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How To Play Dungeons and Dragons For Free

So you’ve finished watching another season of Stranger Things, or you’ve enjoyed another episode of the amazing Critical Role, and you want to dive into the magical world of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). Awesome!

If you’re not sure if it’s for you, and you don’t want to throw in £100 on books, miniatures, and dice right away, we’re here to help! You don’t need a lot to get started, and you can even play D&D for free.

Free Dungeons & Dragons Rules

Due to the Open Game License, the basic rules are all available for free on the official D&D site or D&D Beyond. Yep, they’re all there, legal and available for free!

The basic rules are not the full content that you would get if you buy the Player’s Handbook, which is a great book to buy as your first purchase if you want to start out, but it is enough to teach you about combat, spellcasting, classes and races. You will have less options for your classes, for example, the only available Divine Domain for Cleric is Life Domain (which is a cleric focused on healing), while the Player’s Handbook offers you Knowledge, Light, Nature, Tempest, Trickery and War Domains on top, but what’s there is more than enough to get started with your first game.

Creating Your D&D Character For Free

When it comes to creating your first Dungeons & Dragons character, don’t worry if you find the rules overwhelming, because there are a lot of free prebuilt characters out there. The official Wizards of The Coast D&D website has a few floating around pages and articles, for example the Starter Set Character Sheets.

If you like to make your own, there are a lot of tools that can help you build a character, such as D&D Beyond Character Builder. You will have to register an account for free, but it will take you through the steps for building your first character with the free available content. It also has an option to build a quick level 1 character, in just a few steps.

D&D Beyond Quick Character Builder
D&D Beyond - Quick Character Builder

Get Free D&D Adventures

Now that you have a character, one of you will have to be a Dungeon Master (DM). Chances are, if you’re reading this – it might be you! DMs are the story tellers, the one who both leads the party into the magical world they have found or created, and plays every NPC and monster on the way.

At first it sounds very intimidating and scary, but Wizards have made really easy to get into with their Starter sets. As as much as we recommend the Essentials Kit for any beginner group, and a new Starter set is due out this October, the original starter campaign, the Lost Mines of Phandelver is now free to claim for every D&D Beyond account. There you will find instructions how to run an D&D game and a excellent introductory adventure. We’ve played through it ourselves despite being veterans, and it’s a great campaign that’s definitely worth playing.

Once you’re done, if you want to you can even go straight into the Dragon of Icespire Peak, the adventure that comes with the Essentials Kit, so that makes a great next step once you’re done delving down into the Mines.

If you don’t want to play the Lost Mines of Phandelver, however, the D&D community is also just really nice. So nice that a lot of people make and list adventures for sale, and you pay what you want. On DMs Guild, a website that a lot of writers sell their adventures, you can find a whole bunch of free adventures. Make sure to pick fifth edition (5e), to avoid confusion and total party wipe out.

Get Free Miniatures and Dice

The shiny clicky-clacky maths rocks that normies call ‘dice’ can be simulated for free by simply Googling “Roll a d20“, but if you don’t mind paying a little cash, there are big bundles of cheap poly set out there like this one (A quick reminder that all of our Amazon links are affiliate links, so we will get a little cash back if you buy anything after clicking one, but these are genuinely OK dice to start out with!). It’s hard to simply will dice into being until you’re at least a 9th level Wizard, so if you spend on anything starting out, we recommend dice. A big bulk set like the ones linked will allow you to get some dice for your entire party for the price of a single fancier set! I promise you won’t roll more 1’s.

A lot of people enjoy playing with miniatures, and you may be surprised to learn that if you’re willing to put in some printer ink and time you can actually get some really great papercraft minis for free online. Just print, fold, and you’re good to go. Check out one of our favourite creators over at PrintableHeroes to get started (and if you like them, consider supporting them over on Patreon).

D&D Polyset
A standard polyset of dice consists of 7 type of dice - d4, d6, d9, 2x d10, d12, d20.

Play D&D For Free

You have your characters, your adventure, and your DM, and now you need to find a place to play. You could rent a table at the local board game café, but since we focus on free, best place to play is at home. That way you don’t need to pay table fees, and be tempted by the tasty milkshakes.

While playing in person offers the best experience, the beauty of RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons is that you can play them online. You don’t need a table with minis, or dice with story based games. You can play it over a Zoom call, or Discord. Some even play it by just texting!

If you want to go a step further, there are a lot of platforms that can enhance your online experience. Roll20, has a free module that has all the basics you need, like battle maps and character sheets, and the full SRD available. It can also be very helpful for new players, as it adds the needed modifiers with the roll with a single click.

Playing D&D on Roll20
Playing D&D on Roll20

Have Fun!

You can always spend more money on miniatures, dice, and pretty books, but you can have as much fun without them. D&D is a hobby that lets you pay exactly as much as you want, whether that’s investing hundreds into epic sets and massive Tiamat ‘miniatures’ (seriously, go look at the size of that thing!), or simply sticking with the free stuff at home, so long as you’ve got paper, pencils, and your imagination, you can have fun. And that’s what it’s all about.

We hope you enjoy your time with D&D, slay many dragons, save the kingdom and pick up some sweet loot along the way. Got a story to share? We’ve love to hear of your heroic deeds over on Twitter. Happy adventuring!

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