View Full Version : Advice for a new player

2007-12-03, 05:25 AM
First let me tell you that I haven't played D&D since like 2.0 or something, I was like 13 at the time, I'm 29 now. I didn't really know what I was doing then and I know less now. However recently my kids have been talking about playing A LOT lately and it got me kind of excited to play with them. Now that said I could really use some advice on how to get started.

A friend of mine gave me about 50 of his D&D 3.5 books. I have to tell you that is a bit overwhelming. I don't even know where to start. I tried reading over the Players handbook, and I feel like a real idiot because it might as well be written in Japanese. I don't really understand anything. It seems to me that I'm missing something. It really shouldn't be as hard to figure out what to do as I'm making it.

Can anyone give me advice, pointers, tips, anything, on how to start, what to learn first, etc? I feel like if I can just get my mind moving forward the rest would quickly fall into place and I can finally go off on my own and actually learn what to do.

If it helps, we're going to play in the Forgotten Realms. It will be only 4 of us (my family). With me acting as DM and playing any extra characters they may need. I have no idea if that is normal, or even OK, but I can DM and play without cheating.

Please, I beg of you to take it easy on me. I feel like a real idiot as it is and for the life of me can figure out why the gears aren't clicking upstairs.

brian c
2007-12-03, 05:42 AM
Well, it's hard to help you figure anything out unless you can say more specifically what you're having trouble with.

Also: for quick reference and condensed rules, look here (http://www.d20srd.org/)

2007-12-03, 05:49 AM
My main problem right now is on how to make a PC. I'm having trouble figuring out the bonuses and things. The Players Handbook kind of skips around and is hard to follow.

2007-12-03, 05:58 AM
Bonuses are determined by this chart here.

Basically it works like this: 10-11 is a +0 bonus. Every pair of numbers below that gets an additional -1, every pair of numbers above that gets an incremental +1.

It's up to your DM how you're going to put together your ability scores. Typical is roll 4d6 and drop the lowest die. Another is using the Elite Array: 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8. Assign however you like.

After choosing your race, class, and ability scores, you can go about choosing your first skills and your first feat.

2007-12-03, 06:49 AM
I would advise against the SRD for a while. Mostly it's a reference for people who already know the rules and can be confusing unless you know what you're looking for. It also doesn't have any information on character creation or advancement. Look on page 6 of the Player's Handbook for a quick guide on making a character. As for the modifiers and whatnot, you'll have to be more specific.

2007-12-03, 12:23 PM
Well if you really feel like an idiot there's a D&D for Dummies book out there. Like most things WotC publishes, D&D is a lot to digest, but you have to digest it all at once before any of it makes sense. I think this book might help, but I've only leafed through it after already knowing D&D.

3.0 came with character generation software. It's not the best program out there, but it should help give you a nice workflow for building characters while calculating bonuses for you. Maybe you can find a copy of that software? I know I've seen it floating around online before.

Also, if you don't get everything right don't worry about it. Most gamers can think back to the good ole days when they didn't get the rules right, but it didn't matter back then, so it was okay. Your players are going to remember slaying a dragon, not whether their 18 str added 3 or 4 to their damage. Even once you have the basics down there are enough inconsistencies and ambiguities that your interpretation of the rules is bound to vary from someone else's.

2007-12-03, 01:16 PM
The biggest difference from 2nd edition to 3rd is that higher numbers are always better. If I get +2 to my armor class, that means that my opponent is going to need to roll 2 points higher to hit me, and so on. Most things will be resolved by comparing two numbers (of which one or both might involve a d20 roll plus some other modifiers), and whichever one is higher wins. If only one of the numbers has a die roll, the one that's fixed is called the Difficulty Class of the attempt, and if both have die rolls, it's an opposed check.

For instance:
If I'm attacking something, I roll a d20 plus any attack modifiers I have (which might come from my class levels, my strength, a magic weapon, or numerous other sources) versus a DC which is my opponent's armor class. If my roll plus modifiers is higher than his AC, I hit him. If his AC is higher, I miss.

