The best ways to play Dungeons and Dragons when you can’t see your friends

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Okay, let’s get one thing straight before we dive into this. Dungeons and Dragons is cool now. While many will probably recognise the game from it’s portrayal as something overtly nerdy and lame in mainstream American high school movies, we’re here to tell you that’s changed. D&D, as it’s often referred to by players, has exploded in recent years with podcasts and TV series like Critical Role, The Adventure Zone, Community and Harmon Quest popularising the table-top role-playing game. Honestly, there’s nothing quite like it. Sitting together with a group of friends and embarking on an epic story together can lead to all kinds of silly fun and dramatic moments decided by the mere roll of the dice.

Yet we clearly have a problem here: Seeing our friends in person has never been more difficult. Quarantines have that effect on society. Thus, we’re forced to take our level 10 Halfling Artificer and resort to other measures to continue our weekly campaigns. The Internet, or The Great Connector as we’ve come to call it in recent months, has everything you need to continue playing D&D or even get started! There’s never been a better time to learn what can be an incredibly dense game!

D&D Beyond

If you’re looking to learn or already have a solid idea of how to play the game, D&D Beyond is the best place to start. The site set up by Dungeons and Dragons creator Wizards of the Coast is designed to offer a streamlined experience for both new and returning players. If it’s your first time, navigate over to the New Player Guide and give it a read. In there you’ll find everything you need on the core rules, creating a character and how to play the game beyond just rolling dice.

If you already know how to play D&D, then Beyond is a great place to start your online experience. Using the website’s resources is mostly free, with some adventures and expanded options gated behind a small paywall. The character creator system is the most efficient and easy to use online variation, at least to us. Beyond that, there’s also a wealth of knowledge to be discovered here, including guides on weapons, character builds and story lines for your party to follow. It’s comprehensive in a way that can only be expected from the original creators of the game.

Maybe the best part of D&D Beyond is how it can be used to enhance sessions. The site provides resources for Twitch extensions to allow Dungeon Masters to stream games to players, access to an official Discord channel and even plug-ins that allow combat to tracked more precisely, to avoid having a problem with that one rogue who insists he can get a sneak attack bonus on every swing of his knife. D&D Beyond is a spectacular website for old and new players and we can’t recommend it enough.

Roll20

The other essential site that will allow your campaigns to continue undeterred is Roll20. Designed to be a place where groups of friends isolated from one another can come together to play their favourite table-top role-playing game, Roll20 has everything you need. Much like D&D Beyond, you’ll find comprehensive guides to the game, adventures to embark upon and even a glossary of terms for items, spells and abilities.

Yet where Roll20 sets itself apart from the competition is how it can be used to actually play the game. Fully interactive character sheets mean that players and DMs can just click on an item or spell to have the website roll a virtual handful of dice, meaning you don’t even need to rush out and purchase all those funny shaped pieces of plastic.

This interactivity is the key to Roll20‘s success. If you’re confused about an ability, just click it on your sheet and a handy description will pop up on the right of the screen. As a DM, would you like to make a map for combat encounters? With a customisable grid that can be augmented with character tokens, terrain, status bars and even dynamic lighting (that one will cost you a little, it’s for premium members only), Roll20 is probably the best way to play D&D at a distance. Just get everyone together on Discord, have them all log into the site and sign up for the game you’ve created and you’re away. Oh, we even forgot to mention that Roll20 lets your build playlists to broadcast to all players in the game. Mood music!

It’s a kind of magic

There’s nothing quite like Dungeons and Dragons, a board game without a board and fueled entirely by imagination is easily one of the most enjoyable ways to spend an evening with friends looking for a laugh or just something to entertain them for weeks at a time. Word to the wise though, if you’re new to D&D you should definitely read those newcomer guides because it can be a super dense and intricate game to play.

If you want to give it a go, try and find a friend that knows the ins and outs to help you along with your first campaign. There’re also loads of Discord and reddit communities dedicated to helping new players acclimatise, to the game so if you’re really feeling lost, just join one of those. D&D is known for having one of the most friendly and welcoming communities around, there’ll always be someone will to lend a helping hand in starting your tabletop role-playing journey.

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I completed a Masters Degree just so someone might take my opinions seriously one day. Also writes about video games over at Critical Hit.

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  1. Pingback: A feast fit for a hero: Dungeons & Dragons Cookbook brings fantasy food to life » Stuff

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