You have entered the wonderful world of Dungeons and Dragons. And you’re all set to play a fantastic game. There is just one thing missing… Friends. Sound familiar? Here are my personal tips for how I get my friends to play D&D.
Get your friends to play D&D by creating a win-win situation. Dungeons and Dragons offers something for everybody. Find out what aspects of the game your friends are most curious about and tailor the game according to their interest.
Of course, finding out what interests your friends and enticing them to give D&D a go, can be more difficult than it sounds. So here are some tips that will help you every step of the way.
1. Incorporate Your Friends’ Preferences Into Your D&D Game
Any artist will tell you that the best way to create “good” art is to create art that YOU would want to consume, whether it’s music, sketching, writing, or even D&D. When trying to entice your friends to play this wonderful cooperative experience, it’s important to look at the kinds of art they already consume.
Do your friends watch a ton of Lord of the Rings? Awesome, start pitching them an idea of a group of friends carrying a magical artifact across the land. Are they more into Harry Potter? Suggest to your friends that you play at a magical campus where different sorcerous fraternities always fight for power and recognition.
Since they’re your friends, chances are you guys probably enjoy the same kinds of content online and in movies. Ask them which Marvel superheroes they would want to be. What magical world would they want to explore? D&D is a game where the rules are just guidelines, so don’t be afraid to build a play experience totally unique to you and your friends’ interests!
2. When You Play D&D, use Terms Your Friends Understand
The biggest piece of advice I can offer here is pretty simple. K.I.S.S. it.
“Keep It Simple, Stupid.”
Your friends probably don’t want to play Dungeons & Dragons if it sounds overly complicated and crazy. Find ways to simplify things and make them easily translatable to the common, non-geek tongue. Very few people in the world know what a Wisdom Saving Throw is. But EVERYONE knows what a Fireball is.
Do not, and I cannot stress this enough, do NOT overwhelm yourself or your players, especially when they’re new to the game. Start small, and work your way up from there.
Start with an easy, stereotypical adventure. Save the princess. Fight the goblins. Stop the bandits on the road. Maybe hold off on complicated politics or massive storylines for now. Seasoned DMs and players alike have all seen this happen. Somebody wants to run their first game and goes WAY overboard, whether it’s by writing encyclopedias of home-brewed lore or introducing way too many NPCs.
And stay excited! You don’t necessarily have to come off as obsessive, but if your friends see your enthusiasm they’re likely to be more interested in playing their first D&D game. Tell them awesome stories you’ve heard, read online, or even played out yourself. I’ve gotten a lot of people involved in D&D, and 100% of the time my friends’ interest has come from hearing awesome stories.
Think of your favorite movie, and how you would try and convince your friends to go see it with you. Or even your best-loved video game. What kind of adjectives do you use to describe your favorite moments? What are the things that you enjoy so much about this piece of art that you HAVE to share it with people you care about?
Everyone has the capacity to enjoy D&D. It’s just up to us to build the right kind of world, both in-game and out of game.
3. Show Your Friends The D&D World
Think of other games you’ve played with your friends. They were probably board games. Every player got some tokens or cards they could use. And the action was represented visually.
New players often find it hard to visualize the world and need more than just using the theatre of the mind to immerse themselves into your D&D game. Using miniatures, maps, and handouts helps set the mood and makes your fantasy world come alive.
In the beginning, your friends might just want to play the game because they get to roll some awesome looking dice. That’s okay because it gives you a chance to wow them with a great story as well.
Make sure you have enough visual stuff to stimulate new players, especially if they don’t usually gravitate towards fantasy settings. Also, the D&D board games are a great way to introduce D&D because your friends will be more familiar with that type of game. You can gradually move toward using the theatre of the mind when your friends start to feel more at home in the world of fantasy.
4. Discuss Fears Your Friends Might Have About D&D
No, D&D is not an evil soul-stealing game and no, we’re not really summoning demons. We just like cool stories and having fun playing games with our friends. In trying to persuade your friends to play D&D, I personally suggest finding common ground first, and addressing issues second.
It’s no secret that back in the eighties there was the famous “satanic panic” that left lingering scars on D&D’s reputation, but the core of D&D has stayed the same through the years- we’re just having fun playing make-believe.
Whether you prefer a deep dive into intellectual geo-political issues, or just hack and slashing things with swords and spells, D&D is ultimately about spending time with people you like telling cool stories and making great memories.
Depending on their upbringing and belief system, the idea of magic and devils may seem dangerous to some of your friends. But ultimately, there’s still some funky fantasy art out there that everyone enjoys. D&D is a fictional setting, so when you talk with your friends, I’d advise starting there. Nobody says the tale of King Arthur is inherently evil. No one debates that Greek Mythology is trying to take over the hearts of children. Heck, Star Wars is basically full of space wizards but no one bats an eye at Yoda levitating an X-wing.
We as human beings enjoy the fantastical. All of the misconceptions about D&D ultimately root back to little misunderstandings or narrow points of view. There’s no need to dive into a debate about the moral landscape of gaming. Just ask what elements of D&D your friends don’t feel comfortable with and don’t use them. Not every game has to have a devil, demon or even magic.
Keep rule #1 of D&D at the center of your conversation – just have fun. And if someone isn’t interested, that’s okay. You don’t have to convince everyone.
5. Create Some Awesome D&D Memories With Your Friends
When it comes down to it, your friends and new players aren’t going to remember the complex web of story arcs or the maelstrom of political intrigue in your setting. They’re going to cling to the fun, explosive, silly moments.
They’re going to talk about the time that Gerald the half-orc bard started a tavern-brawl with a chicken. They’ll remember the times that Zultan the elven navigator steered the ship through an asteroid field upside down. And they’ll recall that one critical skill-check that meant the difference between seducing a dragon or going up in flames.
Your friends and players latch onto these silly moments and talk about them for weeks or years to come, and ultimately, that’s what you WANT. That’s the strong finish that will ensure that your friends come back next session, and that’s what will get them talking to their other friends, and so on and so forth.
In my experience, these moments can’t be fabricated or artificially induced in any way. They happen spontaneously when friends get together and start having fun. These improvised moments are what lead to a rich, deep love for games like D&D, and forge deeper bonds between players as friends. Leave some room for improvising and silly stuff.
6. Let Your Friends Feel Like Heroes
Fantastical moments are so potent to us in-game, because they very rarely happen in real life. Most of us walk around, in school or working jobs, just trying to survive. D&D gives us a break from the mundanity that the world can be, and allows us for just a few hours to step into the shoes of a hero that we want to be. D&D is an inward journey as much as it is an outward gaming experience, and when you get to share these moments with friends it makes life that much more joyful.
Your job and privilege as a DM is to act as the guide for these kinds of moments, to usher in these opportunities for explosive laughter or tearful connections. Each one of these moments is a seed that, if watered and cared for properly, will blossom into a years-long relationship with this magical game that you and your friends will continue to play for years to come.
Over the last several years I’ve played in a lot of games with a lot of people. I’ve seen just about every kind of story arc, character archetype, and monster that this game has to offer. But the most magical things aren’t the witches or dragons. They’re not the dungeons and kobolds, or the liches and celestials. They’re those moments, where you get to look across the table at your friends and see true joy in their eyes. That’s a light that no amount of rules-lawyering or session-prepping could ever conjure.
That’s just what happens when friends play D&D.
By Jamie Helms