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.



D has an idea! It involves Five Nights at Freddy’s. (Spoiler Alert: It might make you poop yourself)

Hey everyone,

I don’t usually do this, but I have a great idea for an IRL game based around FNAF. I’ve posted it to my tumblr, link here. I’m going to be lazy and copy paste the rules of it below:

  • This plays like Red Light/Green Light. Either have someone calling out Red Light/Green Light or maybe add a musical chair flair by playing creepy music to denote whichever light. Also you can come up with your own way to do this obviously.
  • Human players can move when the light is Red. Monsters can move when the light is Green. They can’t move when the other is allowed to move.
  • The goal for the human players can be to reach a particular ‘safe’ place or find a hidden item. Really it can be whatever would increase tension and scariness. The goal for the monster players is to kill the human players… in game! This happens when the monster players touch the human players.
  • Everyone should be dressed to be a scary monster, with masks. The human players are maskless and also wear a light colored shirt over whatever their costume is. This can be handled however, but I think this would make a lot of sense.
  • The monsters should probably have to do unique movements to balance the game. Humans should have to walk/crawl/duck/slow movements, and maybe the monsters should have to perform a specific way they touch the player.
  • Strobe lights and fog machines for added effect. Maybe an ambiance track playing to intensify bad vibes.
  • New rule, suggested by a friend: It can have some rules from the party game Golem, where the human players have to find all the pieces of a flashlight hidden around the room then BUILD it. For that, maybe the red light green light should work differently than just 5 turns. 
  • New rule, No running!

Obviously this is played in the dark… Thoughts?

Why does D love Pokemon?


Hello readers,

I have been a PokeFan since the original Red & Blue, and I have played every game (sans Sapphire, Ruby, and Emerald) to completion. It is hard to explain why I am still into the game series. I find myself at an age where my interests are shifting away from single player RPGs to multiplayer competitive games, and a lot of things, like movies, which I enjoyed before as a kid seem to just totally suck now. So why has Pokemon stood the test of time for me? Why do I feel like I need to become the Pokemon Champion in every new region Game Freak has to offer?

There are no easy answers, but I can say that Pokemon has remained the same while still changing some features. Many folks argue that every iteration of Pokemon is the same, and for the most part it is true. The main Pokemon series (not counting Snap!, Mystery Dungeon, and other spin-off game series) has a tried and true formula. They let you pick a starter, then you go on a journey where you have to face gym challenges in a linear sequence. Along the way, an evil Team will stop you every once in a while and sometimes you catch a legendary on your way to the Pokemon League.  Game Freak releases some powerful, pseudo-uber Pokemon, and yet the coolest Pokemon all seem to have the worst stats.


Sometimes, they unseat your favorite Pokemon in terms of uniqueness and power… I will avenge you, Flygon!!!

So why do we continue to flock to this game series? I believe it is because Pokemon gives us something to talk about. While the game is: 1. fun 2. has cute, awesome, and/or badass creatures and 3. has a competitive scene, I think Pokemon is one of those fandoms that is just really easy to be a part of. You don’t even have to be wildly into Pokemon in order to talk about it with another person, so long as you both share a fierce hatred of Zubat. Pokemon also has an incredibly diverse fanbase, and honestly sometimes it can be surprising who is into Pokemon. It isn’t just a nerd thing, but almost entirely its own separate entity from Nerddom. Not only that, but you can share your Pokemon, literally, with others. There are several Pokemon communities, such as Reddit, that are planning on spreading the holiday cheer with Delibirds holding rare candies and other goodies on the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. That is pretty awesome.

"Here's your candy! Good luck hitting 100!"

“Here’s your candy! Good luck hitting 100!”

I guess you could say I really like the community around Pokemon, the humor you can find in Pokemon Memes/WebComics, and how cute/awesome most of the Pokemon are. With X and Y, the community has this wonderful opportunity to be closer than it ever was before. These games are probably as close to a Pokemon MMO we are ever going to get, and honestly the features for Wi-Fi are pretty amazing. The fact that I usually get 2-3 perfect IV Pokemon from Wonder Trade is a testament that most trainers out there are trying to fill up that open, free trading with some interesting Pokemon. Even though I already have my Eevees, including my coveted and rare females with 4-5 perfect IVs, I still love it when I get an Eevee from WT. I usually end up sending them back out, but it is nice to see people contributing to the Greater Good.

So Happy Holidays to my fellow Pokemon Fans! I will post my Friend Code later in case any of you wants a Vullaby.


D’s Top 3 Reasons Why Golurk is AWESOME! (Spoiler Alert: This is about Pokemon X and Y!)


