The many worlds of Dungeons and Dragons are places of spectacular adventures and battles. This highly creative and companionable game started out as somewhat taboo in polite society, but it has since emerged to become an established gaming culture icon. Sitting around a table with good friends is the best way to play the game, but that’s not always an option. Luckily, there are a number of alternative methods to play. Maybe you have friends who are thousands of miles away or you just want to give Dungeons and Dragons a shot for the very first time. If you’re looking for one of the best online games to play with friends, look no further than Dungeons and Dragons online. There are plenty of software to get you playing in no time.
What is Dungeons and Dragons?
Dungeons and Dragons, affectionately called D&D by fans, is a high-fantasy roleplaying game. The game revolves around creating worlds of swords, magic and adventures done by means of structured storytelling. The game shares traditional elements with childhood games of make-believe. Like those games, this game is largely driven by one’s imagination. It’s about picturing a kingdom filled with elves, giants, and anything else you can imagine. It also posits how a fantasy adventurer might react to each series of challenges. But unlike childhood games of make-believe, D&D games have a semblance of structure to the stories. Players roll dice to resolve whether they hit or miss their intended action. And the outcomes of the story are largely determined by the decisions of the characters.
The game is usually referred to as a “tabletop” game because it’s traditionally played with all the players sitting in one table. With a polyhedral die and a large map for reference, the characters are able to navigate the game. A Dungeon Master (DM) acts as the main storyteller and person of authority over the campaign. They set the premise, descriptive location, and challenges for the players. The players then get to create their own characters by following the parameters in the Dungeons and Dragons guidebook. Every character is different, with various strengths and weaknesses that need consideration. Ideally, a party of adventurers is one where characters complement each other.
How Does Dungeons and Dragons Gameplay Work?
The game centers on three broad categories of activity: exploration, interaction, and combat. To set the game in the right direction, the DM must provide opportunities for group exploration, conversation, and discovery. The characters then get the opportunity to select their own course of action at every turn. In cases where the outcome of an action is uncertain, the game relies on the rolling of a dice.
The rolling of the dice determines the success or failure of any decision or action made. It’s also the means by which characters gain points to stay alive and to acquire new abilities. These abilities help them to develop their characters. It also pushes the storyline towards greater adventures. Each time the characters have taken their turn, the DM sets the stage for new adventures and plot points.
The game itself has no end. Once you complete a story or a quest, another one can begin. This ongoing series of adventures and conquests comprise a campaign. A single campaign can last for a single session, an entire month, or even years. The length of a campaign depends entirely on the decision of the players.
Each character gets a turn at developing the storyline much farther. The characters’ collective decisions and storytelling make up the overarching series of adventures. And the best part is, everything takes place within the realm of the imagination. The characters must then rely on descriptive exposition with a dash of theater. This ensures the cohesiveness and flow of the story.
Requirements for Dungeons and Dragons Online Gameplay
Before you run off to your campaign, there are several things you need to have before you can play Dungeons and Dragons online. The most crucial requirement is a reliable internet connection. You will also probably need a pair of headphones as well as a platform to call on. It would be even better if you had a pair of wireless earbuds. These devices will allow you to move around without being constrained to your chair. Here’s a buying guide to the best wireless headphones for you to choose from. And if you haven’t heard about high-resolution audio, here’s a beginners’ guide about high-res audio to help you get started.
You might also need a microphone and a camera when you need to speak with your teammates, but this is mostly optional. Just sure to have the latest version of Adobe Flash installed regardless of the type of software you intend to use. Oh, and don’t forget to bring a good sense of humor and your creativity when you play.
Eventually, you’re going to need a break from deeply immersive gameplay. In that case, why don’t you try and listen to some of your favorite music? Check out this guide on how to download music to your MP3 player.
Best Websites to Play Dungeons and Dragons Online
Dungeons and Dragons is traditionally played in the physical presence of friends, but you don’t need to be stuck with this option. You don’t even need dice or an actual map to play this game. The minimal requirement is to be able to chat or even hear the voice of another human being. Nevertheless, there are various online platforms available that can provide assistance in terms of remote Dungeons and Dragons gameplay. Most of these services come with beautiful background graphics and animated character profiles. When it comes to functionality, there’s the virtual dice rolling and full control for the DM.
But before we begin with the list, we need to explain a concept what HTML-5 is. It is simply the latest version of a software that runs web pages. An even later version is HTML-6. Most of the software on this list make use of this type of protocol to run online. The HTML-5 and 6 protocols have been designed to deliver almost everything with the ability to run incredibly complicated applications on your browser. That being said, it must be noted that virtual tabletops that run on HTML-5 work exclusively within the confines of a web browser with a stable internet connection.
