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So you’re new to being a Dungeon Master / Game Master? Don’t know where to get started? Well here’s a guide on what you can do!
1. Getting Players
Some of you may be starting out without any players arranged. D&D is a commitment so you need people who are willing to take the time out regularly to play. My group meets every Thursday evening but other groups meet multiple times a week or even bi-weekly to once monthly. There is no wrong amount of time between sessions, so long as all your players can agree.
To get yourself some players the best people to ask are family and friends. Convince them to get together for a taster session where you premake a bunch of characters for them to choose from. I recommend starting them off at level 3 so they have a decent amount of things to do but not too much to overwhelm them.
The best thing you can do is just ask, you’d be surprised how many people actually want to try D&D.
Posting about it on social media is also a great way to start. Failing this, look for local D&D clubs that might be willing to let you host a game. MeetUp.com is a great website to find local clubs or even start your own.
2. Understand the Rules
While you don’t need to be a walking encyclopedia, it’s always good to have a decent knowledge of the Players Handbook and the DMs Handbook. It’s also a good idea to have a copy of each on hand. As long as you can quickly find the information you need, though, without distracting from the game then you’ll be okay.
You can find a free copy of the basic players and DM rules on the official Wizards of the Coast website.
You can also use sites like DnDBeyond to buy parts of the books you need and buy more sections later to spread out the cost of the book.
You really don’t need much to DM. In fact an entire D&D campaign can be done with just a hand full of dice, paper and pencils (I recommend pencils with a rubber attached). In total you won’t have to spend more than a few pounds (or dollars).
There are seven types of dice you will need. D4, D6, D8, D10, D12, D20, and D100 (The D100 is a D10 but written in units of 10). You can get sets or individual dice for very cheap with more expensive options out there for patterns or higher quality material. The D20 is the most commonly used as this is the dice you will use to perform ability checks and to see if you hit a creature in battle. The rest are very rarely used outside of battle.
It may be helpful to have a coin with you if you need a 50/50 decision but at my table we just roll even/odd numbers.
There is a misconception that playing D&D is expensive but with the basic rule books (As linked above) and the use of paper, pencil and dice, you can fully experience the D&D world. If you need help on a rule not shown in the basic guide books, you can easily find the answers by Googling them. There are tons of homebrew rulebooks and character races available online for free too! There is an endless amount of free content available.
D&D becomes expensive when buying battle maps, miniatures, fancy dice and all the other stuff which is there just to add visual effects or to help you do things easier (or lazier). Don’t let price tags deter you from enjoying a game.
It is very common that other players will have what you are lacking if they have been playing for some time. At my table there are several people who bring their own battle mats, DM screens and miniatures so we are never short of equipment and not all of us have had to buy it. It’s a great idea to pool resources with people who are long term players at your table.
4. Have a setting planned.
My personal favorite for introducing people is to have them start deep inside a dungeon, castle, cave, ancient ruin, or other indoors/secluded location. This is simply because they will have to follow the interior and are more likely to follow a story you have planned out within. Introducing them to an open world and asking them where to go can be a bit overwhelming for the players as they are unsure of what they can do yet and also puts a lot of pressure on yourself.
Make it simple and start them off in a place that will help the narrative to flow.
I like to plan out a bit of everything for a first session from story narrative, NPC and Player interactions, combat and problem solving, each of them being very easy to get through but helping to promote teamwork to show the players this is a game for cooperation. It helps to set the idea of the party working together early and reduces conflict later on.
A setting such as this is easy to plan, but you can find plenty of official and homebrew content online.
5. Session Zero
If you have some experienced players, a "Session Zero" is a great idea. Dedicate your first meet up to character creation and laying down the base rules. If you have some homebrew rules you need your players to know about, this is a good place to start. It gives your players the chance to ask what content they can use and you are comfortable with or you can explain that you are only using the original Players Handbook for character building.
Session Zero is also a great time to give some insight into your world which will help your players get some inspiration to where they want their characters to come from and build up a backstory based on a faction, city or kingdom in your campaign. They can collaborate together as to how their characters may have met beforehand or create old grudges between characters to add in some in game drama.
Be sure to have a good idea about your world and have it prepped and ready to give to your players. Having a layout of the land and an idea of the main political situation and state of the world helps them to plan for the campaign ahead.