as a spell caster that supports his group from the rear as the archetype Druid of the Shepherd, or a mighty force of nature that storms the front line by shapeshifting into powerful and majestic beasts as a Druid of the Moon. 

Some people even enjoy playing their druids as regular warriors who prefer to remain in their usual form rather than casting spells or shape shifting into deadly creatures while engaging in glorious battle—this just goes to show the kind of variety that is available to you in this game; you can do anything, and I mean anything. Your imagination is the limit!

If playing a druid isn’t something that interests you, you will be pleased to know that Dungeons and Dragons has over fifteen classes available to choose from—each one boasting several archetypes that allow you to play the game however you choose! If your DM is fun, they will even allow you to select from the various classes Wizards of the coast—the company that created D&D—releases on a regular basis through expansions known as Unearthed Arcana. How cool is that?

What you will need 

A beholder getting its equipment ready for a night of research and experimentation.

Getting into D&D is really not as costly as some may think, Tamara be praised; while it is recommended that you go out and purchase a copy of the official Player’s Handbook, it is simply that—a recommendation. The entirety of the game can be played online, on a virtual tabletop, for free. 

All of the information you need is available on a public wiki, and the rules, thankfully, are all managed by the dungeon master. This means that all you need to show up with is a copy of your character sheet in order to participate in your first session.

While there are many websites that will provide you with a list of classes and archetypes to choose from, dnd5e wiki is simply the best and easiest source to navigate. You can find all the information that you will need to create a character, from a list of classes, archetypes, and backgrounds down to the feats you may opt to choose for every three levels.

You can access the 5e wiki at this link here: http://dnd5e.wikidot.com

The dnd5e wiki even comes with a handy table on your class’s webpage, which will tell you exactly what it is your character gets at level one and with each proceeding level. It makes playing the game much simpler than by using the Player’s Handbook, making this another good reason to use the wiki rather than the optional paid material.

After you’ve perused the list of classes and available archetypes for each of the classes, you can find the character creation sheet you will need on various websites; there are many versions of the character creation sheet, some adding a unique flair in terms of art, however I recommend going with something official for your first game.

The form-fillable edition can be found here, on the official website at: https://media.wizards.com/2022/dnd/downloads/DnD_5E_CharacterSheet_FormFillable.pdf 

Lastly, you’re going to need an account on everyone’s favorite VTT—that’s virtual tabletop—Roll20. It’s arguably the best option available, mostly because it is free, but also because it comes with a slew of neat and unique features that many VTTs lack, such as lighting and the ability to share PDF files among players.

You can make an account on Roll20 here: https://app.roll20.net/create-account

Other than the above three necessities, I suggest bookmarking the following link: https://www.dnd-compendium.com/player-guides/cheat-sheets

The cheat sheets provided above will be a beacon of light in the darkness that is often nearly everyone’s first game of D&D; they will outline the rules in an easy to understand way, ensuring that you are fully prepared for anything your dungeon master will throw your way without having to lean too much into their assistance, which will in turn make you look like a player that cares about their and everyone else’s time.

I also highly recommend that you watch a video on character creation, I also recommend that you watch people play for a bit. This will help you narrow down what you should and should not do when it comes to character creation and gameplay, as well as give you an inkling of what you can expect in your first game.

For character creation, I very strongly suggest this short two-minute video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQE4h505yL0

In order to get an idea of what your game may be like, I recommend watching a few minutes of this  Critical Role video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-p9lWIhcLQ

Feel free to fast forward a few moments into the Critical Role video above! It isn’t necessary that you watch all three hours of its entirety, however watching how the dungeon master and players interact with each other will do you a lot of good.

Here are some tips to get you started with your character

An adventurer going over his notes in order to avoid becoming dragon excrement; other adventurers would be wise to follow in his footsteps.

Now that you’ve got all the tools you need, it’s time to put pencil to paper and start figuring out what you want to play!

The sheer amount of classes available to you may seem quite daunting at first, and that character sheet that you’ve hopefully downloaded in the link above may have you feeling like you’re completely unprepared for what lies ahead, but rest assured, it’s all incredibly simple. I was serious when I said all you need is the ability to perform basic math in order to play this game. If you can work out what the answer to what fourteen + two is—it’s sixteen—you’re good to go.

Some classes are more difficult to play for new players than others. That’s because they require you to manage more information behind the scenes. For example, a sorcerer or a wizard are going to be significantly more difficult to play than a fighter or a ranger if it’s your first game. If you’re feeling a bit daring and you’re a quick learner, playing a rogue is also an option.

