How-To: Dungeons and Dragons 5e


Hello reader,

I’ve created a concise, but detailed how-to on running Dungeons and Dragons. I have tailored this specifically for library programmers that might not know where to begin. Dungeons and Dragons has had a resurgence of popularity with the release of D&D 5e. Since its release, my teens had wanted to play D&D, but I didn’t know where to start or how to run a game. On my own time, I learned how to play, played in a few games, and have run a couple sessions of D&D on my own. Hopefully this guide will help you understand D&D, how to run it, and what you can expect.

This program may appear later in the YALSA Program HQ website. For now, you can save this post for your future reference.

Program Description

Participants will group together into groups of 5-7. One person in each group will be the Dungeon Master (hereon referred to as the DM), and the rest of the members of the group are the players. Together, the members of each group will role play, puzzle solve, and build a story together using Dungeons and Dragons 5e.

This program can be held as many times as you would like. The size of the program can also vary depending on how many of the participants are willing to be the DM. We hope that these programs have teens willing to volunteer to be the DM. If none, the largest size I would recommend is 6 per library staff.

Learning outcomes

  • How to work together to solve a problem and make joint decisions. Working together cooperatively to solve problems build a foundation for them to work with other people in teams.
  • Learn how to collaboratively create a story and tell it. Creating and telling stories allows the teens to explore their creativity and overcome the shyness that comes with expressing themselves. This will help them be more assertive when speaking with others.
  • Learn to work with other people by engaging them and being present.


To start with D&D, the first prep is always the longest. Expect to front load a lot of information and, depending on your preference and budget, there is a front loaded cost to running these games as explained later. Following the first program, the rest of the sessions become easier and easier to prepare for once you have become used to the rules and story telling on the fly. There is a chance your teens may already play D&D, and I would advise you to speak with them and collaborate with them as you prepare to run this program at your own library. Encourage the teens to become DMs themselves!

What you will need:

  1. Read up on the Basic Rules for both Players and Dungeon Masters here. You can totally run a game of your own imagination just by following the free Basic Rules. If you find yourself wanting more or have the room in your budget, consider ordering the Player’s Handbook, the Dungeon Master’s Guide, and the Monster Manual. These are optional purchases and somewhat costly, but they more than make up their cost in how many times you will find yourself using these invaluable resources. If it is possible, consider adding these items to your circulating collection, or even better, your professional collection.
  2. Get an assortment of polyhedral dice. These dice are used to determine success rates or the outcome of events. They are commonly used in role playing, puzzle solving, and combat. You do not need too many dice, having at least one of every kind of dice (starting from 20 sides down to 3 sides) should be good enough. I recommend buying large assortments as it makes rolling go more quickly if all the teens have their own set during the game. You will also find that some teens will buy their own or bring their own.
  3. During the first session, you will have the option to have the teens create their own characters using character sheets (download link) OR you can have them play pre-created characters. For first timers, I would suggest using characters from this website or the pre-made characters in the starter kit.
  4. Finally you will want a notebook or loose paper and something to hide that paper behind, such as a Dungeon Master’s Screen or even a large open binder. This is to hide your notes and rolls from the teens so that there is an element of surprise.

Your options in running your own game:

  • You can spend any amount of time creating your own original game. For the most part, you want to have a few story hooks, such as: the city is being attacked by orcs, the mansion in the bad side of town is haunted, or even a princess has been kidnapped by a dragon. You can be as detailed or as loose as you want, the important thing is to create a situation where the players have a goal to accomplish.
  • You can purchase the D&D Starter Kit for fairly cheap, and it will contain a physical print out of the rules for players and DMs, along with dice, pre-made characters, printed maps, and nifty miniatures and tokens. If you have some money to put into this, I would recommend you put it here.
  • You can download official Wizards of the Coast adventure league campaigns for cheap! These are meant to run for several sessions. There are several that you can choose to run. I suggest trying these before hand so that you can get a feel for how they are written and what might be expected to happen as you play.
  • You can spend money on campaign books. These books expand on the adventure league campaigns and can last for months or even over a year depending on your players and how often you meet.

