Stuck at home? Now is the perfect time to get into tabletop roleplay — everyone’s desperate for long-distance hangout options, craving the imaginative catharsis of pretending to do exciting, fantastical things like ‘fighting dragons’ and ‘leaving the house’, and bored enough that reading several-hundred-page rulebooks is starting to sound quite nice, actually. Luckily, tabletop RPGs translate pretty easily into remote play. Here’s what you’ll need to start playing D&D online.
Somewhere to chat
If you’re playing a game without battle maps, it’s possible to skip the tabletop entirely. At its simplest level, D&D is a game about collaborative storytelling and imagination. All you really need to play a game of D&D is the ability to talk to the DM and other players — things like dice rolls and character sheets can be done individually.
Make sure you’ve got a working internet connection, microphone, and camera, and get going in the video chatting platform of your choice! Options like Skype, Zoom, or Discord all work fine for D&D sessions. Discord has the added advantage that you can set up multiple text channels, providing a convenient place to share reference images or store character sheets. You can also add bots to Discord servers to help customise them for playing D&D online, which can do helpful things like calculate dice rolls for you.
Virtual tabletop resources
There are a whole bunch of resources out there which aim at replicating the tabletop experience, providing a virtual platform for playing TTRPGs. Virtual tabletops allow you all to visualise encounters, roll dice together, and do all the stuff that you’d do with an IRL tabletop. (Except accidentally knocking things over and rolling the dice onto the floor.)
Roll20 is a virtual tabletop you can use in your browser. It provides a whole bunch of great options for free — and if the depth of what it’s able to do seems daunting, there’s a lot of information out there to help you get the best out of it. Plus, check out more free resources from Roll20 for people playing from home! And if you’re using D&D Beyond, you can use the Beyond 20 browser extension to link your D&D Beyond to Roll20, keeping your character sheets updated as you play.
An alternative to Roll20 is Fantasy Grounds, a downloadable virtual tabletop, which lets you connect with others via Steam. It’s not free — you can choose to pay a monthly subscription or purchase a license — but it does include a bunch of supported licensed rule systems.
It’s worth bearing in mind that playing D&D online will probably be a different experience to playing in person. Everyone talking or yelling at the same time in person can be chaotic but manageable. But everyone yelling at the same time during an online game can lead to people getting drowned out, overlooked, or just plain not having a clue what’s going on. It’s always worth making sure you’re listening to your fellow players, but it’s extra important when you’re playing remotely — and it’ll lead to better, more engaged, more interesting gameplay!
It can also be harder to keep an eye on how everyone’s doing when you’re playing remotely. If you’re not in the same room, you might miss someone being uncomfortable, or get so caught up in playing that you don’t notice you haven’t had a drink for five hours and are becoming a desiccated husk. Luckily, there are a range of different safety tools out there designed with player wellbeing in mind!
A Session Zero or a CATS discussion before you start playing helps everyone get a feel for what they want from the game, while safety tools like Lines and Veils and the X Card let players avoid topics or scenarios they’re not comfortable playing with. There’s no one-size-fits-all accessibility solution for tabletop gaming, but these tools can be a good starting point for discussions on how you want to make your game work for you and the people you’re playing with. (And remind players to take a short rest IRL every now and again, not just in-game!)
We hope everyone’s staying safe, and looking after yourselves and others during these stressful times. While LockHouse is currently closed, we’ll be keeping up a series of blog posts on all things escape rooms, board games, tabletop RPGs, media recs, and more. Read all our LockHouse Lockdown content here. Plus keep an eye on our Facebook for everything from updates to brainteasers!