Learning to play Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition really requires no upfront investment. One could be easily get by with the free Basic Rules PDF and all the content one can find online. That being said, if you want to fully understand D&D and want to make the most out of your character creation while also understanding the essential gameplay rules of DnD 5e, your first buy should be the Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition Player’s Handbook.
What is the Player’s Handbook in D&D?
Out of all the Dungeons & Dragons books, the Player’s Handbook is the most sold and essential of them all. It’s a compendium that compiles the rules to play Dungeons & Dragons and it’s extensive on its section on character creation. That section makes it relevant for players who are not considering being the Dungeon Master of their games.
The D&D Player’s Handbook is so important that, when someone says something on the lines of “I just got the DnD book”, they probably refer to this one, despite being dozens of other books. After all, it is definitely the best present for someone who plans on learning to role play by joining a Dungeons & Dragons game.
What’s in the DnD Player’s Handbook?
The Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition Player’s Handbook is divided in three parts (with eleven chapters) and five appendixes. It has a total 320 pages with tons of illustrations, tables and a certain degree of storytelling. To get an idea of what you can find there, let’s look at this simplified version of the Player’s Handbook index:
- Part 1 (Chapters 1-6)
- Step-by-step characters
- Personality and Background
- Customization Options
- Part 2 (Chapters 7-9)
- Using Ability Scores
- Part 3 (Chapters 10 and 11)
- A. Conditions
- B. Gods of the Multiverse
- C. The Planes of Existence
- D. Creature Statistics
- E. Inspirational Reading
- Character Sheet
Do You Need the Player’s Handbook to Play Dungeons and Dragons?
This could easily be one of the most popular questions related to Dungeons & Dragons ever. Do you need a copy of the Player’s Handbook to play a game of DnD?
No, there is no need to get a copy of this book, particularly if your Dungeon Master already has theirs. That being said, I would still recommend you to get your own copy of the 5e Player’s Handbook as soon as you start getting more and more into role playing and see it become a part of your leisure life.
Why? First, it will help you understand the lore of Dungeons & Dragons and see way more possibilities than the ones that may have been put in front of you by your DM and character.
If you have one before you start a new game or campaign it will surely help you have educated ideas regarding the class, race, feats and spells you want to try next.
And it will be the best reference when you and your friends get stuck in a situation. The essence of the rules is compiled there, and the most popular classes, spells, races and others too.
If there is something you don’t remember exactly, like the range of a spell, a quick look at the Player’s Handbook will solve that doubt in an instant.
How can I Create a Dungeons & Dragons Character?
As you can tell from the reduced version of the index of the D&D Fifth Edition Player’s Handbook above, the whole Part I of the book and several of the appendixes are exclusively dedicated to character creation.
If you want to create your own Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition character, you just need to refer to the Player’s Handbook and follow it through, picking as you go the race, class, background or spells of your choice.
Yes, there are more options for character creation than the ones found in the Player’s Handbook. If you want your character to be a cool Aasimar, you will need to check Volo’s Guide to Monsters. The same goes for Goblins, Firbolg or Tabaxi, amongst others. The Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica incorporates races from the Magic the Gathering universe like Loxodon, Minotaur or Vedalken.
If you want to have a character of the Articifer class, you would need to use the Eberron: Rising from the Last War book too.
But, in general, there are plenty of options (more than anywhere else) in the Player’s Handbook to get you started in the world of characters in Dungeons and Dragons. There could be years before you and your friends exhaust all the possibilities there.
Can You Run a D&D Game With the Player’s Handbook Alone?
When trying to answer the question of whether you can run a Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition game without using any resource other than the Player’s Handbook, there is something to keep in mind. D&D is a very flexible game, a game based completely in imagination and a game where rules are only there to enhance the fun for all parties playing it.
First, one could use the DnD Basic Rules PDF and, at no extra cost, run a game with their friends. Therefore, having the Player’s Handbook could also be enough to start learning to role play Dungeons and Dragons.
The Player’s Handbook not only contains the relevant sections for character creation, but also the essential rules to play the game. It goes into detail on topics like combat, magic, travel, use of objects, etc. Reading it and having it as a reference will improve incredibly your role playing skills and enhance your experience.
That being said, once you feel you need a bit more out of your games, and particularly if you are the Game Master, the one in charge of running the adventures and challenging the party of heroes your friends and family have become, it probably will be time to combine your Player’s Handbook with the other two members of the triad that makes the core of Dungeons and Dragons 5e books: the Dungeon Master Guide and the Monster Manual.
You will see how those two books will take everything to a new stage, where the enemies your friends face are incredibly more diverse and the situations you can put them through more entertaining and challenging.
Is the Player’s Handbook Necessary for a Dungeon Master?
The question of whether the Player’s Handbook is necessary for a Dungeon Master complements the previous one (whether it’s enough on its own). My personal opinion is that yes, a Dungeon Master should always have the Player’s Handbook.
The main reason for this is that all the rules that are discussed in the Player’s Handbook are not replicated in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, the main resource for DnD 5e Game Masters. The Dungeon Master’s Guide’s main focus is to teach you how to create worlds and adventures, how to balance them and how to run the game. It doesn’t talk more about the core rules discussed in the Player’s Handbook.
On top of that, being the Dungeon Master means that sooner rather than later, you will possibly be the most experienced of the players in the table, when you find new people to play with and share the amazing world of role playing with them. Once this happens, while your players are still learning to role play, it’s great if you are in possession of these books, since they are quite expensive, so they can reference them, create their characters and learn about the game until they get so hooked they purchase their own copies (we all have been there, haven’t we).