Running the game:

  1. Start by creating/distributing characters to the players, handing out any pencils to people who didn’t bring any, and putting the dice at the center of the table.
  2. Have the players introduce their characters. You can have them speak in character, talk about their character, and/or do ice-breakers such as “Tell me what Grom the Dragonslayer likes to do in his free time?”
  3. Set the scene for the game. Describe the town, the situation, or an event that will engage your players to explore and quest in the world.
  4. Find good stopping points about 10-15 minutes before your program is over. I like to use heightened climax scenes or cliff hanger moments to entice the teens to come back next month.
  5. Wrap-up your program however you feel, whether you give an ending scene, talk about when the game will next take place, or ask how the players how they felt about the game.

You can easily run a single game (referred to as a one shot) of D&D rather than run a series of games. This is based on your and your teens’ preferences. I would always allot for at least 2 or 2.5 hours of play time. Here are a summary of upfront costs depending on your budget. Dice are included in most listings, because you should own at least 1 set!

Mostly Free:

  • Basic rules
  • Character sheets &pencils
  • Dice


  • Starter Kit
  • Pencils


  • Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and/or Monster Manual
  • Character sheets & pencils
  • Dice
  • Printed out Adventure League sessions from here or as listed in the supplements.

You can always become more invested and purchase the campaign books: Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Rise of Tiamat, Princes of the Apocalypse, and/or Out of the Abyss. These are optional, but have a ton of helpful information and ways to extend your game past a few months. The cost for each of these books is around $20 to $30.

Finally, here are some tips and optional things that I couldn’t fit elsewhere in the instructions:

  • You do not need miniatures, figures, or tokens. You can do combat without visuals. Pros to this is that it is cheap, cons is that it may be hard for the teens to get into combat.
  • You can use white boards, paper, and dice to represent maps, battlefields, and characters.
  • Be ready for your teens to drop your story hook, and want to do random things. Maybe they don’t care about the kidnapped princess and instead want to go exploring a nearby cave or they decided they would rather start up a business in the town. Be ready for them to do almost anything but what you planned!
  • I recommend using note cards to keep track of monster stats and player stats. This way you are not always referencing a book or PDF, and can instead rely or reference information on the go.


Evaluation is done via asking the teens their opinion. I do this by sending out a monthly e-mail about D&D to my teens while also asking for their input.

My questions for them:

  • How do you feel about the length of the event? Too long or too short?
  • What did your group do that you enjoyed? What did they do that you didn’t enjoy?
  • What was your favorite part in the story?

To give you an overview of comments I received:

  • I think the program should be an hour longer. (We now play for 4 hours)
  • Sometimes the room can be very noisy, and I find it hard to hear. (Consider your space and how you can use it. We have made D&D an after hours program so that we can use the entire building.)
  • I would like to change groups because I want more story than combat.
  • I just like fighting things.
  • Can you teach me how to be a DM? (DMing is something you just have to do. There is no training for it. Encourage them to just jump in! If they are still nervous, direct them to the Dungeon Master’s Guide or the DM’s Basic Rules for more information.)
  • I wish we could play D&D more than once a month.

Other resources

Link to D&D Behind the Screen: Collection of reference materials, pdfs, and how-to DM guides

Talk with your local gaming/comic book stores, gaming groups, and your teens to see what kind of collaboration you can come up with. If you are lucky, a local store might sponsor your library program.



Savvy by Ingrid Law, Book Discussion


Hello readers,

Today I will be posting my thoughts and book discussion questions for Savvy by Ingrid Law. This is a book that my teens and I are reading for our book club, and I think it will help me organize my thoughts to give a short review here and the possible discussion questions I will ask the group to generate thoughtful discussion!

