How to Play D&D Online

With the popularity of Dungeons and Dragons on the rise, a lot of people have been looking to join a group and get into a game. While it is a great activity to play with your friends, not everyone has the luxury to meet up in person to play. Or perhaps, there isn’t anyone around you that is interested in Dungeons and Dragons. Luckily, there are plenty of online resources that lend themselves to playing D&D online.

If you are just starting out playing D&D online, don’t worry about buying all the books, dice, and accessories. There are plenty of free online resources and you can fully play the game without spending a penny. There are free character sheets, game guides, campaigns, and online dice programs. Do not feel pressured to buy until it is because you want to. There are many fun accessories that can add to your game-play but these can be incorporated at a later stage.

Knight Computer Game

Talk about immersion… | Image from Tumblr

Why Play D&D Online?

Technology has opened up new options when it comes to playing role-playing games. It is sometimes easier to create a virtual board to play on rather than create a physical board to play on. Or perhaps you want to play with your friends but you live far away from each other. Maybe you don’t have a group so you join one online. I joined a quick role-playing game online and connected with strangers from Germany, California, and Tennessee. It was a great time and allowed me to be someone else without any fear of judgement. There are many groups popping up everyday looking for players, different types of games and not just Dungeons and Dragons. Whatever the reason is, there is an online community that welcomes and provides resources to anyone seeking them out.

Options to Play D&D Online

There are a multitude of ways to play D&D online including both free and paid options. Each has their own pros and cons which we will cover here. Note that they also have different learning curves for aspiring online DMs so it is worth spending time familiarising yourself with your software of choice before diving headfirst into an online game.

Roll 20

Roll 20

Roll20 is a popular website that people use to host different role-playing games. It supports many different types of games, has many different resources, and a wide variety of different tools to build and support a great campaign

Features

  • Hundreds of different RPG games to look through
  • Search engine with different filters to find games to join
  • Video and voice chat supported
  • Share images and music
  • Virtual tabletop set up
  • Different of options for joining games
  • Pay to play games

Benefits

  • Free for anyone to use
  • Tutorials on how to use the website and many of its features
  • Easy campaign set up
  • Has in game options to set up character sheets and handouts
  • Access on Android and iOS
  • Roll dice in the chat

Downsides

  • Campaigns and books cost money but not necessary to play
  • Set up can be complicated
  • Advertisements to free accounts

Fantasy Grounds

Fantasy Grounds

Fantasy Grounds is an application you can download created by Wizards of the Coast. Its specially made to host different role-playing games. You can build maps, role dice, automate different actions, and play with other people.

Features

  • This is a hybrid application where you can create and play your own games
  • Featuring different dice, spell lists, and rules
  • Supports many different role-playing games
  • Available on Steam or on Fantasy Grounds website

Benefits

  • Supports homebrew creations
  • Very organized and clean
  • Automation keeps the game moving
  • Roll virtual dice in the game

Downsides

  • Can be expensive at around $40 per person
  • Takes time to learn
  • Not fully supported by Mac
  • Not for casual players
  • Paywalls for some items and spells

3D Virtual Tabletop

3D Virtual Tabletop is a phone app that is free to download. You can design maps and move pieces to simulate a fight.

Features

  • Simple and intuitive virtual tabletop
  • Can use to stream scenarios

Benefits

  • Free to download
  • Add own maps
  • Pre-made tokens

Downside

  • In-app purchases
  • Older app
  • Only a virtual tabletop, can’t voice chat or play on the app

Video / Voice Conferencing

D&D video conference

Set up an online chat and speak to other using video or voice chat.

Features

  • Many options such as Skype, Discord, Zoom, and more
  • Can do video, voice only, and chat
  • Send images, files, and links
  • Screenshare images and maps

Benefits

  • There is no structure
  • No paywalls
  • Can use with any online resources
  • Don’t need to video chat, voice only works just as well

Downsides

  • No resources to directly support role-playing games

 

While perhaps just one of these options may not be perfect for you, you can use any combination of them or find more online resources that can be used in conjunction with each other. There are simple maps, grids, icons, rules, and character sheets easily found online that can be used in your game. As Dungeons and Dragons is all about the imagination, you don’t need anything physical to play the game, it can all be done in the theatre of the mind.

New Challenges, New Solutions

While there are many advantages to playing D&D online, there can be some challenges unique to the use of technology to play the game.

Often, when more than one person speaks at once during a voice chat, it becomes difficult to discern words or hear each other. A strategy that D&D guru Lili Sparx has taught me is that while a DM describes a scene, players can send an icon or a mark in the text chat to indicate that they want to do something or say something. This helps keep everyone from overlapping when speaking.

Respect the game! It is easy to get distracted by something else when you are chatting online. Keep the same common curtsies that you would apply when meeting up in person. DM’s may be working very hard on their campaign or your fellow players may be performing an action, try to pay attention to the game.

A key part of running a successful campaign is not making the right moves or getting lucky with dice rolls, rather everyone actively participating in the game and encouraging each other.

It may become overwhelming to play online. You end up having a ton of tabs open, can’t remember which one is your character sheet, trying to find the handbook on another one, countless spells and weapon statistics, it can feel like a lot of work.

For me, having some physical items helps me not get overwhelmed. I print out my character sheet because its easier for me to write everything down quickly and transcribe on the computer later. I put post it notes on my screen, under everyone window, that has their character name and role on it. And my favorite, I like to roll physical dice. There is a satisfaction to rolling dice in person. While it’s all based on luck, the good rolls feel like something I contributed to.

Most importantly, just like there isn’t a “best” way to play Dungeons and Dragons, there isn’t a “best” way to play D&D online. Try different methods and find the one that works best for you and your party. Try different combinations if some parts work for you in one area but some parts are lacking.

D&D may be almost 50 years old but with the aid of modern technology it can still be enjoyed by new generations now and well into the future. The world is connected more now than ever so people all over the globe can sit together at the same virtual table, roll dice and have the adventure of their lives.

Want to learn more about D&D? Visit the Library to access our in-depth guides and discussion pieces, giving you the information needed to enhance your gaming experience.