The reason playing a magic user is more difficult to do is because  juggling the few rules you actually need to pay attention to along with the rules governing spells, their functions, and their preparation requirements can be confusing for a new player. I whole-heartedly recommend that you play a fighter or a ranger if this is going to be your first game.

And please, do not allow this to make you feel like you’ve been pigeon-holed into doing something you don’t want to do; fighters and rangers have a myriad of archetypes available to them, some even coming with a magical flair. Nearly half of the fighter class archetypes are magical in nature, and the same goes for the ranger. 

A level three fighter, for example, may choose to become an eldritch knight, or even a psi warrior—an eldritch knight gains access to spells from the wizard’s library, and a psi warrior can infuse their deadly blows with psychic power, or even use said psychic power to shield themselves or their allies.

A level three ranger may opt to become a Fey Wanderer, a being infused with the volatile magics of the Feywild. These nomadic warriors are blessed with mental fortitude, allowing them to persuade and manipulate others to their will, either through their charismatic nature or the strange, mind-altering magics of the fey.

Now that you have a character, it’s time to find a group

A party of adventurers doing their best not to become orc food.

First, I’m going to give you a piece of golden advice that I want you to burn and etch into your memory: don’t be shy—I’m not trying to be funny or sarcastic, I mean it, don’t be shy. This is one of the primary reasons people do not play D&D, even though they want to. They’re afraid they won’t be good enough, or they’re scared of what other people might think of them, the list of reasons linked to social anxiety most of us suffer from goes on, and on… 

The grand majority of the people who enjoy this game are adults playing pretend on the internet; some of them like to dress up in robes and don pointy hats while they play—others even go so far as to paint their skin a different color to better match the appearance of the character they created. You have absolutely nothing to be shy about or ashamed of. The moment you start talking to your group after finding it, you will understand. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s discuss the best ways to find a group to play with on Roll20!

First, you’re going to want to head over to the website’s public forum, which can be found here: https://app.roll20.net/forum/category/22

Once you’ve clicked this link, you will notice that there are several games listed here, several of which have nothing to do with D&D at all. Nearly every post will start with either LFG, looking for group, or LFP, looking for players.

You can either make a post detailing how you’re a new player in search of a group to play with, or you may search for a game yourself. I recommend trying both! Just keep in mind that some games may not be welcoming new players, so it’s important to read the entire post to ensure that you will be a good fit for the game.

If you want to create a post and advertise yourself, it’s as easy as hitting the large, pink Post New Topic button at the top right of the screen. Afterwards, you’ll want to title your post something along the lines of “[LFG] New Player Looking for a D&D 5e group to play with!” You can rest assured that you will have several people inviting you to join your game if you provide a few details about yourself as a person, as well as your character.

If you want to join a group, you’re going to need to filter out all the advertisements for games that aren’t D&D! Simply click on the search box to the left of the large, pink button and type in “5e”. This will provide you with a list of 5th edition D&D games to apply for.

Once you find a post that has piqued your interest, simply click on it and read it over. Afterwards, reply to the forum post and list your class, your race, and a bit of background information about your character and even yourself if you so choose! Don’t be afraid to apply for several games at once—finding a group to play with can take an hour or two of time and effort, and a good dungeon master will understand if you choose someone else’s game over their own.

Everyone, including you, should play D&D at least once

A group of inseparable friends enjoying their afternoon together.

This game is special. Not only is it what inspired most of the fantastic RPGs we all know and love today, it helps people find themselves. It helps people overcome their anxieties, it helps with loneliness, and it has made the world a better and more enjoyable place to live in for many.

If you take the time to follow through with what you read on this guide, if you make the character, if you find the group to play with, and if you attend  the first game, you will more than likely have a circle of friends that will be with you for the rest of your life.

I started playing D&D several years ago. Most of my days before this were filled with loneliness, and sadness, and uncertainty, but now—because of D&D—I have everything I could ever want, and more.

I married a woman I met playing D&D, I’ve been to other countries to meet the people I play with, and we all support each other through life’s hardships. Before I even realized it, the world wasn’t such a scary place to live in anymore.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide, and I hope you enjoy your first session of D&D—feel free to reach out to me personally if you feel like you need help with anything else, or if you have any questions. For me, and for many other people, D&D is more than just a game: it’s a way of life.

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