Most if not all tabletop games have rules. These rules are used to show players how to play and run the game be it chess, checkers, or a packaged and ready to run board game. Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is slightly different when it comes to rules. The rules of D&D are different for each edition that is published. 3.5 Edition’s rules are much different than the current 5th Edition (5e). For some, 3.5 was a mini math class, the number of points and modifiers that are involved when it comes to choosing armor and skills that you wish to be specialized in for your character is somewhat daunting. Of course, with practice and repetition, the process of creating a character from scratch becomes easier. One of the great aspects about 5e of D&D is the learning curve for creating a character from scratch is drastically lower than in the previous iterations. That doesn’t mean that 5e is better than 3.5, but it’s more easily picked up from a newer player’s perspective. Before we delve further, I want to point out that D&D is played with a Dungeon Master (DM) and usually 3-5 players (PCs). The DM is the referee, the storyteller, and generally paints a picture for the PCs to put themselves into. The PCs in the group will create a character or two, and will role play and fight their way to victory. Every game and group is unique in their own way.
A majority of the editions of D&D have been published with three core rulebooks, the Player’s Handbook (PHB), the Monster Manual (MM), and the beloved Dungeon Master’s Guide (DMG). The Player’s Handbook outlines what it means to be a character within D&D, what kind of race you might want to be such as a half-orc or elf, and the multiple choices of what class you wish to play such as a fighter, rogue, or wizard. A notable feature with 5e is the addition of a character background such as the outcast, a hermit, or a well-known folk hero. As a PC, you generally will pick a class and race first before you even think about your character’s background. I have found that it is generally more fun to start with the background first. Do I want to create the typical edgy rogue? Perhaps I want to play a happy-go-jolly rogue, someone who has had a positive life so far, in which case I would choose to have a folk hero background. After choosing this, you then select a race such as (the amazing) gnome to go along with my class and background choices. If you want to get really in-depth you could multi-class with a couple class levels of rogue and a level of bard to spice things up (multi-classing we can talk about another day).
The Monster Manual (MM) is generally used by the Dungeon Master, mainly to pick out beasts and supernatural creatures to throw at the players as a sort of obstacle or test. D&D isn’t just limited to just fighting a monster such as a dog-faced gnoll or a fiery red dragon, occasionally the players may have to face off against other civilized folks, be it good or evil intent. The MM basically is a multi-paged book that contains the stats for each creature, as the players have their character sheets that tell them how/what they are good at, so do the creatures that are used within D&D.
The Dungeon Master’s Guide is the last of the three core rulebooks for D&D. A DMG is used solely by the DM and lays out some of the building blocks to use within D&D when building the world that you will play in. The Players Handbook gives the players and DM the rules of how the game works such as character/monster movement, combat, and any technical skills such as acrobatics or persuasion. The DMG is used by the DM mainly for the insane amount of information that is given. The DMG contains charts for environments, traps, and usage of said traps, and lists upon lists of items from the mundane to incredible legendary artifacts. All in all, the DMG is basically a book of ideas, the DM is the creator of the universe and lands that the PCs will play within, and it’s always helpful to have an idea or two that you can refer to when needed.
There are normally three core rulebooks for D&D, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot change the rules, make up your own class, or even create an entirely new game. Also known as “Homebrew”, the changing of rules and character attributes is common at your home game and occasional at your local game store. Some look down upon this way of play as it deviates from the set rules, although it should be looked as a positive because some of the best moments of a session have happened because of a rule change. D&D is a magical world within worlds, a multiverse of lands with rolling green hills and some that involve space travel as the normal way of getting from point A to point B. Every group of D&D is different, but a majority use the three core rulebooks to help them along the way. Work together, create worlds and moments that you and your table mates will talk about for years, and most importantly have fun.