If I'm trying to sneak past a guard, I roll a d20 plus any modifiers I have to Hide (which might come from skill points spent on the Hide skill, my dexterity, or other sources), and the guard rolls a d20 plus any modifiers he has to Spot (which might come from skill points he spent on Spot, his wisdom, or other sources). If my Hide roll plus modifiers is higher than his Spot roll plus modifiers, I sneak past. If his Spot roll is higher than my Hide roll, he sees me.

If I'm trying to walk a tightrope, I roll a d20 plus any modifiers I have to Balance (skill points spent on the Balance skill, dex, etc.) versus a DC of 20 (the difficulty class for walking a tightrope, listed in the description of the Balance skill). If my roll plus modifiers is higher than the DC, I can walk on it. If the DC is higher, I fall.

2007-12-03, 01:46 PM
So you are going to be DMing? That is tough as a rookie, do your kids know how to play?

I DMed 1st and 2nd edition before my kids were born and then when my son and his friends got old enough to play and I decided to give the new 3.5 ed a try. They hadn't played before, and I hadn't DMed in 6 years, and it was a new rule set. What I did was this, I bought my son the three core books, they are all we use still, and I picked out the example characters in the PHB and used those for the kids. I have painted figures and just had the boys pick ot a figure they liked and went from there.

For making characters look online for some generator programs. The first one I stumbled upon was redblade, it is really fast and simple, but does have a few errors. Then there is PCGen, but it bogs down on the fastest of computers, and tends to be overler complicated. Still I have used this since the beginning, the output sheets in PDF format look great. There is also a web based generator, that is pretty straight forward. Look around.

My biggest confusion early on was determining DCs. There are not enough examples in the books and they are scattered, but a good guidline to follow is make the baseline for a DC 15, and increase it fcrom there if it is supposed to be more difficult.

Familiarize yourself with the combat rules next after you have a characters down. They are considerably more complicated than 1st or 2nd edition. There are lots of options, but don't let that scare you. As the DM you always have the right to "wing it" and that fact saves me time and again.

Oh and last thing, have a great time with your family, D&D can bring families together.
Enjoy. :smallbiggrin:

2007-12-03, 06:20 PM
Thanks A LOT you guys for the helpful advice, and words of encouragement. To be honest I expected everyone to laugh at me :smallredface: I'll probably be back with some more straight forward questions soon. As of now though I think I picked up a few things so... *crosses fingers*

2007-12-05, 10:01 AM
Does anyone know is THIS (http://www.pathguy.com/fr.htm#top_of_form) Forgotten Realms Character Generator is accurate enough to use correctly?

Mr. Moogle
2007-12-05, 10:10 AM
That generator would put any regular person into a coma. Even though is acurate it would take 3 hours and a DC:35 Knowlage (WTF!?) check. I'd recomend not using that and maybe asking far help from an experienced player in your (Soon-to-be) group.

2007-12-05, 10:20 AM
Does anyone know is THIS (http://www.pathguy.com/fr.htm#top_of_form) Forgotten Realms Character Generator is accurate enough to use correctly?
I'm not familiar enough with the realms to judge that one specifically, but I use his other generators enough to know that they are largely spot on, though trying to do fancier stuff (like excessive multi-classing or using some of the odder supplements) can be a bit wonky.

For your purposes, it should be fine.

As for other advice, start simple and incorporate more complicated stuff later.
Start core-only, and avoid using monsters that grapple, trip, disarm, swallow whole, fly, are incorporeal, etc. They are great things that can make for some really interesting encounters, but for the first few sessions, I would stick with a basic thugs with swords archetype.

Oh and above all, don't be afraid to make mistakes. Some of the best house-rules I've played with come from a DM not realizing they are doing it wrong... then choosing their way over the printed rule because it makes more sense to them.

2007-12-05, 10:22 AM
I use a pretty good one for generating NPCs and such for my campaign. I prefer to work directly with the books and paper when I make my own PCs, but that's a matter of taste, I guess. I can't remember the name of the one I use, I'll post it later today when I get home.

