Thanks to a certain virus going around, we are gaming in a different world now than ever before. And If we're left still standing once all this social isolation is over, maybe RPGing online will become the norm.
Tools for Dungeons and Dragons Online
While searching for tools that would make my online gaming experience a little more immersive, I started to realize, there's a LOT of great programs out there. I've stuck with Roll20 for Dungeons and Dragons online for quite a while-- and don't get me wrong. I love Roll20. But these tools can be used instead of or in conjunction with Roll20, and they are guaranteed to vastly improve the experience for you and your players. Hop online and let's check them out:
For background music, use... Syrinscape
It's great to have background music in your game, and Roll20 offers that. But what about background sounds? Syrinscape operates as a soundboard so you can play soundscapes to your players, immersing them even more in your perfectly-crafted world.
The site contains sound packs for games like Call of Cthulhu, Starfinder, Pathfinder, and, of course, Dungeons and Dragons. And of course, they offer the ability to stream your sounds online
It's only $7.15/month to buy one of these packs and $10.99/month for a subscription. A little expensive for something that's not required to game. But will using Syrinscape give your game that extra, amazing push? Yes. Yes, it will.
To make an image of your character, use... Hero Machine
There are 800 million dollmakers out there on the vast Internet. But how do you make YOUR hero-- especially when you don't have any drawing skills?
Hero Machine has gone through several different iterations, winding up in its current form as HeroMachine Premium. But fear not-- HM2 and HM3 are completely free of charge.
Hero Machine isn't just a doll maker. It's a drag and drop program that lets you do just about anything you want. You can customize the size of the leg muscles on your character. I mean, look at this:
(Yes, someone MADE that)
The only downside to HM3 is that it takes a lot of time to get it perfect. But hey, it's a great thing to fiddle with
For a virtual tabletop... Tabletop Simulator
Tabletop Simulator is a literal, virtual tabletop-- the sort you probably imagined in the early days of the Internet. If you like any kind of games-- video games, board games, or tabletop games-- you should really own Tabletop Simulator. Why? Board games that normally cost $300+ are on there for free.
But let's talk about tabletop RPGs, like playing Dungeons and Dragons online. If you rely heavily on an actual tabletop for your game, there's no better. The minis look realistic; the controls are easy to master; it's available in Steam (and it's like, ALWAYS for sale).
For character creation... use HeroLab
HeroLab is another one of those programs that has been around since the dawn of time. And there's a reason for that: it's great. It's solid. It might not have the fancy bells and whistles of D&D Beyond, but it doesn't have to.
If you aren't playing 5th Ed D&D-- if you're playing Pathfinder, Starfinder, and Shadowrun-- then HeroLab will be your new favorite app. Yes-- you can download it as an app on your smartphone, meaning you can play from anywhere.
Better yet, you can demo it for free before purchasing. We like free.
For monster creation... use 5e Monster Creator
I love to make my own monsters, whether I'm playing Dungeons and Dragons online or in person. There's something about taking a weird concept and bringing it to life, and then making my players try and kill it. I don't know, I can't explain it.
If that rings true for you, too, then check out the 5e Monster Creator app. It walks you through all the stats you need for a successful fight. Like, when you realize five minutes before the game starts that you forgot to set up the stats (ouch, self burn).
My biggest complaint? I'd love an app like this for other games, like Pathfinder, Symbaroum, or many others. Another qualm: you cannot save your monsters outside of the app, such as a PDF. So you can't share your rad as hell creations with the Internet at large. And worst of all-- it's not available for Apple users. Bummer.
For dice rolling... check out our definitive list
For army battles... use BattleScribe
You'll notice that one of my big gripes with a lot of these apps and programs is that they don't work for more systems. BattleScribe isn't like that. You can use it for literally any game. It's not proprietary at all. It's perfect for games like Warhammer 40k.
Two things I love about BattleScribe in particular:
- They have a subreddit (r/battlescribe) devoted to asking for help and support. Talk about dev availability!
- You can share your info with fellow players via Dropbox, which is key.
- It's mostly free! There's a Supporter level where you can get a few perks, such as the removal of ads, the ability to save units as favorites and customize them.
For gamemaster tools... use Realm Works
Look at this:
If your mind doesn't explode with joy when you look at this, are you really a gamemaster?
Realm Works is practically the Scrivner of roleplaying games. It helps the least most organized people get organized and stay organized throughout their entire campaign.
I count myself as one of those unorganized people. For my on-running game of Symbaroum, I basically have a Google Docs file that's overrun with ideas, characters, stats, plotlines, and more. Beyond a basic folder structure, there's not really a lot of organization going on. Which means that every time I sit down to plot for an on-coming game, I have to wade through all the crap to make sure I'm remembering everything I need to know. It's not great.
Realm Works is the opposite of that. One of my favorite features includes the storyboard, or plot tree. If you feel the need to plan out every single choice your characters might run into, this tree lets you do it in an effective and logical way.
Have you used any of these tools before? Which are your favorites? Any you disagree with? Let us know!