Tue. Dec 5th, 2023

The basic tabletop roleplaying sport Dungeons & Dragons has loved a well-deserved renaissance this yr. It is attracted extra consideration and ushered in excited new gamers. We have seen the brand new Dungeons & Dragons film obtain each plaudits and first rate field workplace, and Amazon Studios inked a significant deal in January to convey extra adventures from Twitch stars Vital Position, equivalent to Legend of Vox Machina, to Prime Video. 

Vital Position, together with comparable tabletop RPG exhibits like Dimension 20, has launched extra folks to the sport. Plus, on-line video chat apps have made it simpler to drag a D&D group collectively. There are many D&D instruments that allow you to play the sport on-line, however it may be a chore to undergo each and perceive what it presents, what it does not and the way straightforward it’s to make use of.

For those who’re new to the sport and primarily thinking about making an attempt out a tabletop RPG, D&D Past makes it straightforward to get a personality sheet and marketing campaign up and working. If you’d like every part you want in a single place with comparatively little fuss, try Roll20. And for D&D energy players, Fantasy Grounds permits you superb ranges of automation and management when you make investments the time to study it.

How we examined on-line D&D instruments

We checked out three of the most well-liked on-line D&D providers — D&D Past, Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds — testing each on quite a lot of fundamentals: 

How straightforward was it to construct a personality sheet? How properly did the service information new gamers via the method? How efficient and simple to make use of was the map operate, if it had one? What does the service add to the D&D expertise, and what does it restrict?

Every service has totally different strengths and disadvantages, and we checked out them via the eyes of each skilled and inexperienced gamers to see how they in contrast.

Maybe your play group has scattered to totally different cities, or possibly it is simply simpler for everybody to leap on a Zoom name as soon as every week (or month). Regardless of your scenario, listed here are our picks for one of the best D&D instruments to make use of on-line.

Learn extra: D&D Dragonlance Reboot Is Extra Than Nostalgia, Much less Than It May Be

Greatest on-line D&D instruments



Extraordinarily straightforward to select up and get startedDesign is straightforward and simple to navigateImpressive options without cost accounts


No interactive map featureLimited to Dungeons & Dragons

D&D Past was already a well-liked service lengthy earlier than it was purchased by Hasbro, which additionally owns D&D writer Wizards of the Coast. It is a simple instrument that makes creating characters enjoyable by simplifying many of the course of. For people who find themselves new to the sport, there is not any simpler option to get began. 

D&D Past’s on-line character creator is free, permitting you to strive totally different character builds with out having to spend a dime. Free accounts solely have entry to the fundamental guidelines (together with races and lessons), and are restricted to 6 characters, however that needs to be a lot for many new gamers.

If you wish to put money into your D&D video games, you should buy digital variations of official D&D books in a couple of totally different flavors. D&D Past presents sourcebooks, like Tasha’s Cauldron of Every part and Explorer’s Information to Wildemount, which provide you with new settings and character choices. It additionally presents journey books, like Curse of Strahd and Candlekeep Mysteries, which DMs can use to run campaigns. Each forms of books are sometimes $30 apiece, although some smaller packages price much less. 

You can too purchase a subscription at both the Hero tier ($3 monthly) or the Grasp tier ($6 monthly) to unlock additional options. The Hero tier permits you to make as many character sheets as you need and in addition opens up entry to check new D&D Past instruments. The Grasp tier provides the choice to share content material from any of your bought books with the remainder of the gamers in your marketing campaign.

A Hero tier subscription is not nice worth until you play in numerous D&D teams (greater than six). The actual worth of a subscription is sharing content material with the Grasp Tier — that $6 monthly ($30 for six months or $55 yearly) permits you to share options from sourcebooks and journey books together with your total group, quite than requiring everybody to purchase their very own copy. A DM with a Grasp-tier subscription can spend $6 monthly and share bought content material with the remainder of the group even when they’ve free accounts. 

The first disadvantage of D&D Past is that it focuses on character sheets, not different components of a D&D desk. Most notably, it lacks significant map options to assist your group visualize fight and exploration. In case your gaming periods deal with these components, you may must complement with your personal maps or the map instruments of our different prime picks. Each Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds supply helpful map options.

