Dungeons and Dragons Essentials


Alright so it is that time of the week. The time that I give all you Around the Geek fans your weekly dosage of D&D. What’s D&D? If you don’t know check out my post from last week on this exact topic!

Right, you have now decided to dive into the amazing D&D experience. Before learning the rules; however,  you need to find and buy the materials to play.

D&D as the grandaddy of roleplaying games has a bewildering amount of materials. There are literally hundreds of different dice, books, miniatures, and other player aids. Luckily for anyone whose pockets are not endless, you do not need all of this, in fact you do not need most of it. By making a few simple choices, your group can have an exciting and fulfilled D&D experience, without breaking the bank.

The first decision you must make is what edition to play.  Similar to a console update, in the video gaming world, D&D undergoes sporadic updates to its rules. Sometimes this is a tweak, other times a complete overhaul.  Choices range from Original D&D to D&D 4th edition (and the up and coming D&D Next, or 5th edition).

Largely choice of what edition to play doesn’t matter. If everyone agrees on the same type, then everyone should be happy. Each edition brings perks and problems. Older editions may be cheaper to pick up online, but some books may be harder to find. I would suggest looking online at the many different D&D reviews for a break down of editions (or shoot me and email, and if someone asks maybe I will give my opinions next week, email will be at the end of the post). I personally play and prefer D&D 3.5, so naturally that is what I would suggest.

So you have chosen your edition now what? Well I will describe what I consider D&D essentials. Starting with

Bare Minimum: This is the least you can buy, but still play with.

First, dice.


Every D&D game will require at least one full set of dice. That means one of each of the dice shown above, a D4, D6, D8, D10, D12, and D20. (named for the number of sides on the die)

If money is tight a group can share one set of dice; however, I usually find players get superstitious and want at least one of their own set. Many players want multiple of certain important dice, so if one is rolling unlucky they can swap it out. Luckily dice are pretty cheap. Most game stores sell full matching sets for roughly $10.

Second, Player’s Handbook.


At least for the 3.5 edition, the entire rules set is included in this book (keeping in mind for other editions this may be different).  If you are running on a tight budget a creative DM can use this, use the method for creating character, and create different monsters. The group can then share this book around and have a good time.

Technically these two items are all you need to play; however, there are two other items I would strongly recommend buying, which will help make your first time playing D&D an enjoyable one.  If money is an issue, keep in mind that this a group activity, and it is only fair that the group as a whole chips in to buy the books. Also keep in mind that these books will last you for years if taken care of. I am currently using books my father bought before I was born!

Recommended Essentials: These are what I would recommend also buying, in addition to dice and at least one player’s handbook.

First, the Monster Manual.


The Monster Manual, though not technically required, is a really helpful item to have around. It contains premade stats and information on literally hundreds of monsters.  This is great for Dms, as these monsters can be inserted into adventures, rather then having to design and balance monster rules of your own.

It is also a great way to get creative ideas for adventures. Just flip through the book, see an interesting monster, and go from there.

Second, an adventure module.

Premade adventures are exactly what they sound like, premade areas, dungeons, and plots, written in a way for the DM to guide a party through them. They contain information on the people the adventurers will interact with, as well as towns, cultures, wilderness, and dungeons.

To many this may sound like a bit of a cop-out for the Dm. After all isn’t the main fun of being a DM to let your creativity flow into an awesome adventure of your own design? While true, I have found premade adventures, rather then causing me to have no work, just lay a template out, which I tweak and adjust as I see fit. Think of the adventure module as a solid foundation, which you can expand upon to create an amazing adventure, rather then wasting your time figuring out minutia already in an adventure module.

Premade adventures are relatively cheap, with a ton of older  ones found on ebay. The great thing about premade adventures, is that you can take adventures made for other editions, and with a little work, adjust them to fit into the system you are playing in, while keeping the plot, maps, and personality of the adventure.

Some of my favorite starting adventures include


This is an adventure that takes place on the borders of a kingdom. The party gets quest to adventure into the nearby system of caves filled with evil monsters. Each cave gets more difficult as the party goes, but the town is nearby, so items and rest are easily available. This adventure has wilderness, dungeons, and a a town all in one! For first timers and veterans alike this adventure is a fun one. Its placement on the edge of the wilderness also leaves plenty of potential for future exploration.


While I have never played as a character through this adventure, I have DM’ed it. It is a great adventure in which the party quests into an underground Citadel filled with weird monsters. The adventure brings a new monsters into play, and has some great encounters! Though not quite as cool as keep on the border lands Sunless Citadel is excellent in that it is made for the 3rd edition rules set.

If you are looking for a dungeon delve into the weird a weird underground lair filled with all kinds of monsters, then this is the adventure for you.

With dice, a Player’s Handbook, a Monster Manual, and an Adventure Module you are well on your way to a great D&D experience.

The final book would recommend is the Dungeon Master’s Guide


The Dungeon Master’s Guide (now on referred to as DM’s Guide) is the least necessary of the “D&D Essentials”. For a few sessions you could probably get away without it; however, eventually your DM will want it. Luckily the Dm’s Guide, Players Handbook, and Monster Manual form the “Core Set” of most editions, so there are plenty of copies to go around, and even occasionally bundles of all three together.

This book, rather then containing rules, contains tips and advice for Dms. It also contains many charts and suggested ways for things encountered during an adventure. Want to figure out how weather effects you players, look in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Want to figure out different suggested way to give out experience, look in this guide. More useful as a reference book, rather then something to try to read from cover to cover, the Dungeon Masters Guide can be quite helpful. In addition the Dungeon Master’s Guide has hundreds of premade magic items and rules for creating your own.

With all these items your party has all the things it needs to play D&D for years. Sure some other supplement books come in handy, or contain cool information. But,  I guarantee that with the items I have suggested you will have all the tools you need for hundreds of hours of D&D.

Hopefully you have enjoyed my advice on D&D essentials. Next week I will continue with the getting started theme, covering tips on learning the rules and beginning to play.

If you have any questions, comments, topic requests, or input please feel free to email me at theeternaldungeonmaster@gmail.com. You could also tweet me at jake_hutton or at my D&D account DMing101.