Tabletop RPGs are absolutely huge, which means there’s no shortage of players if you’re looking to form a group! Now, online play is not the same as playing in person, but it also comes with a ton benefits. You can more easily use graphical resources, automate some tasks, and manage your setting using tools like World Anvil. So, here’s all you need to know to play D&D online with your friends!
1. Character Sheets are essential
Character sheets are the most important thing for players, so this must be a priority! There are several ways you can manage character sheets when playing online:
- Keep physical sheets: the great thing about this is that no one has to relearn anything! It’s just the good old system.
- Form-fillable PDFs: some character sheet PDFs allow the user to edit them. Since you’ll be playing in front of a computer, you might as well have a digital sheet, right? Plus, your players will be able to send you their character sheets more easily.
- Character manager: a character manager is a software that allows players to manage their character sheets, equipment, quests, and more. World Anvil’s character managers supports 30+ TTRPG systems, including D&D (and it can import characters from D&D Beyond too!). Want more details? Check out the feature page!
- Roll20: if you use a VTT like Roll20 to play, using their integrated character sheets is a great idea. But we’ll talk about VTTs later on!
It all comes down to your personal preferences and workflow. Try out different systems and tools before starting your game and choose the one that seems better for you!
2. Don’t forget about dice to play D&D online!
Dice are important—and not only as a shiny collector item that you can show off to your friends (sorry to break it to you). They’re what make an RPG a game. This means that it’s very important to be sure that your players aren’t coming up with dice results on the spot! And, when you’re not sitting around an actual table and the GM can’t see your dice rolls… well, it’s a temptation some people could have. The most straight-forward option? Virtual dice rollers!
There are many out there, including stand-alone apps or web tools that are dedicated to virtual dice and nothing else. But if you’re using other tools, like World Anvil or Roll20, they have virtual dice too. And the best part is that they’re integrated with the character sheets—so they automatically calculate modifiers and other conditions like advantage or disadvantage!
3. A place to keep notes
Now we’re getting in the GM’s space: note-taking! This is an extremely important part of the game, as you need to remember what your players are doing both during the session and in the future! Just as with character sheets, using a physical notebook is an option, especially if you have a note-taking system that you’re used to. But if you’re willing to embrace the digital, there are many options too—even more than character managers, as note-taking is something most people use in their daily life.
However, a notebook that integrates with your campaign manager of choice will be easier to use it while running or preparing a game. That’s where World Anvil comes in! The session report feature lets you write summarise what’s happened during the session and share it with your players. It’s a really cool way to document your group’s adventures! Plus, if you’re a Guild member, you get access to the Notebook, a note-taking system that’s fully integrated with the campaign manager. Using an online tool like World Anvil means the notes are accessible anywhere and backed-up! Check out World Anvil’s GMing tools!
4. A VTT to play D&D online
VTT stands for Virtual TableTop, and it refers to tools that bring the full tabletop RPG experience online. The basic features of a VTT are gridded maps with virtual tokens, dice rollers, and character sheets. But more advanced VTTs like Roll20 also include features like handouts, fog of war, and other utilities. You’ll find them especially useful if you use maps for encounters (rather than theater of the mind)!
There are many ways to integrate a VTT into your workflow, but my favorite one is to use it as my campaign manager while writing my worldbuilding on World Anvil. It’s the best of both worlds: we get all the integration options between maps, tokens, character sheets, and dice, but I also get to use the advanced organization features of World Anvil! Plus, World Anvil lets me share my setting’s lore with my players in a beautifully formatted way.
Roll20 is an amazing option because it has a completely free unlimited plan with all the basic features you need to get started. Subscription plans include advanced (and very cool) tools like dynamic lighting, line of sight, and more. Check it out!
Check out our tips to turn your worldbuilding into a Roll20 one-shot!
5. Communication is key
D&D is nothing without communication—RPGs are just conversations with cool mechanics, right? This means that communication should always be the priority: you can play without a map, but you can’t play if you can’t talk to your players! So, unless you play a text-based game, you’ll want a decent microphone, headphones, and a webcam. Now, webcams are not required, but body language and facial expressions are very important for communication, so it’s definitely recommended!
If you’re using Roll20, it has an integrated video call feature, so you don’t need to use a third-party software. If you aren’t using Roll20 or want to try another option, Discord is a very popular alternative for video calling! The great thing about it is that you can still talk with your players between sessions, either using a text channel or in a voice call. If you want to create a little community for your game, this could be the way to go!
If you’re considering starting a podcast for your game, you’ll want to read these five tips too!
And speaking of Discord, make sure to join our Discord server if you want to be part of the nicest community on the internet! We also have a channel to recruit players for your game, so you find like-minded people who’re also using World Anvil.
Ready to bring your game to the online world? Create a World Anvil and a Roll20 account to get started!
For an option that I personally find has more features and flexibility, please look into Foundry VTT. It’s a one-time purchase instead of a subscription, and it doesn’t lock features behind premium tiers.