Savvy is a charming tale about Mibs, a newly minted 13 year old who gained a savvy. What is a savvy? It is a special kind of know-how, that varies from person to person in Mibs family. For example, her grandpa can manipulate the earth, her mother can do just about everything perfectly, and her brothers have control over electrical currents in the case of the older or water in case of the younger. A few days before her 13th birthday, which is the day you might receive a savvy, Mibs’ father, who is just a regular guy, gets into a terrible car accident. On the day of her birthday, Mibs believes her savvy might be the only thing that can help her dad, so she, her friends, and some of her siblings join her on a bus adventure toward their goal.

That is pretty much just the first few chapters, and the story evolves further as they realize the bus is going the wrong way. They meet various people, and go through some challenging events. This story is worth reading if you like the idea of mundane magic, or of magical realism. This book is written in a way that 5th graders through high school will enjoy the read. I would place the reading level squarely in the middle school range, despite the amount of older teens that read this title.

Savvy was suggested as a book club selection by my teens in the Teen Advisory Board.

Some suggested Book Discussion Questions:

  1. Were there any parts of this story you particularly enjoyed? Any parts of the story you didn’t care for?
  2. Mibs and her family seem to be bullied and made fun of. Why do you think that is?
  3. Why does Mibs’ family have to keep their savvies secret? How hard do you think it is for them to keep their secret?
  4. What did you think Mibs’ savvy was at first? Did you guess it correctly? Or did you get it mixed up like Mibs?
  5. How did Mibs figure out what her savvy was?
  6. Will Jr. and Bobbi ended up on the bus with the Beaumont kids. How does the relationship between them evolve?
  7. In the book, did you get the feeling the adults, Lester and Lill, on the bus had savvies of their own? What do you think those savvies might be?
  8. What do you think of the relationship between Will Jr. and Mibs?
  9. What, if any, do you think is the morale of this story? There might be more than one!
  10. Do you think you would like a savvy even if you had to keep it secret? What would your savvy be?

After The Red Rain by Barry Lyga

Hello Reader,

For anyone who follows my GoodReads account, you may already know I had a chance to read After The Red Rain by Barry Lyga, Peter Facinelli, and Rob DeFranco. After The Red Rain is scheduled for an early August release, and loving both post-apocalypse and Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers trilogy, I thought to give this e-ARC a try. I received my copy from NetGalley, which is a great website to receive e-ARCs from. My thoughts about this title are somewhat mixed, but definitely positive overall. I do believe this is a title worth purchasing for the teen collection for teen librarians or purchasers, and worth at least checking out from a library if you are a reader.

Now for the review, there are some slight spoilers ahead for what the setting is like and what the characters are like, but that will be all.


After The Red Rain takes place at least a few hundred years after the world was ended by… something. The regular people that inhabit the world now, such as Deedra, don’t know exactly what happened to the world. All they know is that they are living in an assumedly better world. They live in a world that is run by essentially dictators and are expected to be good citizens and cooperate with their government. The air quality sometimes suffers from poor quality or low oxygen, so often times people must wear masks in order to breathe. Some people, like Deedra, go scavenging and take guesses as to the uses of past relics, such as tiny, circular mirrors that have a hole in the center for your finger to hold up. That scene is definitely reminiscent of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, and I enjoyed reading these aspects of the book.

The people live off of food created in labs, which are synthesized from stem cells and the genetic map of past creatures. As such, the food doesn’t taste that great. Clearly, the food exists simply to keep the people alive. All in all, the world built is fairly realistic, and I do think the color scheme for most of the book is in different shades of gray. While I take some issue with trees, plants, and animals seeming to be rare, it is possible that the description of how the flora and fauna did or did not survive is incomplete or not well described. Overall, I do think the world the authors created is interesting and contains stories I am interested in reading in.

Deedra, our first protagonist, starts off well enough. She is adventurous, but not stupid. She is curious, but has some short comings related to that such as being uninterested in the “why” of how the world is now. Deedra has a friend named Lizzy, who is hilarious. Together, they make a fun duo and they way they carry on lightheartedly in an otherwise dark setting greatly increases the uniqueness of the story. Deedra seems to have her own characteristics and destiny, but that changes over time as we are introduced to Rose, our second protagonist.

