Your First Tabletop Roleplaying Game

Find Someone to Teach You

Most people learn their first tabletop roleplaying game from a friend. If you put out the word that you’re interested in learning to play, you may be surprised to find that someone you know already plays — whether it’s a classmate, relative, or coworker. Chances are they’d be more than happy to run your first tabletop roleplaying game session.

“Maybe because I’m a Dungeons & Dragons head, my approach to everything is a little more thought-out.” — Vin Diesel

You can also try one of these approaches (the usual precautions about meeting people online apply):

  • Your local game or comics store may hold weekly events specifically designed to introduce newcomers to tabletop roleplaying. They also often provide bulletin boards (yep, the thumbtack kind), so you can find groups that are looking for new players.
  • Meet roleplayers through D&D Meetup groups. These groups love to help newcomers, and they’re usually into a variety of games, not just D&D.
  • Search Facebook and you may turn up a local roleplaying group.
  • Finding what you’re looking for can take a while, but the Looking for Gamers subreddit has lots of listings. It is always up to date and provides links to other gamer-locator sites.
Greetings from Thailand! Tabletop roleplaying is global. Image: D&D Demo 21April16, by Nakorn Srisomwongs — with photographer’s permission

Teach Yourself

If you can’t find anyone to teach you, round up three or four interested friends, and run your first tabletop roleplaying game. It can be done! All of these games are suitable for beginners, and will give you the guidance you need:

Prepare to Play

Despite the insider lingo and strange dice, tabletop roleplaying isn’t rocket science. Every game has a core mechanic, which is how you decide whether a character’s action is successful or not. For example, in D&D you roll a 20-sided die and try to roll above a target number, but in Call of Cthulhu you roll two 10-sided die and try to roll below a target number. The rest of the rules help you construct a character and define how things work in the game world.

Here’s how to get ready for your first tabletop roleplaying game session:

  • Read the rules. You don’t have to know all the details, but it’ll go much more smoothly for everyone if you’re familiar with the basic mechanics. If you don’t have access to the rules, ask your gamemaster to give you an overview before the game.
  • Find an actual play video of the game you’ll be playing. Many of the games in the Find Games to Play section contain actual play videos, and a quick Google search can help you find more.
  • Take a few minutes to read Greg Stolze’s free How to Play Roleplaying Games (PDF). It’s a clear and concise guide that will help you play any RPG with confidence.
  • For more tips to help take your game further, check out the Improve Your Game page.

For the First-Time Gamemaster

If you’re going to be running the game for your group, you’ll need to do some extra preparation to get ready for your first session. Be sure to check the Become A Gamemaster page for helpful tips.