Here are some of the best online platforms to help you continue your storytelling campaigns online:
1. Dungeons and Dragons Online
Dungeons and Dragons Online is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). It’s a free-to-play software released by Wizards of the Coast. If you’re not familiar with Wizards of the Coast, they are the company behind Dungeons and Dragons. Originally released in the year 2006, the online version of the game is the perfect stage for building unique stories and for engaging in all sorts of battles and adventures. And like all Dungeons and Dragons gameplay, your game will start with building your hero from a series of classic races and classes.
There are currently 15 classes in the game, and there are even more options reserved for paid subscribers. The existing classes range from Artificer to Fighter and everything else in between. The game also contains a wide selection of tactical maps based on popular Dungeons and Dragons games. Examples include tactical maps for the Forgotten Realms and Eberron.
The game is also integrated with a player chat system from which you can communicate with your peers. The game is free until you reach level 20 and above. It’s also possible to play this game alone, although you’ll be missing out on the lively banter when you do so. But don’t fear because one of the most notable additions is being a dungeon finder. This allows you to find groups already engaged in adventures.
The game has been updated several times since its first release. This means graphics quality remains up-to-date. However, there are older parts of the game that aren’t as visually pleasing compared to newer areas. Overall, this software does a great job of adding concrete imagery to an otherwise purely imaginative game.
2. Fantasy Grounds
Fantasy Grounds is a standalone tabletop application. The software is well-adapted to Dungeons and Dragons gameplay. The software contains features typical of many tabletop role-playing games. This includes a virtual dice, character sheets, and maps with a grid system for navigation. The program automates much of the dice rolls to ensure that you will get randomly generated numbers. It divides the game into sessions, and the game master is able to control several elements of gameplay, including the ability to pause any game for later resumption. The software also contains various reference materials and rulebooks, Dungeons and Dragons included.
Another very important feature is the integrated chat system. This allows players to communicate during gameplay. Aside from Dungeons and Dragons, the software has the ability to play other tabletop games such as Savage Worlds and Call of Cthulhu, among others. Fantasy Grounds is available as a downloadable software. It’s compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux programs.
Roll20 is a highly popular HTML-5 based program for remote Dungeons and Dragons gameplay. The software offers a powerful set of tools that Fantasy Grounds has, including fully functional virtual dice and full system controls for the game master. Users also have the option to buy customized tactical maps that they can populate with icons. These icons represent player characteristics, monsters, and other non-player characters.
It’s also possible to upload your own tactical map for gameplay should you have one already. Another notable aspect of this software is the massive amount of readily available form-fillable character sheets. The sheets are used to keep track of everything that your character does such as spells and attacks. The sheets also track points for players across several attributes.
Roll20 also has a bunch of other useful built-in tools such as initiative trackers and support for custom cards and dice. There’s even a “Find a Group” function that will help you locate other players to invite them to play with you. The most important tool is the integrated video and voice chat options that allow for real-time video communication among players and the game master during gameplay.
You can also add your own music or select from a series of searchable music from the software. Users can also surf the online community for a fresh pack of players. The program is free to use and works best with Firefox and Chrome. The program also has free apps for both Android devices and the iPad. Just make sure to have Adobe Flash installed for a seamless experience.
D20PRO is a virtual tabletop software from Wizards of the Coast. Unlike Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO), this software focuses on the traditional map-and-dice format. And unlike the DDO, the D20Pro is a software that needs to be installed on Windows, Mac, or Linux to function.
With it, you can build complicated tactical maps from scratch or select from a series of pre-made maps. You can also populate your map with different creatures and geographical markers and anything that you need in it. It’s also possible to automate combat rolls and effects. You’ll also have access to an extensive library of maps, creatures, characters, and items. It also offers great character sheets to keep track of your profile and scores across character attributes. The program offers better map sharing capabilities than most tabletop systems. There’s also a built-in gaming log and chat function.
The software doesn’t have integrated video chat, but you can always use Skype for that. It’s also worth mentioning that this software uses a cross-platform Java application that you’ll have to install. It’s also designed to run specific editions of the Dungeons and Dragons modules. Dungeons and Dragons editions that are compatible with this software include Open Game License 3.5, Dungeons and Dragons 4E, and the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.
The only downsides to the DD20PRO are that it doesn’t possess as many built-in rulesets as DDO, and it’s not free. There’s a thirty-day trial period, but you can get the software for a one-time fee. A player license typically costs $10 while a full GM license costs $30.
Foundry is a developer-friendly, standalone application built for multiplayer tabletop RPGs. Like most tabletop software, this software allows users to build a tactical map from scratch. It also enables users to create their own characters by filling out a character sheet that automatically tracks your activities and spells. You can also select a character profile from an existing compendium, if you have one.