Rose, a young man with an unusual name, comes from seemingly nowhere. He is a weary traveler, who has seen some of the worst humanity has to offer. Yet, Rose is a kind person. Rose is feminine in appearance, and seems to be accepting of his appearance. Rose is definitely an interesting character that compliments Deedra. I take only two major issues with Rose as a character. The first is that Rose and Deedra go from having an interesting relationship to Deedra obsessing over Rose and his safety to the point she nearly gets herself killed a couple of times. The obsession is off putting and undermines her own personality as depicted previously. The second issue is one that I will describe later on, but in short is a sudden action Rose takes which seems to go against everything we learn about him as we read.

The conflict of the story revolves around the murder of a somewhat minor, somewhat major character in the book. Deedra finds herself accused, then worried Rose may have been the culprit. As this is hard to describe without spoiling it, I won’t go too far into it. I do believe that when the investigation begins on Deedra the story doesn’t seem to use its setting to its advantage.

While the world is, in my opinion, really amazing and the opening to the title fantastic as Deedra and her friend explore the wastes for salvage, the novel switches from a cool, post-apocalypse to a dystopian YA fic. My bias here is that we’ve seen these dystopian themes before and already examined the bleakness of a situation in which the government is basically evil and corrupt. The novel here simply reads as OKAY. Not great or amazing, just “Okay, so that is what is happening now.”

Finally, the ending. I can’t even describe it, because I do believe people will have fun reading this even if I didn’t. I do think there is potential here. This novel won’t be released for several months, so who knows what might change. Suffice to say, the novel ends in a way where there will definitely be a sequel. Almost none of the secrets of this world have been revealed. Rose does something totally out of character for him, which really countered my feelings of “Wow, he is a unique male character. He is good, kind, and always values life. He isn’t just that male protagonist that hits people, is dark/brooding because reasons, and is the typical vision of the male power fantasy.” I will leave that at that.

Overall, it seems like I wouldn’t recommend this title, but I think everyone should give this novel a try. While it has its shortcomings, I honestly think the authors are on to something that could become great, fun, and continue to break stereotypes and tropes found in YA fiction. I know I will be reading After The Red Rain again when it is released in its final version. I recommend this to any YA reader that loves: post-apocalypse, dystopian, romance, and are looking for something at least a little different.

Look forward to After The Red Rain‘s release in August 4th, 2015.


#KeepYAWeird – On being angry

I will be honest. I have yet to read an Andrew Smith book, but I think admitting to a difficulty in writing women and girls, who have unique experiences and perspectives that are different from his own experiences and perspectives, somehow equates to being sexist? That isn’t sexist, that is admitting he needs to work on writing characters.

Ringo the Cat's Blog

Today I am angry. I know the world doesn’t care about me being angry. I know the internet doesn’t give a fuck about me being angry. And even (the anti-)social media Twitter and Facebook don’t give a shit about my outrage. But today I am angry and also sad.

I am often angry, though. When my computer doesn’t do what I want it to do, I feel like throwing it out of the window (but I don’t). When people don’t meet the deadlines I set out for them, I feel like sending them angry emails about their lack of commitment (but I don’t). When I enter a dirty as hell classroom once again and I have to pick up dirty tissues from the floor, I feel like kicking the colleagues who were too lax to tell their students there are fucking bins (3 even) in my classroom. When I see…

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Monsters Among Us, YA book suggestions for people that love vampires, werewolves, and ghosts

Hello Reader,

As I have ranted a few times, I am a graduate student earning my master degree in Library Wizardry. I am currently in two classes which allow me to read YA books for homework. This is half yay and half “why are you making me read this god awful book!”, but recently I had an assignment to do a book talk with teens and make recommendations based on a theme.

