Tabletop gaming can seem daunting at first. Just take a look at the possessions of any dedicated Dungeons & Dragons player: special dice, gaming mats, carefully constructed miniature environments, miniature people, tons of paperwork, and of course the mountains and mountains of books they are bound to have lying around at every session. But it doesn’t have to be that hard, or that complicated. Here’s how:
1) The Equipment
Your equipment doesn’t have to be elaborate. All you really need is a group of interested friends, pencils, erasers, paper and a set of die for each player. You can get dice sets for just a few dollars off of ebay. You are looking for a set with a D4, D6, D8, D10, D12 and D20. This is what MOST dice sets include, so you won’t have to go looking very far. Just be wary of dice sets that only sport one type of die. If you wish to get more elaborate later on, you may, but never feel this is necessary.
2) An Experienced Player OR Someone Who Loves Reading
Getting into tabletop gaming will be a TON easier if you have someone playing (or even better, DMing) who already knows the drill. However, we aren’t all so lucky. If you have someone who is willing to put in the time to research all the rules that will be enough. You aren’t memorizing a giant story and a bunch of lore – you can make that stuff up yourself. All you need to know to get started is how to keep track of your player stats on paper and a simple combat mechanic.
3) Don’t Start With Dungeons & Dragons
Unless, of course, you have an experienced D&D player willing to teach all you noobs. There are far simpler tabletop gaming systems to learn first. Pathfinder is a popular one. However, I would personally recommend the Savage Worlds system for a first timer. A quick google search will be all you need to start learning how to play.
4) Figure Out What Everyone Wants Out Of It
Are you all super serious role players who will stick very heavily to realism and lore? Or do you just want to be silly and have fun with your friends? Do you prefer combat or story? It will take a while to figure out how everyone wants to play, and you probably won’t get it right at first. Original players will leave the game because it won’t be the right fit for them, but don’t worry, new players will join and make a great addition to the party.
5) Embrace Your Inner Fangirl
Are you or your friends mega fans of something? The DM can base the campaign around it! It means you won’t have to come up with or learn new lore for your game, and chances are, their are other tabletop gamers out there who are also
fans of that thing and you can access their material. For example, when my group and I decided to play a Firefly/Serenity campaign, all we had to do was google “Firefly Savage Worlds” and somebody had done all the hard work of writing up a game guide for us.
6) Get Someone Who Loves Writing and Improv
If no one in your campaign loves writing, you have a problem. The DM needs to write material to prepare for each session. The amount of prep needed depends on how serious you are about the game. If your DM is really good at improv and not that keen on writing, they could probably get away with preparing very little. I personally am lucky and have an amazing DM who loves writing (he also writes here on Chattr). He goes so far as to draw up maps of each city, naming every building and a large number of NPCs before each session. But of course, we as players often do things he can’t predict (such as leaving the city he planned us to spend the session in) and he has to come up with an enormous amount of material on his feet. Make sure your DM is someone capable and will view this as fun and not work.
7) Don’t Be Afraid to Invite New People
It’s no surprise that not everyone in the world will be a fan of tabletop gaming. If you need players, invite anyone you can think of. Co workers, friends of friends, family, people that the other players might not necessarily know. It (probably) won’t be awkward if they turn up – they will be wanting to play not make small talk! It’s a great way to get to know new people like yourself without ever having those awkward moments and lulls in conversation.
8) Make Time
Tabletop games are usually not a one off thing. Campaigns can go on for many sessions if the DM decides, and the best ones usually do. I personally know many tabletop gamers that have been playing the same campaign for years. Try to find, at the very least, one day every fortnight for everyone to set aside to play. You will want between 4 and 8 hours for each session. Because we don’t all have superhuman memories, a good DM will write a short recap of what happened last time to read at the beginning of each session.
9) Lastly, Don’t Freak When People Leave or Can’t Make It!
Tabletop gaming is brilliant because the way you play is entirely up to you. Someone is permanently leaving the campaign? The DM can say their character died, or give them a reason they left. Someone can’t make a session or is leaving early/arriving late? Just say their character slept in, or is visiting grandma, or (my personal favorite) shopping for supplies (that way you can turn up with a bunch of new
things in your inventory no questions asked). Similarly, if someone just wants to “try out” tabletop gaming, don’t be afraid to just write their character in and then give them a reason to leave later. This is also good for people who want to play but can’t commit to a regular schedule.
I hope this list helped. It’s certainly not the only way you can introduce yourself to the tabletop gaming world, but it’s the way I started. Just remember to have fun (and may you always roll natural 20s)!