Are you going to be a player or DM? Or did you say already and I just missed it in my skimming? If you're a player, do you have any idea what you want to run? If you're unsure it might be a good idea to get with your party, find out what they're running and fill any niche left vacant, like if no one's running a cleric or a rogue.

If you're the DM, try starting off with some pre-made adventures. Don't try to get too fancy, I did that when I started DMing and quickly felt overwhelmed.

2007-12-05, 10:33 AM
If you are going to DM and you don't really know what to do or how it works, you can always find a pre-fabircated adventure to use. Even if you guys never actually play the pre-fab, the formats in it will be very helpful when you make your own adventure.

I have two pre-fabricated adventures that I keep around whenever I want map examples or ideas on how to add texture.

The first adventure I ever played was a pre-made adventure called The Sunless Citadel. We had a pretty good time with it.

As for figuring out ability scores and bonuses, Just remember to take the number you rolled for your stats and subtract 10 or 11 and divide the number by two.

So if you rolled an 18, subtract 10. Then divide the 8 by 2. You get a +4 bonus. If you rolled a 13, subtract 11. Then divide by 2. You get a +1 bonus.

It's actually a very handy way to get ability bonuses for certain enemies with ability score entries you're not familiar with.

2007-12-05, 10:33 AM
Actually I'll be DMing and running some characters to fill in the group.

I'm playing with my wife (she'll only play once in awhile) and 2 Daughters who are only 11 and 13, so yeah, no experienced players here.

As for the Campaigns, I've got some books I was told are good starter books. Third Edition Adventures, The Sunless Citadel, The Forge of Fury, The Speaker in Dreams, and a few more.

I also downloaded some free Adventures from the TSR web page for beginners. Burning Plague, Wreck Ashore, Ettin Riddle, and Windswept. I heard they are all good for beginners who need to learn the ropes.

I picked up a book called D&D for Dummies that someone mentioned earlier too. Once I get a few minutes I'm going to read it over and hopefully learn a few things.

2007-12-05, 01:37 PM
I found the best and funnest thing to do if you are the DM and the party needs more characters is to have NPC allies periodically hop in and out of the party, usually having only one at a time. This helps integrate the character with the plot and take advantage of the fact that you are also the DM, gives you both a variety of experiences, and allows you to swap the "extra" character to fit the needs of the party as necessary.

The hardest thing is just to separate DM knowledge from character knowledge. An extra character should not be optimized for the world or even be the star of the show. Also he should not point out things that he does not know "I think it would be a good idea to return back to the city to figure out if the castle guard has uncovered any new evidence since we were last there..." As someone who played other versions of 2nd edition I'm sure you are aware.

2007-12-05, 08:03 PM
If you're having a problem with creating characters, try seperating the creation into stages.

Stats, Races, Classes, Feats, Skills, (Spells), Misc that I might have forgotten.

That way you don't get overwhelmed by construction.

2007-12-06, 03:47 AM
D&D for Dummies is surprisingly helpful! Thanks to the guy who suggested it!

Anyways, just to let everyone know, I don't plan to take the game TOO seriously. Yes I want to play the right way, however I am playing with young ones so I plan on adding a bit of goofiness into each session as well. Once I'm more comfortable with the game and rules I'll add some of my older friends to the game. My unlikely group is very dedicated to playing so hopefully they won't grow out of it too quick :smallcool:

As of now here is the Characters we're going to try and roll up this weekend.
My wife- Moon Elf Cleric.
Oldest Daughter- Wood Elf Fighter
Youngest- Halfling Rogue
I'll play some filler characters
Half-Drow Ranger (Yeah, I was forced to do it. The kids love Drizzt:smalleek: )
Half-Orc Barbarian
and a Druid (Race I dunno yet, suggestions?)

Kind of a hodge-podge group but that is OK with me. My youngest doesn't know it yet but I plan on sporadically having the Half-Orc crash out of the woods to protect his "pretty lady" (I gotta have some fun with the game right?). So yeah, he's going to be really stupid and shy and not a big part of the group. He's more for fun, but he'll serve his part. I plan on doing a lot of random stuff like that for the girls.