Obviously, I decided to have my theme include werewolves. I love werewolves, and let’s be honest… I think most people like paranormal and supernatural creatures. They can either follow the Rule Of Cool, be allegories for our own vices, or maybe make us fall in love with them. Yeah, I just linked three TvTropes in a row, I will see you back here in a couple days!

It was suggested to me by Eden over at Blogging Between the Lines to share the brochure I made with other teen librarians. The topic of my brochure and presentation is “Monsters Among Us,” which is primarily supernatural, paranormal, and/or urban fantasy. Of course, there are other genres dipped in, such as humor, but the thing that binds these titles together are the non-human entities that exist within their chapters.

I hope you enjoy! Maybe you will find something great to read in my brochure. Feel free to use it for your own purposes, but please credit me if you are doing anything professional with it!

Link to brochure.



Monsters Among Us



Double Feature Tuesday: The Seraphina Duology

Hello Reader,

I don’t know if Double Feature Tuesday will be a thing, but I will definitely try! For my first Double Feature Tuesday, we will take a look into the Seraphina duology. Shadow Scale just came out today, March 10th, 2015!


To summarize in one sentence: A fantasy about dragons that can assume human form.


The world of Seraphina is a rich and beautiful one, though it is not without its conflicts. Written by Rachel Hartman, these books are heavy lifting for the mind. Every page is filled with details, from the Saints that inspire the humans in the Southlands to the strange devices used by the dragons. Seraphina will dazzle everyone at first as this is the kind of book that gets straight into the point without much explanation. Readers will have to use context clues or use the glossary provided in the back of the book to keep up with the beginning, but I promise it is worth learning the terms. I say this as a person that usually despises  glossaries in fantasy books, which usually turns me off to fantasy books in general.

Ooo, look. The Australian cover for Seraphina.

Ooo, look. The Australian cover for Seraphina.

So let’s dive into the first book in the Seraphina series, which is named… Seraphina! As you may have guessed, Seraphina is the main character in this title. She is an assistant to the court musician Viridius at the young age of 16, music tutor to Princess Glisselda, and was tutored, herself, by Orma. She is quite accomplished, but she does have a secret which causes her to feel some anxiety as a public figure. She is only half human on her father’s side. On her mother’s side, Seraphina is half dragon complete with a band of silver scales around her left forearm and on her back. Her existence is taboo, as the humans and dragons have a tenuous relationship.

A bit of history about the humans and dragons: A very long time ago, the dragons used to hunt in the Southlands. One day, humans started to take over the area that would be known as Goredd, which drastically reduced their hunting areas. This caused war between the humans and the dragons. Forty years before the start of Seraphina, the Ardmagar, leader of the dragons, Comonot and the young Goredd Queen Lavonda struck a peace between the two races. From this agreement came a treaty, which does involve forbiddening dragon and human from coming together. However, in the works of the Saints, basically their Bible, the Saints warn humans against loving dragons or laying with them.

So Seraphina’s existence is taboo for two reasons: it is illegal in the first place and the Saints, themselves, forbid it. To make her life harder, her patroness saint is St. Yirtrudis, labeled the heretic. We do not know why she is labeled as such, but what is clear is that her works are not included in the bible for the humans that worship the Saints.

These details don’t even scratch the surface which is the depth of the world in Seraphina. Reader, if you are into world building and worlds that seem to be alive, this is definitely a read for you!

The central conflict in Seraphina is the death of Prince Rufus, as his head seems to have been bitten off. If true, only a dragon could have done it. This leads to a dilemma and an increase in the tension already present between man and dragon. Clearly killing humans and ripping off their heads is illegal, but doing it to royalty is literally asking for trouble. This murder occurs a couple of weeks before the visit of Ardmagar Comonot, and incites the violence from Sons of St. Ogdo, who are vehemently anti-dragon.

Seraphina, with her unique knowledge of dragons, tries to investigate, in her own way, to figure out who could have murdered the prince. She is soon accompanied by Prince Lucian Kiggs, Kiggs for short, and they work together to solve the case.

