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How To Start A Campaign In D&D 5E? [Step-By-Step Guide]

How To Start A Campaign
  Written By: Ashish Arya
Updated On: 11/07/2023
Est. Reading: 7 minutes

Have you ever fancied creating a whole new world and shaping its destiny? Well, through Dungeons and Dragons, you can do just that.

Let’s understand how to start a campaign in D&D 5E. You might think it’s a daunting task, but with the right guidance and resources, it can turn out to be one of the most rewarding experiences.

DnD or Dungeons and Dragons is an expansive world in itself, offering endless possibilities. As the Dungeon Master (DM), you are the creator of your world, directing its narrative and unfolding its teachings.

Starting your campaign involves creating characters, building the plot storyline, and throwing in a couple of surprise battles to keep your players on their toes.

So, are you ready to embark on this thrilling journey? Here is how you can kick-start your campaign.

Preparing for Your D&D 5E Campaign

Embarking on a D&D 5E campaign starts with the crucial stage of preparation. It’s like laying the foundation stone for a building; once you get it right, each subsequent step falls into place seamlessly.

Preparing for Your D&D 5E Campaign

This stage involves gathering essential components and deciding on the players and themes for your campaign.

Assemblage of Required Elements

Before you start brewing your adventure, ensure that you have collected all the necessary ingredients.

Start by gathering the critically important core rulebooks: The Player’s Handbook (PHB), Dungeon Master’s Guide (DMG), and Monster Manual (MM).

Each of these treasuries offers guidance through your journey.

The Player’s Handbook introduces you to the game mechanics and character creation, while the DMG guides you in crafting engaging narratives and designing captivating encounters.

Pull out some villains from the Monster Manual, which is brimming with adversaries of all shapes and sizes.

Establishing the Player Group

Assembling your player group is akin to casting characters for a theater play- each player must lend uniqueness yet vibrancy to their roles.

Decide how many players will join your game- three to five players is ideal for maintaining dynamic interaction while ensuring everyone gets their spotlight.

Then comes character selection. Each player should create their character by following guidelines in the Player’s Handbook or use pre-made character sheets if they’re beginners.

Remember to communicate openly about expectations around playstyle – serious or silly? Heroic fantasy or dark horror? This conversation can influence all elements of your campaign.

Next, assign roles, but make sure there’s variety: some players may prefer fierce frontline combatants, while others love playing the tactical spellcasters or dependable healers.

Diversity in roles stirs excitement in the gameplay and keeps it thrilling for everyone involved.

Also Read: How To Play Dungeons And Dragons For Beginners? [Step-By-Step Guide]

How To Start A Campaign In D&D 5E?

Venturing into the world of Dungeons & Dragons, especially if you are a newbie, Dungeon Master, can feel a bit intimidating. However, with the right plan and a bit of creativity, it is definitely manageable.

How To Start A Campaign In DD 5E 2

When starting a campaign in D&D 5E, it’s essential to have your characters drawn up and ready for action. There are several intriguing ways that you can set off your campaign:

The Chosen

Imagine your characters being recognized as the destined heroes by an all-powerful entity in the realm. Such beings include deities, ancient dragons, or even long-dormant spirits from lost civilizations.

This offers an instant bond between party members – they’re thrown together by fate (or divine intervention) and chosen to accomplish great deeds.

It will not only give your characters a collective purpose but also place them in unique scenarios where their decisions will directly impact the future of the fantasy world.

A Long Time Ago

Plunge your players directly into a significant past event that shapes their current situation – this could be an epic battle, or unfolding of an ancient prophecy.

Using this approach essentially allows you to tell two stories at once – the past event itself and its aftermath impacting the present day.

As they make choices and interact with people impacted by these events, players deepen their understanding of their roles within this enriched world.

Friendly Competition

Beginnings don’t always have to be serious – one way to start your D&D 5E campaign can certainly be friendly competitions among characters: jousting tournaments, magic duels, or even riddle contests in honor of some local festival where your team has met for the first time.

Such contests can work particularly well when you want to start on a lighter note and allow each character to show off their skills and uniqueness early on.

Seeking Favor

In an intriguing twist, your characters could be handpicked or seek approval from prominent figures in the realm. Picture them being hired by a king, a wealthy merchant, or an influential guildmaster to accomplish tasks that are challenging yet rewarding.

This not only provides them with a straightforward goal but can also introduce some powerful allies (or enemies) into the narrative early on.

Catastrophe Strikes

There’s nothing quite like sharing adrenaline-filled moments to bond a group together. As the campaign starts, make a catastrophe strike – perhaps a city is under attack by monstrous creatures, or a dark force has cast a spell on the whole kingdom.

This immediate need for action results in quick decision-making and reveals the characters’ true natures.

Help Wanted

Starting your campaign with the cliché Help Wanted sign at the local tavern isn’t as boring as it sounds. In fact, it grounds your adventurers into reality and provides them with their first quest.

