What is Dungeons & Dragons?

Everything you need to know to get started with Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons (or D&D for short) is a fantasy role-playing game where players take on the roles of characters (usually adventurers) and embark on quests. Games are story-led affairs and are run by a Dungeon Master (or DM). The DM runs the game, they are both friend and foe, creating imaginative stories, characters and plots for players to investigate and experience. Players are generally encouraged to think creatively whether that’s to face enemies in combat, negotiate their way through a situation or take a sneakier approach. The game in this sense, knows no bounds as it is the imagination of the DM and the players that sets the boundaries of a game.

How does D&D work?

In Dungeons & Dragons, players work collaboratively facing situations that the DM places in front of them. Each character has a series of stats that determine how good they are at accomplishing various tasks. Different dice (d4, d6, d8, d10 and d20) are used to see how well or effectively they perform certain tasks with the player’s stats acting as modifiers to their dice rolls.

These skills are often used in fighting enemies that can range from simple thugs to monstrous dragons. Characters are also given a class that determines what types of abilities they learn. For example, a wizard or a sorceror will learn magic spells, fighters and barbarians will learn combat skills and rogues will learn skills that enable them to be sneaky.

Players can also choose a race for their character from the wide array of races existing in the D&D universe from classic Tolkien-esque races like humans, elves, dwarves and halflings to lesser-known races like tieflings, tabaxi, warforged and aasimar.

Players must take on the role of their character, acting in the way they might to solve problems, fight enemies and interact with the world around them.

Where is D&D set?

The D&D universe is made up of multiple settings, the most popular of which is the “Forgotten Realms”, a fantasy setting encompassing the world of Toril. Toril is made up of multiple continents, with Faerun being the most well-known.

There are many other settings, including:

  • Borthright
  • Blackmoor
  • Council of Wyrms
  • Dark Sun
  • Dragon Fist
  • Dragonlance
  • Eberron
  • Exandria
  • Forgotten Realms
  • Ghostwalk
  • Greyhawk
  • Jakandor
  • Kingdom of Kalamar
  • Lankhmar
  • Mahasarpa
  • Mystara
  • Nentir Vale
  • Pelinore
  • Planescape
  • Ravenloft
  • Rokugan
  • Spelljammer
  • Warcraft
  • Wilderlands of High Fantasy

How long does D&D take to play?

One session of Dungeons and Dragons typically takes anywhere between 3hrs and a day. It’s unusual for sessions to take any less time than this as it doesn’t provide enough time to make enough progress.

Often, games will span across multiple sessions called a campaign and campaigns can last as long as the group want them from a few sessions to several years. Groups can also play one-shot games that last a single session, it entirely depends on the group, the dungeon master and the game they want to play. It simply depends on your style of play and level of commitment a group wants to put into the game.

How many players do you need?

There’s no limit to the number of players needed for D&D, all you need is a Dungeon Master and a player (and there are even campaigns that can be played solo). The sweet spot tends to be 3-4 players (plus a Dungeon Master) as this has enough players to create fun, interesting group dynamics while not being so many that players spend too long waiting for their turn. However, smaller and larger groups can still be lots of fun and just require managing carefully.

What do I need to play D&D?

There’s actually very little that you “need” to play Dungeons & Dragons. All that is required are:

  • The Player’s Handbook
  • A set of polyhedral dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12 and d20) – Preferably 1 set per player
  • A character sheet per player
  • A pencil
  • A rubber

While this is all that is required, there are a lot of other things you may want to use to enhance the playing experience including:

  • DM’s Screen
  • Miniatures to represent characters and monsters
  • Dungeon Master’s Guide
  • Monster Manual
  • An Adventure book
  • Battlemaps

The History of D&D

Dungeons & Dragons was first created in 1974 by Gary Gygax and David Arneson who were American game designers. It was originally published by Gygax’s company, Tactical Studies Rules (TSR). In 1997, the brand was acquired by a subsidiary of Hasbro called Wizards of the Coast who own the brand to this day.


