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Learn to Play

This page is a work in progress, meant to teach you the 5th Edition game system. We recommend you read this first before going anywhere else on the site.

To see an index of game rules and character options, see the Players Hub. To learn how to make a character, see Character Creation.

Elkan 5e is a free and revised version of the 5th edition rules for the world’s most famous tabletop roleplaying game. In most parts of the internet, this game is simply called 5e. We encourage you to do a search and get a glimpse of the community as you try to get into the game.

You probably already have an idea of what this game looks like: a group of friends sitting around a table, rolling oddly shaped dice, and pretending to be fantastical characters. Unfortunately, most people have no idea how to try this game for themselves, even if they think it looks fun. Here, we give you everything you need.

                A tabletop roleplaying game is one where a group of players sit around a table (or sit in a virtual chatroom) and roleplay while following some basic rules. While in some ways Elkan 5e is like an improv class, there are some major differences. In 5e, one of the players is the Game Master. The Game Master describes the setting, the situation, and has a story in mind for the other players to interact with. Every other player at the table controls a single character, called a Player Character.

The Game Master will describe a situation.

“You sit in a dirty prison cell. There is a window with bars, a toilet, and a bed. You have been thrown in prison for a murder you did not commit, and the guards plan to execute you at dawn. What do you do?”

At this point, you, the player, step into the role of your character. You have a character sheet which describes your character’s abilities, but you also have the power to do anything you can think of, within the bounds of reason. Perhaps you might decide to respond,

“I have a spell that lets me talk to animals. Can I see any rats or other animals in my cell?”

Now, your Game Master will respond. Your GM will probably have to make up the answer, and improvisation is a core part of playing this game.

“There are no rats here, but there is a lizard.”

“I use my Speak with Animals spell and ask the lizard if it knows a way out.”

“The lizard is hesitant to tell you anything. Roll me a persuasion check to see if you can convince the lizard to talk.”

Tabletop Roleplaying games often make use of dice to determine outcomes. In most cases, you roll a 20-sided die (referred to as a d20), add a bonus from your character sheet, and then tell your GM the total. Your GM will have a target number, called a difficulty class (DC). If your total was equal to or higher than the DC, you succeed.

In this case, you roll a d20, look on your character sheet to find your persuasion bonus, and then tell your GM what you rolled. Your GM might know what the DC is for this task, or they might need to make one up on the spot.

“I rolled a 13, plus 4 from my persuasion bonus, so I got 17.”

“This is an easy persuasion check, so I’ll say the DC was 10. You succeed, and the lizard tells you the guard with the key is an angry man who sometimes goes in the cells to fight unruly prisoners.”


Different characters have different bonuses to different things, depending on their strengths and weaknesses. Most 5e games have one GM and 4-6 players, though the game can be played with as few as 1 player or as many players as your group can tolerate. Unlike some other games, 5e is a team game. Your characters work together to solve problems and progress through a story together, so it’s okay if your character can’t escape from prison. Your friends and their characters will help. Not only are you working with the other players, but you also work with the Game Master. The Game Master is not your enemy. They present challenges for your characters to overcome and together you tell a story. You might defeat a terrible villain, or your character might fall into a dragon’s underground lair and be eaten. Either way, you have succeeded at telling a story together.

Some 5e games are played as a one-shot, where you sit down on a given day, tell a story together, and the story ends. However, some stories play out over multiple game sessions. These longer stories are called campaigns, and might involve a weekly game night for months or even years. In a campaign, your characters grow more skilled and powerful as the game goes on. Your character might begin the story as a young farmer and end as a world-famous hero. Most 5e game content is written for groups to embark on these campaigns together.

Different game tables will look very different from each other. Even if two groups run the same player characters and embark on the same story, player choice and the rolls of the dice will ensure that every experience is different. Your GM also has a huge impact on the game you play.

 5e is a complicated game, and it can sometimes be unclear how to adjudicate the rules. Sometimes the GM will have to improvise the rules to accommodate what you choose to do. In a game where you can try to do anything, your GM will likely have to make up quite a lot. You can always offer your opinion about how you think the game should run, but your GM has the final say, even if your GM is telling you they want to disregard one of the game’s rules and do something else.

“I want to convince the lizard to be my best friend.”

“Hmm. The lizard already likes you, so you don’t need to roll anything. You have a lizard friend now.”

As the Player, you:

  • Create a character to serve as one of the protagonists of your group’s story

  • Respond to your GM’s world and story, choosing how your character reacts and what actions your character takes

  • Use your character’s abilities to help the group succeed

The Game Master:

  • Builds or facilitates a story for you to embark on

  • Narrates the world and challenges you encounter

  • Controls all characters other than the protagonists, including hostile monsters and villains

  • Adjudicates, changes, and makes up rules to fit the story and your group

When you are done here, you can head over to Character Creation for an in-depth tutorial on making a character for yourself.

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