Whether it’s rescuing someone abducted by evil forces or recovering valuable stolen properties, by seeking rewards and slowly gaining repute, they establish themselves within your fantasy world.

Political Meltdown

There’s simmering tension in the kingdom; factions vie for power while others seek peace. Incorporating politics into your campaign would mean you start with intrigue and duplicitous alliance hooks that will surely keep your players interested.

Rousing speeches, assassination attempts, you name it, this political unrest scenario possesses the potential for dramatic scenes that will pull players deep into your realm.

The Tavern

Many successful D&D adventures have begun in a humble tavern. It’s a neutral territory where characters from diverse backgrounds naturally converge.

Perhaps they are summoned by a mysterious stranger who has an urgent quest for them, or maybe they stumble upon a cryptic map etched on the back of a coaster.

The warm fire coupled with the energetic behavior of the local bard, ensures everyone loosens up and starts bonding. Many daring tales and heroic ballads start from such simple beginnings.

Party Of Prisoners

You could throw your players into an immediate problem – starting as prisoners. Perhaps they have been falsely accused, or maybe they are paying dues for past misdeeds.

This situation forces them to share a common goal – escape. As they navigate secret passages, outsmart guards, or plot an old-fashioned jailbreak, you’ll witness true camaraderie unfold.

Ambushed While Traveling

Travel is a cornerstone of any campaign, and there’s hardly an easier scenario to set up than an ambush on the road! This action-packed beginning will put your characters instantly in danger while serving as their introduction to each other.

Whether it’s stopping bandits or eluding wild beasts, surviving such encounters together will bond them into a resilient team.

In Dreams

Starting your campaign in a dream can be fascinating! All characters could have mysterious dreams where they see each other engaged in some epic battle or discovery.

These shared visions would intrigue them and kindle their desire to seek out others who appear in their dreams.

These same dreams could also be pieces of an unseen thread guiding their destiny or warnings of things yet to transpire.

Student Becomes Teacher

It’s a common sight in fantasy realms for characters to start as apprentices or protégés of more experienced counterparts.

But what if they discover that their mentors, whom they have been looking up to, aren’t what they seem? Perhaps they possess a dark secret or are consistently misleading their students towards ominous paths.

This would bring out an interesting twist early in the campaign and make for an engaging plot device as players share the sense of betrayal and resolve to put the wrongs right.

Doomsday Cometh

Immerse your players into a world where an unusual source discloses a prophecy of impending doom, such as ancient hieroglyphs, prophesying cryptic signs, or even whispers from the spirit realm.

It sets out a clear objective for your characters. They are fighting against time targets and must take action to prevent upcoming destruction.

Unraveling the mystery of these prophecies can drive them through countless adventures filled with cliffhangers, making each gameplay session truly remarkable.

Pilfered And Plundered

An exciting and intriguing start could be your players either being accused of theft or chasing after someone who stole something from them. A theft can be more than just physical objects – ideas, identities, crucial spells – the possibilities are endless.

The pursuit is thrilling and could lead them across mountains, into forbidden forests, or down into dank dungeons, making your world immersive.

Get Out Of Dodge

Start right in the middle of the action – maybe your characters are running from an ambushing threat or chasing after evil entities threatening their homeland.

Quick thinking combined with instant action decisions would create the right amount of tension to get your players hooked from the get-go while introducing them to the scope (and peril) of the world you’ve created for them.

Also Read: Harengon 5E Race [Experience DnD As A Nimble Rabbit Folk]

FAQs about ‘How To Start A Campaign In D&D 5E?’

I’m a beginner DM; how can I start running my first D&D 5E campaign?

Starting your campaign begins with having a clear idea of your narrative, setting up your world’s scenario, choosing characters, and outlining key events.

How extensive should my world-building be when starting a D&D 5E campaign?

It should be detailed enough for your players to immerse themselves in the gameplay, but expect to adapt and develop it as adventurous curves present themselves.

As a DM, what is my role in shaping a D&D 5E Campaign?

As a DM, you wear many hats – you’re a narrator, a referee, and even an actor delving into role-play for non-player characters.

Can real-world events influence the starting point of my D&D 5E campaign?

Absolutely, Real-world events can provide great inspiration for scenarios setting up the tone for your campaign.

How significant are player characters’ backgrounds when starting a new D&D campaign?

Player character backgrounds are vital in shaping their motivations and responses to situations within the game.


  • Ashish Arya

    I'm a tech enthusiast and lifelong gamer, hailing from the beautiful city of Chandigarh. My passions range from immersing myself in worlds like GTA V, COD, SIMS, Roblox and Minecraft to exploring the latest innovations in laptops and technology. Armed with a Bachelors Degree in Computer Application, I love sharing my insights through writing and engaging with fellow enthusiasts. Join me on my journey through the ever-evolving realms of gaming and tech!