What you need to take your D&D game from online to in-person
Perhaps you’re looking to take your Dungeons and Dragons game to a face-to-face format. There’s a lot to be said for sitting around a table with your fellow players, rolling dice. There’s oohing and aahing when someone rolls a 20, or when someone opens a door and it’s a room with something in it — now roll initiative.
What might you need if you’re going to go from an online game to a physical tabletop game? Here is a selection of things which make visualizing what’s going on a lot easier — particularly if you are a new player.
Essential books and printed works to get started
Shown above are books to add to your gaming library. Every player should own a copy of the Player’s Handbook. You can get it in .pdf format, but if you’re serious about the game you should own a physical copy. This is the core rule book and everything you need to know about how to run your character is contained inside. The Monster Manual is a good addition for research into whatever monsters you might find within the dungeon you’re playing. If you’re entertaining thoughts of running your own dungeon, you’ll want the Dungeon Master’s Guide. This book will help you understand how to run a campaign effectively. Plus, it has all sorts of additional tables for all kinds of loot from weapons to potions.
If you don’t want to create your own campaign, there are all sorts of pre-made adventures you can alter to your liking. These immersive books cover everything from the world to the monsters to the adventures. We recently reviewed the latest D&D adventure, Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus. I’ve played sections of Curse of Strahdt, and Storm King’s Thunder. An all-inclusive adventure is a great way to start off as a dungeon master.
Visualize your party and their surroundings
When I started playing, you had one party member with a pencil who did the mapping of the dungeon. Play went something like this: “You enter a 20 by 40 foot room. From the door going left, the wall goes 20 feet west; turns north 20 feet, turns east 10 feet. The next 10 feet is an opening. East of the opening, the wall continues 20 feet before turning south 20. Then it turns west 10 feet to the right side of your door.” We didn’t have this wonderful D&D Adventure Grid. You can use wet or dry-erase markers on this and there are several from which to choose — which can match the terrain of the campaign. These large grids are extremely helpful in visualizing the room, the hallway or wherever you happen to be.
You can also make your own grid using rolls of paper. This allows you to tailor your specific dungeon to the grid. The usual ratio is a one inch square which can represent either five or ten feet, depending upon your needs. Having a large grid is a huge asset to play. It’s so easy to see party placement versus a monster, particularly in a small room.
To mark those party members and monsters, you can people your grid with miniatures. You can get anything from player characters to the denizens they will fight. Shown above are some of my original miniatures from the very first sets. These are pewter and the only way they came was unpainted. Now, you can get custom painted or unpainted, so you can let your imagination roam on how you think your character looks. If you go to Dungeons and Dragons conventions, they often have a miniature painting contest. There are some amazing painters out there.
If you don’t want to get sucked into the collection of miniatures — and with all the available minis out there, it might be hard to stop at one box — you can use tokens from other games. I’ve been a blue Sorry token and a 1963 penny because that’s all we had. Any unique item small enough to fit your grid will work, but it may be tough to tell the difference at a glance between your 1963 penny and your friend’s 2007 penny. Does anyone have a dime? Maybe a button?
Dice and dice accessories
Speaking of collecting, let’s talk about the wonder that is dice. You will need to get a basic set. This set includes a D4, D6, D8, D10, D12, and D20. Most sets contain an additional D10 which is used for percentile rolls. When I started playing, you used a D6 and a D20 to roll saving and attack rolls. A 1-3 on the D6 and the D20 number was a single digit. A 4-6 and you added ten to the D20 roll. It’s much easier to roll now.
There are so many sites which sell dice online. Last year I participated in a Christmas dice exchange which was a lot of fun. The dice I received glow in the dark. You can get translucent, rainbow, solid color, and with other symbols representing the numbers. It’s very easy to get sucked into collecting dice because they are incredibly cool.
You’ll need a container to corral them. I recommend getting yourself a dice bag. My copper dice came in their own leather bag, but most dice come in a plastic tower or just a plastic bag. You’ll want something cool to carry yours. I got my bag from this site but there are thousands of bags out there. A simple search of dice bags will give you as much variety in bags as there are in dice.
You may also want a dice tray. What a tray does is keep your dice from rolling all the way across the table, potentially disrupting your miniatures, or your game as you hunt around the floor for lost dice. For some of us with cats, a tray can prevent the four-legged participant from further chasing your D20 under the refrigerator. You can find trays made from hardwood or use something as simple as the top of a box. We used pie plates when I started playing.
Finally, the last thing you might want to consider is a dice tower. Dice towers do the rolling for you. You drop the dice in the top and they tumble down the inside. The idea is that the rolling is more consistent and truer to randomization, especially if you roll handfuls of dice at a time.
The absolute best thing about playing face-to-face is the camaraderie and laughter. While we do have a good time over Discord while we play our Blizzard Watch D&D campaign, you just can’t replace the feel of hanging around a single table together.
If you do decide to go live, consider these items as a part of your setup — and don’t forget the snacks.
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