Tabletop role-playing games, also called TTRPGs, have become incredibly popular in recent years. One of the most successful TTRPGs, Dungeons & Dragons, has found a wide audience in fans of fantasy and gaming, bringing them together for a unique game that has something for everyone. From dice-goblins looking to collect as many chaos agents as they can (found in D20 Alchemy’s bath bomb sets!), storytellers looking to build characters of epic proportions, or even improv actors who just want to let loose, Dungeons & Dragons is an incredibly fun hobby and game. These tips and guidelines will help you discover the best way to get your DnD campaign started!

Session Zero and Safety Tools

Every TTRPG starts with “Session Zero,” and creating a DnD campaign is no different! Session Zero refers to the session before the first session, and is where players and the Dungeon/Game Master (DM or GM) can discuss the adventure they want to explore, the characters they want to play, and most importantly, establish safety tools for the table.

Starting the Adventure

So, you and your friends want to get together at the table and roll some dice, but where do you start the story? Without a setting to play in, or a quest to follow, the characters won’t be much more than armor-clad tavern-dwellers. Thankfully, there are many solutions to this problem! Wizards of the Coast, as well as a large collection of professional and talented writers, have established a number of Adventure Paths (APs) to enable players to immediately start a campaign in the Forgotten Realms, Feirun, and the rest of the DnD universe. For tables who don’t want to design their own setting, this is one of the best options. Offering adventures for characters at any level, of any size, and of any theme, the GM can bring a collection of Adventure Path options to the table, allowing the players to decide which story to embark on.

For experienced or confident GMs, you can also design your own setting! While Dungeons & Dragons is built to represent the Forgotten Realms setting, there is a heavy culture of customizing the system to your liking (called “homebrewing”), enabling GMs to adapt the rulesets and monsters of DnD to their own custom settings. This brings the added difficulty of designing a storyline, extra characters, and even a whole world or universe, but can be an incredibly gratifying and successful endeavor when incorporated into the DnD campaign you are starting.

The Adventurers

Now that the world has been established, it’s time for the table to decide who the adventurers are! When creating a character to star in a DnD campaign that is just starting, you are required to choose a Race, Background, and Class, as well as allocating your Ability Scores. These different statistics represent your character's history and ability, letting the player see what your character is capable of in the narrative. Optionally, players can also choose Bonds and Flaws to assist with roleplaying and decide how characters act in particular situations.

While this step can be done individually between the GM and a player, the DnD campaign you start will see the best results when character creation is done as a group. Creating characters as a group during Session Zero gives players a chance to bounce connections between each other, and establish a common thread or theme to bring players together. While this responsibility is often off-loaded to the GM (usually resulting in the classic “You start in a tavern…” scene), allowing the players behind the veil and giving them some control over their party connections can make for fruitful and interesting roleplay as the campaign moves on.

A knight riding a horse

Keeping Players Engaged

Fun moments of bravado and audacity are welcome at the table, as are dramatic twists of fate or tragic losses — keeping players engaged between these moments, however, is the constant job of the GM. Engagement is about much more than offering up fun scenarios, though! Players at your table should feel safe and comfortable enough to lose themselves in the hard work you’ve put into starting your DnD campaign, and this safety can promote engagement through the use of Safety Tools. There are dozens of safety tools out there, and the GM and players should discuss which are most important to them at their table. One of the most common examples, however, is “The X Card.”

The X Card

Give each player a plain card with an X drawn on it. By holding it up, tapping it, or otherwise displaying it, the play group can change, rewind, or skip the content — no questions asked. This enables players to avoid problematic or discomforting content, as well as expressing that the table is here to play together, not as individuals.

The X Card is only one of many tools that should be discussed when starting a new DnD campaign, and including these tools will help all roleplaying tables see great success in their stories.

A dice set next to a DnD character sheet

Tips for GMs

Whether you’re a seasoned adventurer or new to the hobby, here are a few tips that will be sure to help get your DnD campaign off the ground.

Use a Gameplay Loop

Gameplay loops enable players to move naturally from one scene to another, and gives the DM a framework to design their storylines off of. For example, the players can reach a Social Encounter that sends them somewhere to Explore, where they will complete Combat to Find Items. These Items can be taken to Social Encounters to find a new place to Explore, and so on. While it might seem repetitive, loosely following this framework will enable DMs to control the pacing of their story on the fly, or even help get started with the first scenes of a DnD campaign.

Relax After Hard Fought Victories

Whether you’ve just started your DnD campaign or are part of an ongoing one, you deserve a little boost to your own short rest! D20 Alchemy offers aromatic and relaxing bath bombs for gamers, allowing DnD enthusiasts to relax and unwind with a product that will fuel their next session! Offering a variety of essential oil scents, and even variety packs, D20 Alchemy is sure to have a product that will help you prepare for the next adventure to come.

Carl Carnagey