COVID struck at the height of tabletop role-playing resurgence Dungeons & Dragons, and although it is not the worse aspect of a global bane, with nerds not allowed to congregate in the local hobby shop and pretend to be elves, it really sucks. Fortunately, with a little know-how, you can make the fantasy come true online. Computers can’t replace the face-to-face joy of D&D, but if you overcome a few technological hurdles, you can come one step closer.
The technical side of getting your paper game online can be a bit daunting (especially if you’re playing with crisp tech-phobes like me) as there isn’t a single app or website that provides everything. which you need to play, so you need to get a little creative. I first set up this guide organized by the simplest solutions from a technological point of view.
Eessentially, there is three aspects of Dungeons & Dragons:
- Rules and dice
- The table top
… and you’ll have to replace each of those things face-to-face with a computer equivalent. (If you’re new to D&D in general, check out the official website new player guide.)
Level one: conference call only
D&D can be played entirely as a mind theater game, so whatever you need to play there are some friends, agreed rules and a way to communicate. Hell, you can play around with Morse code if you want to, but conference calling programs like Zoom, Skype, or Discord will probably work better, and adding webcams helps. to give the face to face feeling.
To play this way, each player has do their own “bookkeeping”, roll dice, keep statistics and look up rules, so everyone will need a separate copy of the Player’s Manual (essentially the basic rules of Dungeons & Dragons), a character sheet and a dice game. From there, just jump into Zoom and tell a story together – a with a lot of math.
Speaking of math: computers are really good at it, so if you play D&D this way you choose not to streamline the most boring (to me) aspect of the game. Another downside to this style of play is that the “tabletop” part is. Tabletop RPG is missing, so groups that are into the tactical and war game aspect of D&D will have a hard time, as will gamers who like documents, props, miniatures, or really anything physical.
Also: if you’re playing with a guy who’s faking things, you won’t be able to see their dice rolls – “Of course, Noah, that was. another natural 20”—So you have to trust your friends.
Level two: D&D Beyond and teleconferencing
It took Dungeons & Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast over 20 years to get it right, but the fifth D&D edition offers a free, fully integrated and easy to use online portal. D&D beyond greatly simplifies and automates the paperwork and mathematics part of Dungeons & Dragons, freeing up players for the fantasy parts and bad accents of the game.
You can use D&D Beyond to create characters, manage campaigns, roll dice, and even create homebrew spells, classes, items, and more. Online character sheets allow you to attack, cast spells, level up, and do pretty much anything you need to do with just a click on your character sheet. It will add all your modifiers and so on, and spit out the numbers you need to keep the story going. Dungeon Masters can create campaigns, invite players to them, and easily share notes and documents.
Perhaps best of all, D&D Beyond lets players share books. As long as a player has a $ 5.99 “Master Tier” account, any official book published on the site can be shared with players in a campaign. This means that only one person needs to buy a rule module or extension, and anyone can use it. In an approach reminiscent of the neighborhood pusher in an anti-drug advertisement from the 1980s, Wizards of the Rating even gives the first taste for free: Basic version of D&D rules available now, for nothing. Go ahead, try it. You will not become addicted to a Game…
Level three: Combining a virtual table, D&D Beyond and teleconferencing
The next level of online D&D adds a virtual table to your game. This allows players to move around a shared map, roll virtual dice that anyone can see, and give the dungeon master a ton of options in the game. the game to spice things up up.
There are a number of apps and websites dedicated to allowing players to all use the same shared space (and millions of pages of geek arguments about which is better and why), but the most commonly used virtual table is Roll20, a free and relatively simple web application To use for gamers, and has everything you need to start your shared fantasy adventure.
Gamers will need to have a basic understanding of how computers work, and it can be a bit tricky at first, so if you’re playing with noobs you should probably start with a game with no expectations to figure out how to make things work. Also: I highly recommend the Beyond20 Chrome extensions that integrate D &D Beyond with Roll20.
Like in the RPG on paper, the Dungeon Master has to do a lot more work in Roll20 than the players – the cost of being God, I guess – so if you’re DM you will have to prepare yourself. Fortunately, there are a ton of in-depth tutorials online that you can study. Start here.
Roll20 lets you use full campaigns from Wizards of the Coast and independent developers, with pre-built maps, documentation, NPC tokens and everything you need to get started, and even offers free one-shots and mini-campaigns. To do it online transition as easy as possible, you should probably start with a pre-made game.
Once you’ve climbed Roll20’s first tech hill with a mod or two included, you can launch your own, import your own maps, meet your own people, and create your ideal fantasy world.
It is possible to use Roll20 to perform an improvised style game, anything can happen on the fly, if you are quick enough. You can even add custom sounds, music and effects, as well as dive into macros and API scripts if you want to get really geeky …and it’s D&D, so you probably want to get really geeky.