You can also add customized music from an external library to enhance your experience. More tech-savvy users are also given the ability to install their own modules. It also has a built-in initiative tracker and a standard dice roller. The software also allows for the creation of custom items that includes journal entries, treasure tables, and more.
And as expected from any tabletop software, Foundry also offers chat support. However, it doesn’t have native support for audio or video so you’ll have to rely on Discord or any other chat software. Another staple that you might observe with this software is dynamic lighting and sound that allows you to modify the brightness of objects and areas within the map. The game is also true to the spatial rules of sound. Sounds increase and wanes as you pass by the source. Foundry is a subscription-based service for $5 per month with the option to go for a version with beta updates for a $10 monthly fee. Foundry currently runs on Windows and Linux devices.
6. Tabletop Simulator
Tabletop Simulator is another great online tabletop simulator that takes the “tabletop” part of Dungeons and Dragons gameplay seriously. As its name implied, it’s a virtual table where dice and other objects can be rolled, dealt, and chucked around. It’s also a tabletop where castles, fortresses, and landmarks can be built from scratch. This helps players have a shared vision of the playing field so they can navigate it with ease. If you need help in terms of designing your map, you can always seek for online assistance since there are a variety of random fantasy and Dungeons and Dragons generators available.
Another thing that makes Tabletop Simulator unique is its integration with Steam. If you’re new to the game distribution service, here’s a guide on how to download Steam games. The software provides access to a workshop that is complete with resources for building tactical maps and characters. It’s also possible to incorporate Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks into the system to make a quick search for a gaming rule or for the definition of a Dungeons and Dragons jargon easy. Every player gets his/her dice roller, virtual dice bags, and calculators. There are also other tools to help players with gameplay. Character sheets are also available for players to fill up.
Rolisteam is free virtual tabletop software for Dungeons and Dragons gameplay. The software was designed to manage multiple games with remote friends/players. The software provides many features such as the ability to share maps and pictures with friends and an in-app chat function that allows users to communicate with the team. The only problem is that it appears to have rudimentary tools for creating maps from scratch. Fortunately, you can always upload maps from external sources.
The software also has virtual dice that you can roll to start the game. Character sheets are available for players, but it’s not an absolute requirement for Dungeons and Dragons gameplay. Other tools include a unit converter, a rich text editor, and a music player. A fog of war feature on the map can also be enabled. If you need inspiration to create your own campaign, listen to the best D&D podcasts to get your creative juices flowing.
8. Dungeons and Dragons Beyond
Dungeons and Dragons Beyond is a digital offering from Twitch Interactive. It acts as the official digital toolset that is considered as the best gaming companion for the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons. As such, the software is replete with fifth edition books, adventures, and other supplements. It also contains all the major rulebooks of Dungeons and Dragons: the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and the Monsters Manual. It also provides digital tools for creating and tracking characters. There’s also a wide collection of monster and spell listings hidden on the gaming interface. Dungeons and Dragons Beyond also publishes original video, stream, and article contents on a regular basis.
In addition to hosting official Dungeons and Dragons content, the software also provides users the ability to create custom homebrew content. Homebrew content refers to any storyline, character, or also set of rules that are not found within the standard Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks.
Users also get to choose between two subscription tiers. The Hero tier gives you an unlimited number of characters you can create. This also lets you use publicly-shared homebrew content. Meanwhile, the master tier allows you to share your official content with other players in your campaigns. If you think about it, it’s possible for a group of players to pool their money together for this one. They just need to make sure to stick together for the campaigns. Dungeons and Dragons Beyond is available as a web-based software that works with PC and macOS. It’s also available as a mobile app for Android and IOS.
Battlegrounds Gaming Engine, simply known as Battlegrounds, is another effective tabletop software. As a top competitor for Roll20, Battlegrounds helps improve your Dungeons and Dragons gameplay regardless of mode. The software has full-screen maps and high-resolution tokens. It also features a user interface that hides away when you don’t need it. The software also makes it possible to add your own artworks and maps. A dice roller and built-in, fully customizable text chat with group and private chat support are also available. It’s also possible to import chat logs from external sources.
Players can use the BGE to generate awesome visuals and game-state updates. This is for your play-by-post games. It’s also possible to import music from external sources to improve the mood of the game. A dynamic fog-of-war feature automatically reveals the map as the party explores. This takes into account light sources and any special vision the characters may have. There’s also a highly-configurable turn-sequencer to ensure everyone always knows whose turn it is. It also keeps track of all important character statistics.
