Tools for Playing DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Online Part 1
Let’s say you want to play Dungeons & Dragons, but none of your local friends want to play. However, your best friends who live across the country are wanting to try this classic tabletop RPG with you. How can this work? It’s not like you each hop on a game console and play via Xbox Live or PSN. Well, there’s a wonderful thing called the internet and it is full of tools to help you play D&D, or almost any RPG really, with your friends online.
There are to sets of tools I want to talk about. Tools that are only useful playing online and tools that are great online or offline. I’m going to talk about the online only tools here, so be on the lookout for a follow-up where I talk about the other tools that I use as a player and DM for online groups.
I know that there are many other tools out there and more are in the works, but these are the ones that I’ve used or heard of the most. What do you use to play with your online friends?
Roll20 is a little controversial. There are plenty of reports that indicate they’re not the best when it comes to customer service, and they recently had a security breach. Thankfully, they don’t tend to hold on to too much of their user’s information. Also, the biggest bonus about using Roll20 is that it can be used for free. You do have some limitations, but I’ve been able to be a player and DM using Roll20 with only minor inconveniences. Roll20 has character sheets for a myriad of RPG systems that you can fill out and if you purchase the digital copies of the D&D books, there’s a character sheet that will do a lot of the work for you.
When you use Roll20, it also acts as a video and audio interface with your groupmates so that everything happens in one window. This can be extremely helpful. The only catch is that said video and audio can be pretty spotty. That’s why I would recommend pairing it with a service like Discord for your sound needs.
The highlight of using Roll20 in my opinion is that it is perfect for using battle maps, general maps, or even secret information. You can have a picture of a symbol saved and ready and then only share it with the one player who rolled a high perception check. It’s very convenient for online groups.
I will admit that I have not tried Fantasy Grounds, but I have heard about them. They do have a free option, although it seems to be pretty worthless unless you are friends with someone who has an Ultimate subscription. That means you’ll be shelling out some money for this one, but it seems to have a lot going for it. Check out this video to learn more:
Discord and Skype are the simplest methods, but they work. You won’t have a space to create your characters within the service, nor will you have access to tokens and battle maps. However, the most important aspect of an RPG is that the DMs and players can see and hear each other. Everything else can be done with pen, paper, physical dice or random number generators, and maybe holding some maps up to a camera. It may not be ideal, but it can definitely help people scared of not understanding one of these other services (because they can be complicated) to still get out there and try the game.