Hello readers,

It comes as no surprise to most of you that Pokemon is one of my favorite games. The games are extremely addicting and the Pokemon are usually either cool, cute, or AWESOME! In the case of Golurk, he is all 3. Golurk was originally introduced in Gen 5 and could only be obtained by capturing a Golett in Dragonspiral Tower. In X and Y, Golett can be found on Route 10 just before Geosenge Town.

A little side story, I have recently restarted my X & Y adventure in order to experience the journey all over again. On my revisit, I decided to use completely different Pokemon and Pokemon I hadn’t used before.  By the time you could catch Golett in Pokemon Black & White, it was late game and I already had my team. I am not the kind of person that switches Pokemon around a lot late game, so I never used our ghost-robot friend. When I ran into Golett during my second play through, I chanced using him on my team despite not really knowing much about him. He ended up being a vital part of my team. I did cheat a little by letting my boyfriend teach him Power-Up Punch and Earthquake near the third gym, but his ability to abuse Power-Up Punch and take hits hasn’t ceased to amaze me!

Now that I have a Golurk, I think I will breed a competitive one in the post-game. Golurk is simply awesome, and I want to share that with everyone! Here are 3 reasons why Golurk is AWESOME!

Number 3: Golurk has a unique typing!

Golurk and his pre-evolution are the only Pokemon to date that have Ghost/Ground dual typing. This typing is unique in that it allows him to neutrally hit most anything that isn’t a dual flying/dark type with STAB moves. This guy here Super Effectives other Ghosts, Psychics, Electric, Fire, Poison, Rock, and Steel Pokemon! Meanwhile, he boasts 3 immunities: Electric, Normal, and Fighting. To top it all off, he super resists Poison and only takes 1/4 damage to Poison moves and regularly resists Rock and Bug moves.

“So what?” you may be asking me. Here’s what: Golurk can tank and kill certain threats out on the field that cannot Super Effective him whatsoever. For example, a lot of people are using Mega Mawile, Mega Kangaskhan, and Mega Gardevoir! Not only does Golurk resist some of their STABs, he can outright tank them wearing an Assault Vest with a proper EV spread. As I was researching Golurk, I found a video of a Golurk eating up a Mega Gengar’s Shadow Ball. First of all, Mega Gengar has a base of 170 Special Attack. Second of all, Mega Gengar users probably go 252 Special Attack EVs unless they are crazy. Golurk being able to take that hit is pretty awesome. Such is the power of Assault Vest.

Now, of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Golurk does have 5 weaknesses. He sadly takes super effective damage from other Ghost, Grass,  Ice, Water, and Dark-type Moves. On the plus side, none of these are x4! Still, Golurk takes super effective damage from some of the most common attacking type moves in the game. You better believe most special sweepers will carry Shadow Ball, Ice Beam, and Scald if its worth learning. Golurk, for those who don’t know, is also one of the heaviest Pokemon in the game! You definitely won’t want to take a Grass Knot if you can avoid it.

I would love to dive into the type match-ups further, but without a reliable damage calculator for 6th gen I can’t really give nice numbers.

Number 2: Golurk has two awesome abilities!

Golurk has 3 total abilities. He can regularly be found with Iron Fist and Klutz, and his dream world ability is No Guard. I don’t think there is a use for Klutz on Golurk so I won’t even talk about it. Iron Fist and No Guard are pretty awesome for Golurk. Iron Fist increases the damage of punching moves by 20%, whereas No Guard means no moves used by and against Golurk can miss. Personally, I favor Iron Fist due to the amount of use you can get out of it in Golurk’s move pool.

In X & Y, Golurk has access to these interesting moves: Shadow Punch, Focus Punch, Hammer Arm, and Power-Up Punch. We don’t currently know his Egg Moves this gen, but last gen he could get: Drain Punch, Fire Punch, Ice Punch, and Thunder Punch. On top of these, Golurk also has access to Stone Edge, Earthquake, and Phantom Force. I don’t like Phantom Force too much myself, and I would opt to use Shadow Punch over it.

Number 1: Gorlurk can learn FLY!

Golurk can fly because reasons. Also, no idea who this artist is... if you know, let me know so I can properly credit!

Golurk can fly because reasons. Credit: Rare Candy Treatment

Bet you didn’t see that one coming! Yes, our lovable giant can learn the HM for Fly. Not only can he pack a powerful punch, but he can learn FLY, proving that he is not like the other lazy members of your party for the main play through.  Golurk is powerful enough that he is ready and willing to sacrifice his last move slot for you.

Is there anything more awesome than riding on a giant robot that loves you? Answer: No.

I hope I have inspired other Pokemon Trainers to give some love to Golurk. He is an awesome Pokemon with special qualities you won’t find on other Pokemon. He’s a ghost/ground robot that likes to punch people while he flies through the sky. He is quickly becoming one of my most favorite Pokemon, and I can’t wait until my competitive Golurk is complete.