However of the instruments we examined, D&D Past was far and away the best to get began with. It walks you thru every step of the method — selecting a race and sophistication in your character, establishing your construct as you degree your character, and navigating the remainder of the beginning choices. For choices and techniques which can be a bit complicated, you may have the flexibility to learn via extra detailed explanations in popups. For those who’re making an attempt D&D for the primary time otherwise you simply need a straightforward option to handle your character sheet, D&D Past needs to be your first cease.



Character sheets, maps and cube in a single toolInteractive maps which can be straightforward to learnIncludes video chat


Total design is a bit messyDMs have to present different gamers character sheets to fill out

For those who’re in search of a one-stop store for all of your D&D gaming, we suggest Roll20 for its versatility. Roll20 presents virtually every part you possibly can ask for in a digital D&D instrument: You can make characters and play out epic battles on an interactive map, all with out even needing an exterior service for video or voice chat. The tradeoff is a bit more time spent determining how options work. 

Every part in Roll20 is run via its Video games characteristic, and your DM might want to create a sport for everybody to get began. The DM can then invite gamers to affix via emailed invites or easy copy-and-paste hyperlinks. As soon as everybody’s in, the DM can create clean character sheets and assign these characters out to gamers for them to customise. 

Gamers can create their characters utilizing Roll20’s Charactermancer instrument, which walks them step-by-step via the character creation course of, much like D&D Past. You will see snippets from the core guidelines to assist clarify any new or complicated options. On the finish of the method, your character sheet can be arrange and able to go. You even have the choice of pulling up a clean character sheet and filling it out straight, which can be interesting for extra skilled gamers, however the Charactermancer is usually the less complicated choice. 

The Roll20 character sheets do not feel fairly as fashionable or straightforward to navigate as D&D Past’s, however Roll20 makes up for it with quite a lot of different options you will not discover on D&D Past. The largest one is interactive maps. DMs can create maps for his or her campaigns, permitting your group to traverse dungeons and interact in battles extra tactically. DMs can use fog of conflict to restrict map imaginative and prescient to what gamers can truly see, and gamers can transfer tokens representing their characters across the map, identical to you’d at a bodily desk.

Like the opposite on-line D&D instruments we reviewed, Roll20 has a market the place you should buy digital variations of sourcebooks and journey books, which unlock new options in your character sheets and maps. The prices will typically match what you see in D&D Past and Fantasy Grounds, so don’t be concerned an excessive amount of about discount looking. The largest distinction is that Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds additionally supply books from different tabletop RPGs like Pathfinder and Name of Cthulhu, whereas D&D Past is strictly primarily based on Dungeons & Dragons.

Roll20 presents free accounts and two subscription choices that unlock extra options. You possibly can pay $6 monthly (discounted to $50 yearly when you pay upfront) to share bought content material with different gamers of their sport. That subscription additionally unlocks options like dynamic lighting and the flexibility to switch characters between video games. For $10 monthly ($100 yearly when you pay upfront), you may also copy different supplies between video games, unlock extra customization choices and get a month-to-month reward.

Roll20 is an efficient center floor between the opposite instruments we examined. It is not fairly as slick as D&D Past, however it presents extra options like interactive maps, and it really works with different sport techniques. It is not fairly as strong as Fantasy Grounds, however it’s typically simpler to select up and use. If you’d like a instrument that permits you to run an entire tabletop RPG just about, and also you’re much less thinking about studying the best way to customise or automate your gameplay, strive Roll20.



Takes care of guidelines so you’ll be able to deal with playEnables homebrew contentOne-time buy choice


Steep studying curve simply to get startedLess beginner-friendly than different providers

Fantasy Grounds is a robust however advanced instrument that requires numerous work upfront to have the ability to get probably the most out of the service. It permits probably the most customization of the instruments we reviewed, however it additionally took the longest to get began. If you’d like a instrument that is straightforward to select up and get began with, you are higher off with D&D Past or Roll20, however in order for you final management over your session and need one thing that can deal with many of the guidelines for you, Fantasy Grounds is probably the most full choice we examined.

Earlier than we get into the nice elements of Fantasy Grounds, it is vital to know the barrier to entry. Fantasy Grounds is just not intuitive or beginner-friendly. It does supply video guides that can assist you get began, however you may must spend about an hour simply watching these to get a deal with on the barest fundamentals. Even after watching the tutorial, it was typically a wrestle to function the system’s mechanics. It additionally appears designed for a desktop setup — we had a tough time navigating the very small menu choices on a laptop computer trackpad, which wasn’t an issue with the opposite providers. Even with guides, Fantasy Grounds was typically irritating to discover ways to use.

