So You Enjoyed Honor Among Thieves: Here's The Next Step If You Want To Play Dungeons & Dragons

Admit it: you've always been a little curious about "Dungeons & Dragons," haven't you? Maybe you heard someone talking about the game at work. Or maybe you have a cousin who spoke about their home campaigns at the last family gathering. But with the release of "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves," suddenly you're seeing tabletop roleplaying games everywhere you look. It feels like a sign from on high — or, at the very least, a blossoming hyperfixation.

But that hyperfixation comes with a lot of questions. For example, how do you learn more about roleplaying games? Are there games other than "Dungeons & Dragons" you should try? And even if you know what you want to play, how do you find a group to join? Thankfully, as someone who started playing roleplaying games at the tender age of 35, I have some pretty strong opinions on how to make the leap. So let's break this down into a couple of simple steps anyone can follow.

Learn about RPGs from actual plays

As an adaptation, "Dungeons & Dragons" does a beautiful job of capturing the emotional stakes of a tabletop campaign. But what will that experience look like when you sit down with a small group of friends and a bucket of dice? Most RPGs combine collaborative storytelling with chance-based outcomes; like any game, there's a learning curve, and while there are always those who can read a rulebook and get the gist in no time, the best way to learn how to play a tabletop game is to learn from people already doing it.

That's where actual plays come in. Actual plays are videos, podcasts, or streams of people playing games, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Famous examples include Critical Role, Worlds Beyond Number, and Dimension 20 – the Hollywood blockbusters of the actual play world — but actual plays can be found for every game and at every production level. Most importantly, these shows will better understand the experience of sitting down and playing the game. You will learn about the interactions between the DM and the players, understand the balance between spontaneity and mechanics, and appreciate that there is no wrong way to roleplay.

This last piece is essential. Because roleplaying games encourage at least a bit of improvisation and personalization from players, many successful actual plays feature trained comedians or voice actors. Don't let that intimidate you. Each game naturally takes on the personality of its players, and just because you and your friends aren't graduates of the Groundlings or Upright Citizens Brigade doesn't mean you won't create a fun and immersive experience at the table.

Find the RPG that's right for you

When it comes to tabletop games, "Dungeons & Dragons" is in a league of its own. There's a reason each of the actual plays mentioned above operates within Wizard of the Coast's system: for many people, tabletop roleplaying games are synonymous with "Dungeons & Dragons." But just because it's the biggest doesn't mean it's the best. With the rising popularity of roleplaying games has come hundreds of talented indie designers, and you may find that the rules system that makes the most sense to you isn't the one that everyone else loves.

For example, let's say you're more into hard sci-fi than fantasy. The obvious starting point would be the "ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game," Free League's licensed adaptation of the "Alien" cinematic universe. This is my favorite tabletop system and the one I currently run in my home game with friends. But there are plenty of other games inspired by Ridley Scott and James Cameron's films that may be more to your liking. You may prefer "Mothership," Sean McCoy's rules-lite take on sci-fi horror that gives you a different twist on space marines, or pick up a copy of Free League's "Death in Space" and add a little cosmic horror to your table.

And once you know the type of game you want to play, you can find something that matches your level of complexity. Do you want to fight monsters or romance strangers at court? Would you enjoy hours of character creation? Or would you rather roll on an attributes table and build your characters in minutes? You might prefer a robust action economy with lots of combat or a system focused on storytelling and dialogue. Use a site like DriveThruRPG – and the occasional Reddit search — to read rules, compare games, and find something that speaks to you.

Find a group of people to play with

You know the game you want to play, and you've spent some time familiarizing yourself with the system. The next step is to find your group. Obviously, the best-case scenario is to sit down with a group of friends or family members, but finding enough people to fill a table — not to mention someone willing to take on the role of Dungeon Master — can be tricky. Thankfully, as someone who has joined both paid campaigns and home games with strangers, I am here to tell you that plenty of good options are available no matter where you live.

If you're interested in "Dungeons & Dragons," the best option will be to check out the events schedule at your local board game shop. Many shops will offer a night dedicated to RPGs, and finding a group can be as simple as showing up and asking if anyone is looking for an extra player. Many public libraries also offer "Dungeons & Dragons" sessions for teens and young adults hosted by experienced players within the community. If you're willing to brave social media — such as Facebook groups or NextDoor posts — you may also find people in your area recruiting for players in their home games.

Of course, if you have a little disposable income, you might also explore a campaign run by a professional DM. StartPlaying is a wonderful resource that allows you to search for a virtual game based on system and price point. A quick search for campaigns in the Fifth Edition of "Dungeons & Dragons" — the most current version of the game — reveals dozens and dozens of campaigns ranging in cost from $5 to $40. And while professional campaigns can be pricey, they offer a level of commitment in terms of time and preparedness that your home games may not always provide (I swear by my once-and-future StartPlaying DM, Dan Muñoz).

Remember: don't be afraid to try

Once you get the itch to try your hand at RPGs, it can be hard to shake. But whether you are returning to games like "Dungeons & Dragons" or are just inspired by the new film, you could not be picking up the hobby at a better time. There have never been more tools to play roleplaying games both in-person and virtually, and while any fandom is prone to a little bit of gatekeeping, most people you meet will only want to encourage your interest in RPGs. Picking up a game like "Dungeons & Dragons" doesn't require you to have a ton of disposable income or a large group of like-minded friends. If you're willing to step outside your comfort zone and make some new friends, you'll be part of your own adventure before you know it.