Step 0: Learn the Game (at least a little bit)
Step 1: Find a Group To Play With.
Recommended places to look: /r/LFG and StartPlayingGames, or find a group of people in the D&D Newbies Discord server. Most games rely on using voice chat (sometimes also video) and a Virtual Tabletop, although some games are purely text-based.
Step 2: Follow the Instructions of the Dungeon Master. They'll determine which tools you'll use to play with.
For Dungeon Masters
- Set Up a Discord Server.
Set up a server with this RPG Group Server Template. Then, invite Avrae (and your friends!) to this server. The Avrae discord bot allows for dice rolls and SRD content lookup, and integrates with characters and content on D&D Beyond.
- Become Familiar With a Virtual Tabletop.
- Choose Your Character Sheets.
Either use the built-in sheets from your chosen Virtual Tabletop, or create a campaign in D&D Beyond and invite your players to make characters within it.
- Have Some Tools & Resources.
- Access Online System Reference.
- Prepare a Session Zero
Understand how your chosen digital Character Sheets work, so you can help your players make their characters for your campaign.
Determine rules for the group. Here's a sample document with expectations.
Determine the setting and the party's initial starting location.
Determine starting level.
Plan a date and time to meet up with your players on Discord for the session.
Resources for Finding Groups
Lots of Discord Chat Servers host games, or allow DMs to advertise open player slots for their games.
Game-Finding Applications and Services
The original founder of D&D Beyond is a co-founder of Demiplane
Includes voice and video chat
Paid dungeon masters providing high-quality sessions
Partners with large conventions for playtesting and organized play
Beginner-friendly, and welcoming to children
Subsidiary of How to Be a Great Game Master
Search for in-person and virtual games
Mobile app built on the premise of being "Tinder for D&D"
Still in development - expected release Fall 2021
A platform for creators to post quick jobs and commissions works well for this.
Ways to Play D&D Online
A. Virtual Tabletop (VTT)
There are many choices for running your games online. Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, and FoundryVTT are popular, but Owlbear Rodeo or TablePlop may be worth a look for you and your group if you're looking for something a little more lightweight and/or mobile-friendly.
B. Video Conferencing
C. Play-By-Post (PBP)
Many games are run purely through text chat, primarily without the use of a Virtual Tabletop. This was a common method of roleplaying before voice and video chat was available online, and persists today for those who don't have easy access to those, or have social anxieties regarding their voice or looks. There are two main methods that PBP games are run:
Live Text Sessions
Players meet at a scheduled time to have their session of D&D, but there is no voice or video chat - only text.
Players communicate over forums at whatever pace they feel is appropriate.
Discord is the flavor of choice for the current generation of players, and there are entire Discord servers dedicated to hosting PBP games for groups, for example the You Meet In a Tavern PBP server. The D&D World server is a massive Discord server that hosts text-based sessions in a West Marches-style "living world".
Allows you to save character sheet data and even make rolls from the sheet on the page
Links up with Avrae, a Discord bot that allows you to make rolls using simple commands in chat
Has a handy mobile companion app
Browser extension that allows you to link your D&D Beyond character sheet to Roll20, FoundryVTT, Astral Tabletop, and Discord to D&D Beyond character data