Battlegrounds can also be used to play other board games, war games, and even dice games.
10. Beyond Tabletop
Beyond Tabletop is a set of tools for RPG players who want to enhance in-person game sessions. The software is best known for doing two things exceptionally well: creating battle maps and character sheets. The interface for creating characters and maps are cleanly designed and easy to use, so you can expect a much faster and more intuitive character and map creation. The Beyond Tabletop character sheets are designed specifically for Pathfinder, but it should work out since Pathfinder and Dungeons and Dragons have a lot of similarities. The sheet contains basic information about each character and tracks combat abilities, skills, gear, and spells.
All character information is organized into tabs that are easy to view and to understand. The character sheets also calculate automatically, so all you have to do is to enter the rolled values as you go along. The battle maps are also optimized for RPG games. It’s also easy to customize your background images and tokens. Beyond Tabletop is also working on expanding this selection to more games, so they’ll hopefully have one specifically for Dungeons and Dragons soon. Beyond Tabletop is available as a web-based software compatible with all devices.
11. GM Forge
GM Forge is a fully-offline virtual tabletop software. With impressive graphics and seamless user interface, this tabletop software can easily match more popular tabletop software. The software is notable for its dynamic lighting, scripting, and graphic quality. Video and voice chat functions are also available to allow communication among teammates during gameplay. Other notable features include local network support, a combat tracker, and also integration with music sources and YouTube. Custom tracker sheets are readily available for you to edit and update.
There’s also custom dice for decision points during the game. The software also has resource pages where you can share your PDFs and other important images with your party. The software is exclusively available as a web platform, making it easy to invite your friends and play online.
GM Forge is a web-based software compatible with all devices. You can make a one-time purchase of the device with no subscription fees and at a reasonable price point of $25.
12. Obsidian Portal
Obsidian Portal is an online Wiki where you can post all things related to your Dungeons and Dragons campaigns. This website functions at a completely different level than most tabletop simulators. Nevertheless, most players will appreciate having an online space to commemorate campaigns. The site provides almost everything that you need to manage your Dungeons and Dragons campaign such as an adventure log where you can log all your campaign stories and progress. You can also upload any campaign maps that you may have. A Wiki feature allows you to upload explanations relevant to your campaign. Aside from being able to track your campaigns, you also get to view the campaigns of other teams around the world.
You can also create a page for each character and another page for each character’s secrets. There’s also a forum section that allows you to get in touch with the general RPG community. If the DM has some web design skills, then they can create custom CSS pages. But anyone can upload their own artwork to use as background for a campaign. The Obsidian Portal is available as a web-based software. It isn’t free, but only one member (preferably the Dungeon Master) needs to have a paid account. Other players can register and join for free.
Other Online Resources for Dungeons and Dragons Gameplay
There are an increasing number of resources dedicated to Dungeons and Dragons. It’s just a matter of putting in some work to locate the resources that you need. Some players are not satisfied with the basic character classifications. There are some who want to create their own class, race, and weapons. But the rulebook is often limited to less than a hundred permutations, so you can always look to the alternative set of rules created by Wizards of the Coast in its System Reference Document or SRD. The SRD is an open-source compendium of resources created by fans of the game and other users. These resources give you the freedom to create new characters and create new content. You can also find a wealth of information from the Dungeon Masters Guild or the DriveThuRPG. Sometimes you also want to screen record what goes on in the game. If you think you’ll come to that point, check out this guide on how to screen record on any device.
If you don’t like automated maps and settings, you can always make your own. There are a number of map-making tools available that can help you design tactical maps. A great example would be the Mipui Tabletop Map Maker. The software is completely free and can be accessed using any web browser. It also has plenty of helpful tools for designing your own grid-type tactical map. Perhaps you’re looking for a simple means to roll dice online? If you don’t need the whole shebang of a tabletop environment, you can refer to some standalone dice rollers:
Final Thoughts on the Best Sites to Play Dungeons and Dragons Online
There has never been a better time to play Dungeons and Dragons than today. Now that we have advanced tabletop software, Dungeons and Dragons gameplay should be a piece of cake. You no longer have to depend on pen and paper to create beautiful settings for your campaign. Furthermore, you don’t need to have every Dungeons and Dragons guide and rulebook with you as you play. You can get everything from graphics to character sheets by the best tabletop software for better production values.
The best third-party software offer significant convenience and functionality at your disposal. But at the end of it all, only you and your team can determine the outcome of the game. Make sure to put in some effort and dedication into it. Create conquests that are not only imaginative but also significantly cohesive. Even more important, make sure to invite your friends and have lots of fun. And if you just love online games in general, we highly recommend this list of the best online games to play with your friends at home.