D&D 101 – #003 Teaching the Basics

This post is written from the point of view of a DM helping their players learn the game but may still be helpful for players! I’m not teaching the rules, just tips on HOW to teach the rules…

So you’ve persuaded a few friends to try out D&D and you’ve agreed to DM the campaign. The hardest part is over! As a DM there will be a lot of information to get your head around, personally I loved learning all I could about D&D so I didn’t mind too much but I was wary of throwing too much information at my players all at once and completely overwhelming them! So I decided to drip feed the information in more manageable chunks.

While it would be great if all players rushed out to buy a copy of the Players Handbook and read it cover to cover, chances are that’s not going to happen! And players may not want to drop a lot of money on something they’re not yet sure on. Luckily there’s a ton of FREE resources out there to help you and your players.

Get Organised!

A great tip that’s worked really well for us is to set up a private Facebook Group for your D&D party! This group will give you a place to share important information, for your players to ask questions and will also help with organising your sessions! Within Facebook Groups you can make events for just the group members, this has been really helpful for scheduling sessions. At the end of a session I get a general feel for when people will be free next and then create an event on Facebook, this then gives people time to go home, check their schedules etc and confirm on the event page.


Free Resources

The beauty of D&D is that technically you can play it for free! There are a LOT of books that you can spend a lot of money on, and I’ll do an overview on those soon! But for the time being we’re just looking at the basic rules, which Wizards of the Coast provide for free! These can be found in lots of places but the most useful one’s I’ve found are:

Wizards of the Coast – Official D&D 5e basic rule-set download as a PDF or view on the Website.

Wizards of the Coast – Official D&D 5e basic dungeons master rule-set download as a PDF or view on the Website.

DnD Beyond is also a great tool for the basic rules but some of the content has to be paid for to unlock it, even if you own the books! This can be a little confusing to new players.

Roll20 also has all of the basic rules available with a handy search.

Drip Feed Information

I’m pretty extra when it comes to DMing so rather than just sending one of the above links to my players, I built a website… I used Google Sites, which is a free and super simple website builder. I slowly added information to the site so they wouldn’t be overwhelmed by it all, starting with Characters.

My Google Site – Dungeons & Degenerates

We played the Starter Set which comes with pre-built characters, but I decided to let my players build their own so that they would feel more involved and invested in the characters and story. For my group this worked really well and we have some great backstories to explore and it certainly helps with the role-playing!

I’ll be covering Character Building in my next post, so I won’t go into more detail here.

Exploring the different races and classes available in D&D is a great way to get players excited about this new world that’s in front of them. I then built on this momentum by providing details on the basics.

If your players have never heard/seen role playing games, then explaining how it works is key before flooding them with rules.

The most important part of D&D is understanding that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! Encourage your players to think outside of the box and try to let them attempt whatever it is they want to do!

Outside of combat, there are no structured ‘turns’ and very few ‘rules’, which is a difficult thing for most people to get their head around. I like to explain it as follows:

  • The DM describes the scene – what is seen, heard, smelt, felt etc.
  • The PCs explain what they would like to do in reaction to what they have learnt, this sometimes requires an ability check determined by the DM.
  • The DM describes the outcome of the PCs actions, good or bad depending on their ability check or situation.
  • This then leads the PCs to make another decision about what they would like to do next.
  • And the cycle continues!

I gave my players access to the basic rules for combat and spell-casting before hand but actually went through it all in person in our first session. I also had ‘cheat’ sheets prepared for them to reference. There are loads available online but this one is particularly useful!

Rules are made to be broken

5th edition D&D is an incredibly flexible rule-set so if something doesn’t feel right or seems too complicated, you can simply leave it out! You can always add these rules back in later once you’ve got a hang of the basics.

For example we don’t play strict Encumbrance, I just use common sense as to whether they can reasonably carry something. I’m also not tracking their food intake. But I may add these things back in for my next campaign.

Remember, as the DM you make the rules! But make sure all your players know which rules you are leaving out for the time being.

The next post in this series will take a look at Session Zero – Building characters and running a practice encounter!

Missed the rest of the series? Find the whole D&D 101 series here!

If there’s anything you’d like me to cover in this series please let me know in the comments!

You can also find me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates!

2 thoughts on “D&D 101 – #003 Teaching the Basics

  1. Michael Jasper says:

    This is a great article, and I’m enjoying your series! Keep up the great work. Thanks for the link to the Combat Cheat Sheet.

    Also, setting up a Facebook Group for your party is a fantastic idea that I’d never thought of. Thanks again!


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