Welcome, fresh-faced intrepid adventurer! You’re about to embark on a journey every college student dreams of and attempts with shoddily written Reddit posts at the beginning of every semester: playing Dungeons and Dragons! If you’ve made it to this step, you’ve already accomplished more than 99.9% of others, whose D&D fantasies remain in late-night Discord calls and scheduling limbo. But there are still a few more golden nuggets of knowledge I may bestow upon you before you venture off into your first campaign.
Do your homework: Once you’ve committed all the available handbooks to memory, watch D&D shows and take notes on every single rule violation. Be sure to post your findings in the comments section and on Reddit as well. The players and DM need to be educated on their mistakes, and who better to teach them than you? Once you get to your own session 0, share the knowledge with your table by bringing these exalted journals of wisdom with you.
Stock your inventory: Always have your high school geometry kit on hand; the tools inside are almost as important as your dice. Re-memorize the Pythagorean Theorem to calculate the hypotenuse and get the exact distance from your handaxe to the floating lich, rather than relying on fickle things like grids or eyeballing. Squinting and saying “looks about right” is not enough. Never enough.
Dice are the law: Never fudge rolls. Who are you, God? To make sure your dice set is truly complete, commission a custom-made d2. Those never seem to get included for some reason.
Creating your character: You can’t be an elf barbarian — everyone knows elves are too scrawny for hand-to-hand combat. No respectable player would create a character like that. Certain races just play better as certain classes. You’d better min-max so your character has the best possible stats, rather than worrying about things like appearance or backstory. Nothing else matters if you can’t 1v1 a dragon; that’s what the game is all about.
There is no racism in D&D: Everyone is allowed to play whichever race they want. If you notice a similarity between a D&D race and a real-life stereotype, then maybe you’re the problem. In fact, they’re called “species” as of December 2022, so there.
Sourcebooks are king: Stop thinking about homebrew. D&D is made for acting out your favorite fantasy novels, so stick to the script. The only acceptable NPC for your campaign is Drizzt Do’Urden. If someone tells you “anything can happen in D&D,” they’re lying; everything that can and will ever happen in a game of D&D is clearly delineated in the sourcebooks. And don’t even think about setting your game in a unique time period. There is only one history! We have to all live in a magical medieval pseudo-Europe. D&D is the ultimate linear and codified game, so there’s no reason to change its perfection at every table.
Stay in character: Any good player will take extensive improv classes. Don’t break character, especially to make meta jokes. And to really sell it, you have to become a professional voice actor and linguist. It’s for your fellow players. How else will they be able to truly immerse themselves in the D&D experience if you’re speaking in English, a language that doesn’t exist in that world? Have everyone in the party download Duolingo for Dothraki. It’s a bonding experience!
You are the main character of your story — and everyone else’s: Make sure they know you’re the protagonist by doing the most damage in battles (which shouldn’t be hard if you’ve min-maxed correctly), snatching up the best loot before anyone else can reach it (it’s your story, so everything belongs to you), and waxing poetic during every single roleplay opportunity (how else will people hear your unique and heart-wrenching backstory about being the only orphan to ever exist?).
The “F” in Fantasy does not stand for fun: The most important rule is to not have fun. Fantasy is not fun. It’s a genre built on war and harsh realities (except for racism, which has never been present in fantasy) that we can’t face as mere humans. Your ultimate goal should be to leave your fellow players as traumatized as their characters by the end of the campaign. Realism.
Congratulations for doing the bare minimum! If you’ve been following along diligently you should now be the best player at your table, a thing that is normal to strive for and possible to achieve. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Go forth on your grand adventure! Effortlessly slay every monster and NPC you encounter, remind your DM about your darkvision any time they so much as mention a shadow, and become the hero of legend you were always meant to be! If your group abandons you because they weren’t dedicated enough to the true art of D&D, there are tons of people on Reddit who want to play with you.