The flip aspect of that coin is that Fantasy Grounds is astoundingly strong. It is aware of that some D&D gamers need to management each element of their periods. Identical to the opposite instruments we reviewed, Fantasy Grounds helps you to construct a digital character sheet. And like Roll20, it helps you to use digital maps for fight and exploration. However Fantasy Grounds offers you the instruments to customise your total marketing campaign in additional methods than the opposite instruments we examined. 

Maybe extra importantly, Fantasy Grounds understands the principles of a system and can robotically apply them. If a participant clicks an enemy on the map and chooses the weapon they need to assault with, Fantasy Grounds will roll a d20, add the suitable assault roll modifier, then evaluate that to the enemy’s armor class and let you know whether or not the assault hits or misses. Different on-line D&D instruments will do particular person items of that (like including the suitable modifier to your assault roll), however will not evaluate that to the enemy’s AC and translate it right into a hit and miss. When you’re up and working, Fantasy Grounds permits your play group to spend much less time doing math or trying up guidelines and extra time simply enjoying the sport.

Fantasy Grounds makes use of comparable subscription pricing to the opposite providers. Gamers can create free accounts with restricted performance. Or you’ll be able to pay $4 monthly for the standard subscription that permits you to play with different individuals who have a Fantasy Grounds subscription. You even have the choice of an final subscription for $10 monthly, which lets you host a marketing campaign for gamers on free accounts and share content material with them. That makes it a bit dearer than different providers for DMs who need to share content material with gamers on free accounts. Uniquely, Fantasy Grounds additionally presents one-time cost choices: $39 for the standard license and $149 for an final license. Gamers on commonplace or final subscriptions or licenses will be capable to buy sourcebooks for his or her campaigns, and identical to Roll20, Fantasy Grounds permits you to play a number of tabletop RPG techniques along with D&D. 

Fantasy Grounds is finest suited to detail-oriented dungeon masters who need to have the ability to fine-tune each facet of their marketing campaign and their gamers’ expertise. For those who wish to create your personal marketing campaign (aka “homebrew”) or let your gamers run personalized lessons, you may have a neater time doing that in Fantasy Grounds than Roll20. D&D Past can be fairly succesful with homebrew content material, however once more, it does not supply a maps characteristic. 

On-line D&D FAQs

What do I must play D&D on-line?

You possibly can play Dungeons & Dragons on-line with out investing in instruments or sport providers. All you really want are a gaggle of individuals to play with, an web connection and a duplicate of the fundamental guidelines, which can be found without cost from Wizards of the Coast. These three issues are sufficient so that you can run a fundamental session. The attraction of on-line D&D instruments is the best way they aid you set up and automate the sport. For instance, D&D Past’s character sheets will robotically tally your proficiency bonus, your capability modifiers and your objects’ stats and can calculate every part for you each time you might want to roll for one thing. With out these instruments, it’s a must to manually maintain monitor of bonuses and add them to the suitable rolls. D&D Past helps you to join a free account and begin making character sheets if you wish to check out the sport with out investing cash into it. Roll20 and Fantasy grounds additionally supply free accounts, however it’s not as straightforward to begin making characters with these accounts.

What are one of the best D&D map makers?

There are dozens of on-line instruments that can assist you construct a map in your Dungeons & Dragons marketing campaign. Nevertheless, of the providers we examined, solely Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds characteristic interactive maps. Each assist you to use maps from official Dungeons & Dragons adventures or make your personal customized maps. You can place participant characters and enemies throughout the map to let your gamers visualize exploration and fight. Roll20’s map system was simpler to make use of, however Fantasy Grounds had extra options.

Which D&D service is finest?

We examined three Dungeons & Dragons instruments and located that every one had its personal specific strengths and disadvantages. Roll20 is perhaps the best choice in order for you a single resolution for all of your on-line RPG adventures. D&D Past has glorious digital character sheets and assets for learners. Fantasy Grounds is probably the most highly effective instrument total, however requires considerably extra time to study and arrange than the opposite two. You can too combine and match — making character sheets in D&D Past, however utilizing Roll20 for any fight encounters, for instance. We suggest creating free accounts with totally different providers to search out out what you want or dislike and select what works finest for you.

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