So, thoughts? You all think this sounds decent and fun enough to keep them interested? Or am I really screwing up?

2007-12-06, 05:57 AM
Gnome Druid? Dwarf Druid is kind of fun.

2007-12-06, 06:42 AM
A Gnome Druid is what i was thinking. My wife suggested a dwarf named Pikle *sigh*, but one clone in a group is enough I think. :smallcool:

2007-12-06, 08:36 AM
If you're DMing you have quite a lot of control over the complexity. Leave most of the books aside, concentrate on a few bits from the core books and don't worry too much about perfect implementation as long as everyone has a good time. Wasn't that what everyone did in second edition?

Almost everything you actually need to learn is in the PHB. When I started with 3.5 I just worked through the first section of the book making half a dozen characters in parallel, which helped a lot. Then I had them fight one another, which was tolerably helpful though not really a good test for the unpredictable things players are wont to do. Then I just jumped in and started DMing - winging it over any doubts, and taking notes on what bits to look up before the next session. Seemed to work OK - would that approach suit you too?

Good luck! Hope it goes really well.

2007-12-06, 08:44 AM
Actually that is exactly what I plan on doing. Once I get character creation down, I'm just going to hop in there and give it a go. I already know how attacks, movement and all the spiffy stuff works. As of now i got most of the basics of character creation (figuring out stats,AC,movement,etc). Now I'm learning how many Skills/feats, etc each class gets. By Saturday morning I'll probably be running The Sunless Citadel.

I do have one last question though. Well, more of a request actually. Can anyone help me with making a Half-Drow Ranger? (actually rolling it up for me) That Race/Class combo is blowing my mind and I don't even know where to begin. If so PM me and I'll give you any details you may need.

2007-12-06, 11:10 AM
If you're DMing you have quite a lot of control over the complexity. Leave most of the books aside, concentrate on a few bits from the core books and don't worry too much about perfect implementation as long as everyone has a good time. Wasn't that what everyone did in second edition?

A really good way to approach this is not to use anything where the number isn't on the character sheet. Technically, yes, all the numbers required for an overrun attempt are on the character sheet somewhere, but they're not in boxes marked 'overrun' and are thus unnecessarily complex. If someone's charging at you, you could give them a reflex save to get out of the way: reflex save has a conveniently labelled box. This method worked really well when I was teaching a group of new players who didn't want to learn the rules, just have fun.

2007-12-06, 05:34 PM
Adoniis: Sounds like you're pretty much there! I'm not sure about your half-drow, though. A full drow would be easy - Monster Manual page 103 has pretty much everything you need - but if there is a half-drow I don't know which book it is in. (What level are you starting at? First?)

(A drow with one level of ranger:

Stats as rolled + 2 Int +2 Cha +2 Dx -2 Cn(my dice: 13 12 14 11 11 15)
Str: 15 (+2)
Dex: 16 (+3)
Con: 11 (+0)
Int: 14 (+2)
Wis:11 (+0)
Cha: 13 (+1)

BAB +1 (total Attack +3)
Saves: Fort +2, Ref +2, Wil +0 (+ a hefty bonus to Ref from high Dex)
HP 8.
Speed 30'

Feats: Track, one free choice (up to you)

Skills: 32 to spend (up to you, this one). Racial +2 Listen, Search and Spot.

A favoured enemy type
Wild Empathy: can use Diplomacy checks on animals, d20 + 2
Proficient with absolutely heaps of weapons (hand crossbow and all simple and martial)
Immunity to Sleep effects
Darkvision 120'
Spell resistance 12
+2 on Will saves vs. spells and spell-like abilities
Spell-like abilities as if caster level 1: once per day, each of Dancing Lights, Darkness, Faerie Fire
Speaks Common, Undercommon, Elven
Light-blindness: Abrupt exposure to bright light (sunlight, Daylight spell) blinds for 1 round, then dazzled (it's in the DMG somewhere) until you leave it.

um... think that's it? He's effective level 3 thanks to the Drow's adjustment; for a homemade half-drow, since this is a DM-controlled character, just cut him down a bit at your whim - perhaps as follows:
Take 1 off each of Int, Dx, and Cha (and hence only 28 skill points and +1 for Wild Empathy), put one back on Con (so 9 hit points) reduce Darkvision to 60', *one* of the spells per day rather than one of each, reduce lightblindness to just "dazzled" for a few rounds, effective level 2)

(Edited; I screwed it up the first time, apologies)

Nerulean: This is indeed an excellent plan with the right sort of players - but it does take a bit of confidence.