D&D has been updated multiple times with each iteration being known as an “Edition”. The game is currently on its 5th Edition (5e for short) with the game being updated in the following years for each new edition:

  • 1st Edition – 1974
  • 2nd Edition – 1989
  • 3rd Edition – 2000
  • 3.5 Edition – 2003
  • 4th Edition – 2008
  • 5th Edition – 2014


Dungeons & Dragons has spawned a huge number of supporting products to bring the game to life from adventure books that detail campaigns Dungeon Masters can run their games from, source books describing some of the many settings of the D&D universe to miniatures depicting characters and creatures that players might encounter during their adventures.

Below is a list of some of the more prominent examples of these (there’re many more out there!), we’ve also added links so you can easily buy any of these products from Amazon:

5e Handbooks

  • Players Handbook
  • Dungeon Master’s Guide
  • Monster Manual
  • Volo’s Guide to Monsters (2016)
  • Xanathar’s Guide to Everything (2017)
  • Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes (2018)
  • Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything (2020)
  • Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons (2021)

5e Adventure Books

  • Hoard of the Dragon Queen (2014)
  • The Rise of Tiamat (2014)
  • Princes of the Apocalypse (2015)
  • Out of the Abyss (2015)
  • Curse of Strahd (2016)
  • Storm King’s Thunder (2016)
  • Tales from the Yawning Portal (2017)
  • Tomb of Annihilation (2017)
  • Waterdeep: Dragon Heist (2018)
  • Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage (2018)
  • Ghosts of Saltmarsh (2019)
  • Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus (2019)
  • Tyranny of Dragons (2019)
  • Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden (2020)
  • Candlekeep Mysteries (2021)
  • The Wild Beyond the Witchlight (2021)

5e Campaign Guides

  • Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide (2015)
  • Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica (2018)
  • Acquisitions Incorporated (2019)
  • Eberron: Rising from the last war (2019)
  • Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount (2020)
  • Mythic Odysseys of Theros (2020)
  • Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft (2021)
  • Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos (2021)

D&D Accessories

  • Dungeon Master’s Screen
  • Dice
  • Tactical Maps Reincarnated

Licensed Tie Ins

Due to the vast worlds and popularity of D&D, it has garnered many licensed tie-ins from other media including books, films, video games, spin off games and other merchandise. Below are some of the many examples of these tie-ins to the vast D&D universe:


The Dragonlance Chronicles Trilogy
  • Dragons of Autumn Twilight
  • Dragons of Winter Night
  • Dragons of Spring Dawning
The Icewind Dale Trilogy
  • The Crystal Shard
  • Streams of Silver
  • The Halfling’s Gem
The Dark Elf Trilogy
  • Homeland
  • Exile
  • Sojourn
The Cleric Quintet
  • Canticle
  • In Sylvan Shadows
  • Night Masks
  • The Fallen Fortress
  • The Chaos Curse

Video Games

  • Baldur’s Gate
  • Baldur’s Gate: Tales of the Sword Coast
  • Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn
  • Baldur’s Gate II: Throne of Bhaal
  • Baldur’s Gate III
  • Planescape: Torment
  • Icewind Dale
  • Icewind Dale II
  • Neverwinter Nights
  • Neverwinter Nights II
  • Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance
  • Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II
  • Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance (2021)


  • Dungeons & Dragons
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness
  • Dungeons & Dragons (2023)
  • Dungeons & Dragons TV Series

Tabletop & Card Games

  • Dungeon Mayhem
  • Dungeon Mayhem: Battle for Baldur’s Gate
  • Dungeon Mayhem: Monster Madness
  • Dungeon!
  • Rock Paper Wizard
  • D&D Adventure Begins
  • The Great Dalmuti
  • Dragonfire
  • Tomb of Annihilation
  • Magic the Gathering: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms
  • Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate
  • Assault of the Giants
  • Tyrants of the Underdark
  • Temple of Elemental Evil
  • Lords of Waterdeep
  • Scoundrels of Skullport
  • The Legend of Drizzt
  • Conquest of Nerath
  • Wrath of Ashardalon
  • Castle Ravenloft
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Stranger Things Starter Set

Published by DM Ben

Ben is an experienced dungeon master and player who's been immersed in the D&D universe since he was a teenager over 20 years ago. When he's not writing for Dungeon Mister, Ben loves creating fiendish puzzles and devious dungeons for his players. He's an especially big fan of the Ravenloft and Dragonlance settings.