And still that isn’t even everything about Seraphina there is to talk about! Still, I highly recommend reading Seraphina. It is a fantasy murder mystery about dragons in its most loose description. Add in mind spaces, politics, the strange way dragons behave, and the relationships between the characters… this book definitely has something for everyone.


Shadow Scale the long, long awaited sequel to Seraphina came out today, March 10th, 2015. Why do I say long awaited? Seraphina came out in 2012 and the ending made it clear that war would happen. I won’t say between who or who is involved, but Seraphina herself would be at the very least. Suffice to say, a lot of people are rejoicing today.


Fans everywhere.

I was lucky enough to earn my e-ARC of Shadow Scale from Netgalley, and I literally only finished Shadow Scale on March 8th. Or 12 AM March 9th if you want to get picky. Shadow Scale, as you may have guessed, is similar to Seraphina in its big scope. While Seraphina did a lot of the world building, Shadow Scale shows us the other human countries in the Southlands. This is incredibly juicy to read, as every country has its own personality, language, and their own versions of the Saints or even separate gods altogether. The novel even has a map at the front of it so you can know where Seraphina is located relative to everything else.

Map of the Southlands


Shadow Scale is around a little over 600 pages, and with the amount of depth in this book even a fast reader will find themselves having to stop to take a breather. The novel is intense in detail, character growth, and the cast of characters also grows. Seraphina visits nearly every landmark you see on the map and it was exhausting to take the journey with her, in a good way.

In this title, Seraphina takes it upon herself to locate the other half-dragons, or Ityasaari as popularized by the Porphyrians, in a hopes to help the war effort. All of the Ityasaari seem to have a special gift, and her’s is her ability to connect with other Ityasaari with her mind. As she travels and locates the other Ityasaari, she has a run in with one which she doesn’t seek. The one named Jannoula. Jannoula was briefly described in the first book, but it wasn’t fully explored. In Shadow Scale, we learn that Jannoula tried to seize control of Seraphina’s mind at one point causing Seraphina to fully close off her mind to Jannoula and others that might try the same.

My favorite part of the book had to be in Porphyry, the city-state that Abdo is from. Abdo is such a fun character, a mischievous little boy, and seeing the culture of his people solidified why he behaved as he did. The Porphyrians are hard to describe. They have 6 or 7 different gender pronouns, and do have a day in their life where they choose their gender. It was really interesting to read about a place like that as I can’t think of any place in the world that is so open. What makes this section especially humorous is Seraphina’s inability to speak their language. She says the funniest things as she tries to communicate with the people.

My recommendation is to definitely try to read Seraphina. While Shadow Scale has an introduction which can fill the ‘What’ of the first book, it doesn’t fill in the world. Seraphina is definitely worth trying. If you love Seraphina, then you absolutely have to read Shadow Scale. It is an expansion of the world we knew from Seraphina, but some how even richer than before. However, there is one section that might cause people to feel upset.

Spoiler-Ish Section for Shadow Scale!!! I won’t reveal anything too sensitive, but it might spoil some things for some readers!

——At the end of Shadow Scale, Seraphina goes back to Goredd and it is here that some readers may have issues. Personally, I didn’t enjoy reading about some characters being powerless, some characters came off off-character, and overall I didn’t enjoy this section of the book very much. While there is a ‘final battle’ sort of situation which occurs, I had to go back and reread certain scenes of it, because I felt very confused and thought ‘Uh, what happened now?’ Finally, there is the absolute ending and Your Mileage May Vary in your love for it. While I think it was a realistic ending, many readers may find it unromantic and might find themselves upset about it. Many themes in Seraphina revolve around secrets, truth, hiding, and being open. The ending seems to choose secrets, lies, and hiding.——

End of Spoiler-Ish Section.

Overall, I would rate this series a 5/5 if I had to give it a rating. It is an imaginative, full world filled with history, politics, and culture. While there are some problems in the very last section of Shadow Scale it doesn’t devalue the work overall and it still makes for good reading.

Hope to hear from people and their opinions on this series!