2007-12-06, 05:49 PM
The Half Drow is from the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting book.
Anyway, good luck, Adoniis! In my experience it's pretty easy to get kids that age to learn the game. I run a campaign for some of my students, who are in the 13-15 age range. They understood the rules pretty quickly.

Btw, regarding character sheets: I suggest you use the updated one found on Wizards.com's resources section. The one straight out of the PHB is rather cluttered and has tiny little spaces.

2007-12-06, 06:03 PM
The kids love Drizzt
Someday, I hope my kids are like your kids ^_^

2007-12-06, 06:19 PM
*chuckle* Yeah I got lucky. They like all kinds of stuff that surprises me. I stopped playing Everquest 2 years ago, and they still beg me to play it with them. Now they have shown a huge interest in D&D. Makes me a happy man.

Thanks raygungothic I'm going to do what you suggested and just knock a Drows stats down. Maybe give him a few penalties for being a surfaces dweller. I don't want him too strong as this is the character I want to play on a daily basis if I ever get anyone else to DM.

Mando Knight
2007-12-07, 01:06 AM
Heh. That's a lot like my little sister. I spring the idea to my brothers... she's within 10 feet, wants to join in, and I don't feel like saying "No" to her... she seems to have a lot of fun (with an RPG) for someone who is only ~10 and has ADHD...

Anyway, it's perfectly legal to have the DM play a regular party character--you're drawing up all the stats for the (not-predefined) NPCs, play both NPC allies and enemies... and Rule 0 pretty much allows you to change the rules, so if it's not legal, say it is by Rule 0. You're the DM. Just don't abuse your power, or they'll never play with you again... but you knew that.

2007-12-07, 04:51 AM
AslanCross - ah, thanks. I tried to find where half-drow was but failed - I Lose At Google (*cries*). I don't have any FR material. Also, I heartily agree that the PHB character sheet makes things look far more complicated than they are. Most of it is not that useful for first level characters, though. When I introduced my fiancee to D&D a few months ago she was quite daunted by the PHB sheet, so I wrote up a very simplified sheet by hand with just the important bits in a sensible layout - that really seemed to help (and now she's a fan! hurrah!).

Adoniis - now we know where the official half-drow is, you can probably come up with a "better" / more official statline if you have the relevant book. Sorry I can't help you there. It seems to me, though, that "not hogging the limelight" is a much more important characteristic of NPC party allies than "having perfectly legal stats"... and (within reason) that's more a matter of behaviour than numbers!

I don't think this guy's too strong as-is, though it might make sense to hold back his level advancement a little to keep the focus on the others. If you wanted to quantifiably weaken him, you could always say he suffers some significant annoyance* while on the surface, reduced when "just below the surface" in a normal dungeon, and completely removed in the actual underdark (since if your party find themselves down there they'll need all the help they can get anyway!)...

*It's hard to make it make much sense (unless he's physically weakened up here), but damage and/or attack bonus is a good thing to lightly penalise to stop him overshadowing anyone... you can always take it off if he appears embarrassingly ineffective.

And... your daughters are into D&D... how cool is that? :smallcool: Seriously hope my kids turn out that way. Good luck, hope it goes really well!

2007-12-13, 08:16 AM
Just an update for anyone interested. We ran The Sunless Citadel a few nights ago. I can honestly tell you it was an unmitigated disaster LOL. I never realized how hard DMing would be. My hats off to those who do it on a regular basis, I give you the utmost respect. All is not lost though. We are going to keep practicing until we all get better.

Thank you again to everyone who gave me advice. I'm so glad I decided to post here. You guys/gals rock!