Despite the growing popularity of Dungeons & Dragons, there are still tons of people who have never played or even heard of it. Chances are if you’re reading this article, you know some of those people. And you’re wondering how you can get them to play D&D.
I love introducing new players to D&D, and I’ve had pretty good success with getting my friends and family to try it out with the strategies I’ll describe in this guide.
Just one note before we continue: there’s no magic formula for how to get your friends to play Dungeons & Dragons with you. I can give you all the tips and tricks in the world, but it boils down to just asking them. If they’re good friends who support your hobbies, they’ll probably say yes. And if they laugh in your face and make you feel bad…get better friends.
Now! On to the guide!
5 Tips for Getting Your Friends Into Dungeons & Dragons
#1 Explain the game in relatable terms.
The first question you have to answer for your friends and family is, “What is it?”. What is Dungeons & Dragons? How does it work? What’s it like? Why should I play it?
Learning something new can be intimidating for many people, so it helps to explain the game in terms they know and understand. Compare it to pop culture or hobbies they already enjoy, if possible. For example, I have often compared Dungeons & Dragons to those old choose-your-own-adventure books I used to read as a kid. Here are some other things you can use when trying to describe D&D to new players:
- Video games (ex: Skyrim)
- Movies (ex: Lord of the Rings)
- TV shows (ex: Game of Thrones)
- Board games (ex: some of these)
- Books (ex: Choose Your Own Adventure)
- Other hobbies (ex: improv)
The key is to explain the game using something that’s familiar, fun, and appealing to your friends already. This will help them understand what D&D is and get them more excited to try it out.
#2 Use examples from your own games.
If you’ve already played D&D yourself (if you haven’t, here’s how you can get started) then you have one of the best tools for convincing your friends to try it: experience. I’ve gotten quite a few friends and family members to play D&D just by talking about my own game stories.
For example, at an old job, I mentioned to my team that I played D&D over the weekend and that my party and I fought a dragon. They were so fascinated by my experience that they asked for story updates every Monday.
Now, I’m not suggesting you dive into a 30-minute explanation of your character’s backstory or your latest worldbuilding project (read the room, my friend). Keep things light and exciting. Tell them about the epic showdown with the giant squid or the ridiculous plot you and your party hatched to steal the king’s crown. When your friends see how much fun you’re having, they’ll want to join in.
#3 Keep it simple.
The best way to get your friends to play D&D is to start small. While a year-long campaign and three different 200-page rulebooks might sound like a dream come true to you, it’s going to overwhelm most new players, especially if they’re new to the genre of tabletop role-playing games in general.
Instead, start with a fun and easy one-shot—that is, a standalone adventure that can be played in a single session. Try to keep this session to about three hours (no longer than four); this time limit will help you keep the pacing up and prevent your players from getting tired and bored.
Here are a few one-shots I have enjoyed running as an introduction to D&D:
- A Wild Sheep Chase– This is a fun, simple adventure with an evil mage (classic!) and some magical hijinx.
- Walk the Blink Dog– This is a light-hearted, cute story that is perfect for pet lovers.
- The Halls of the Toymaker– This is great if you want some horror and mystery flavors.
- D&D Adventurers League– These modules are all designed to be played in a single session. You can find adventures with a variety of settings, styles, and character levels.
- So, a Blind Woman and a Medusa Walk Along the Road…– While not a traditional one-shot, these on-the-road encounters are quirky and unexpected, and you could easily expand them into a slightly bigger adventure.
#4 Decide how to build characters.
This is always a tough question when it comes to getting your friends to try D&D: should you use premade characters or have them build their own? I’ve done it both ways and like each strategy for different reasons (which I’ll explain below). But really, you need to decide based on how invested your group members are, how much patience they have for learning new things, and other factors.
When to Use Premade Characters:
It might be best to use premade characters for your group if they…
- Have short attention spans
- Enjoy learning on the fly
- Don’t have strong opinions about what type of character they want to play
- Get overwhelmed easily
- Are more interested in jumping right into playing
When to Help Players Build Their Own Characters:
On the other hand, you might want to host a character-building session for your group if they…
- Have specific ideas about who they want their character to be
- Enjoy learning “what all the numbers mean”
- Would better grasp the rules by walking through the creation process
- Might want to continue playing after the first session
- Have played other tabletop RPGs before
Like I said, both methods can work well. I once played a game with my family where I knew the only way I was going to get my parents (love them to death) to try D&D would be if we dove straight into the adventure and skipped the complicated character-creation process. On the other hand, I ran a game for the wonderful Cutscenes & Cupcakes podcast, and I noticed that walking through character building together helped them better understand their character sheets before we started playing.
You know your group. Make the call that’s best for them.
#5 Follow up.
After you’ve played your one-shot (and totally crushed it as a DM), don’t let the excitement die! Ask your players what they liked, what they didn’t like, and most importantly, if they’d ever be interested in playing again. Their feedback can help you adjust your future games and plan more of what they like.
If they’re ready to sign up for that year-long campaign of yours, congratulations. But don’t be afraid to run a few more one-shots as well, or you can try playing a miniature story arc that spans a handful of sessions. There’s a lot to learn about D&D for new players, so taking it slow and steady is the best way to keep the momentum and their enthusiasm alive.
Bonus: Choose the right kind of game.
You know I love Dungeons & Dragons. But here’s the thing: D&D might not be the best introductory tabletop RPG for everyone. It has a lot of rules to learn, it tends toward combat and strategy scenarios, and it’s squarely in the fantasy genre. None of these qualities are bad; but they might not be the best for your friends and family.
If you really want to get a group together, it might be worth trying out some different tabletop RPGs first. Try watching videos or listening to podcasts where they play other systems, and if you can, get into a game yourself. There are plenty of TTRPG fish in the sea, and you need to find the one that’s right for you and your table.
Getting your friends to play D&D with you starts with an invitation. Not everyone will accept, and not everyone will adopt D&D as their new hobby. But the people who do will be forever grateful that you showed them just how fun it can be. So stop waiting and just start asking.