Storytelling, Tabletop and Pop Culture
Now that you know the basics, it's time to actually find a game. Finding a group can sometimes be the hardest part of getting into D&D, especially for a totally new player. The stars really have to align for that story book tale of finding a group of friendly, local, experienced players eager to teach a new player and with a spot at their table. It’s not impossible but if you have that you can probably just skip this one. For the rest of us, maybe local groups are unfriendly or don’t have space for new players. Maybe you don’t even know where to look for them. This guide is for you.
A Fork in the Road (In Person or Online)
So here are some things to decide and some things to try. The first and maybe most important question is “In person or online?” (Hopefully you’re reading this from some blessed near future where there isn’t a horrendous plague burning across the world and you can make this choice unbiased)
In person might be thought of as D&D classic, this is how the game has been played for a very long time. Just a group of friends around a table together. Usually (but not always) this will include a physical map of some kind (often a dry erase grid), some tokens to represent tense situations like combat, dice to roll and character sheets. Also snacks. Some or all of these can vary wildly and even individual players might take different approaches (personally I still use a lot of digital tools at the table for ease of play). Always snacks though.
Finding a group in person is likely to be more difficult (even in normal times). You need fellow players within a reasonable distance who are either starting a new game or welcoming new players and you need to make contact. Friendly Local Game Stores or FLGS (if available) are probably the best starting point. If you're not sure where one is, check Google Maps for game stores or try this official Wizards store locator. Many of them have open D&D nights in house and host other D&D groups. Some have community boards where players can post their schedules and game ideas. Failing all else the folks who work/hang out there will probably know who plays in town and might be able to offer some guidance.
In person play can come with very specific challenges though. Sometimes these games will be taking place in people’s homes. Be very conscious of both yours and their personal boundaries and wellbeing. We’ll talk more about Session 0 but getting to know folks in a public, neutral space comes highly recommended. Home games are a lot of fun (and seem to mostly be folks' preferred way to play) but when they are bad they are very bad.
Another often overlooked resource is libraries. Many libraries are starting to offer community gaming opportunities and they’re both a gathering place for nerds of all stripes and frequently maintain community boards where games might or could be listed. These games are often explicitly beginner friendly and include some instruction on how to get started.
There are also official Adventurer’s League (or AL) games which are open D&D games sponsored by Wizards of the Coast directly. Some FLGS host these in person on a regular night of the week and anyone is welcome to jump in and play. You can also find some online through official D&D channels. For AL games the rules are a little more rigid and the story is naturally set up to be more like self-contained episodes (since some players will come and go weekly). There are also a lot of places offering AL games online for folks to jump into.
Playing D&D online has grown massively even before the pandemic. Players use voice and video chat systems like Zoom or Discord to communicate. Services like Roll20, Talespire, Fantasy Grounds and Tabletop Simulator are Virtual Tabletops (VTTs) that let players share digital maps and tokens to play online. This means you can play almost as easily with someone next door as someone on the other side of the country.
Playing online definitely comes with complications. You’re at the mercy of your technology and internet connection. Folks going staticy or getting dropped or discovering they’ve been on mute after 30 seconds of epic narration are all common. It's also easy to get distracted when something in your VTT doesn’t quite work right or realizing you don’t have the right map or token etc. You also lose a certain amount of immediacy and atmosphere. A lot of the ways we navigate conversations come from non-verbal cues that don’t translate well. You can easily end up talking over each other or sitting in awkward silence sometimes.
That being said, being geographically freed up in your search for fellow players is a huge step especially if you aren’t in a nerd-rich locale. Playing online not only let one of my in person campaigns continue into the pandemic but also let us add a player from another state (and allow the game to continue when I moved as well). It also allowed me to draw together another group that encompasses 3 different states. And because it is all online the time commitments are easier and the travel issues non-existent. Overall online D&D has been very good for me personally.
Whether you’re looking for in person or online, Reddit is a decent starting point. The r/LFG (looking for group) subreddit has a continuous flow of folks looking for games (mostly online). Careful searching will also sometimes turn up local subreddits depending on the population density of your area. These more local boards will help connect you to local players. There are also Discords dedicated to D&D that have separate LFG channels that can be useful. The official Dungeons and Dragons Discord and the DNDBeyond Discord are both high traffic places to try and feature LFG channels.
Making contact is only the beginning though. Next time we’ll be talking about things like player expectations, safety tools and play style that will have a big impact on what sort of game you join. This will be a very important entry, definitely check it out before you hop into a game!
So how have you all found games before? Were there any interesting outlets we didn't cover here? Let us know in the comments!
Hi! I'm Colby. DM, Nerd, IRL Cleric and Writer.