How to play D&D online

Desperately trying to figure out how? Well, we’re here to answer the question once and for all – even though explaining how to play DnD online isn’t easy.

Since most guides clock in at 3000+ words, you’re probably only seconds away from being distracted by another tab. So, how can we get you from this article to playing Dungeons & Dragons as quickly as possible?

Out the window goes the buyer’s guide for webcams and headsets – you probably already have a phone or computer, or you wouldn’t be able to read this. There’s plenty of online campaign-building platforms to select from depending on your online campaign needs, but we won’t focus on these here. We’re very proud of our super short guide letting you know the best way you can experience DnD online as a starter in just five short words…

What’s the best way to play DnD online as a beginner? 

Get Divinity: Original Sin 2

You don’t need to gather a party of friends to play Divinity: Original Sin 2. It sure is fun with others, but the experience is still strong when you’re playing by yourself.

Let’s get something clear: Divinity: Original Sin 2 is not a licenced Dungeons & Dragons game. It’s not set in the D&D universe, and even though you will see similarities in every aspect of the game, there will be some differences, too. But, arguably, these differences help translate the world of D&D into a digital product. Plus, Wizards of the Coast trusted DOS2’s developer Larian with Baldur’s Gate 3. That’s gotta mean something.

When has Reddit ever been wrong…

So, just how closely do the two link up? Back when Larian demonstrated the Game Master Mode to media before launch, they cut a deal which allowed them to show the mode off with The Lost Mine of Phandelver, the same campaign that graces the DnD starter set. We know when you say “Game Master”, Larian, you mean “Dungeon Master”. We’re onto you.

If you are coming at this from a total novice perspective, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is the perfect starting point. Its already done the hard part of crafting a gripping story. You can play the story mode by yourself, play it with others (including a couch co-op), use the Game Master Mode to create your own campaigns or join stories crafted by others. It’s your choice if you’d rather safely explore the pre-written, or push the boundaries of the Game Master Mode. You can safely bring in any role-playing newbies and know the game will tackle the hard parts of teaching you the ropes and the tropes of an RPG.

Here’s what makes DOS2 pretty great: it costs about £20, but you can often find it on sale. If you live with a fellow RPG enthusiast, you can both enjoy a 60 hour campaign together for the measly price of £10 each – roughly two pints in a pub. If you want to play with friends online, you will have to convince them to shell out £20 each, but you don’t necessarily have to gather four friends, as you can each control more than one character.

“Wait, wasn’t this supposed to be about D&D?”

Alright then, if you like D&D so much, let me paint you a picture. You’re an online user, browsing the web in the search of the best online D&D tips. Now, you have to face a choice: would you like to run the game, or to play?

Playing DnD online?

Roll20 will become your Holy Grail, with a handy search tool that lets you seek out games that are suitable for starters. The only caveat here is some will ask for a fee to cover the game running time, which is still a pretty sweet deal given that they’re crafting a campaign & guiding you through it.

One word of warning, the built-in voice and video functions aren’t the most stable so expect whoever is running the game to be linking you to a different chat option. On the plus side Zoom, Google Hangout or Microsoft Teams all let you join from a link without having to set things up.

Like any game, it will live and die based on the people playing so don’t be too put off if your initial campaign isn’t the best.

Running Dnd online?

The simplest and the best advice we can give you for testing your DnD campaign running skills is to have a group call with your players and go from there.

Sure, virtual 3D dice sure look great, as do virtual environments, plugins, avatars, digital character sheets and more, but communication truly is key. If what you are looking to do is develop as a group of beginners, it is the most important tool for online play.

While it’s not the most exciting advice, pick up a Dungeons & Dragons Starter set, crafted by the experts at Wizards of the Coast who’ve been doing this since 1974. It’s built to give you all you need to play the game. It’s even slightly cheaper than a copy of Divinity: Original Sin 2.  

Pick up your copy then split the character sheets amongst your group. All you need is a way to make notes. A set of dice is definitely nice to have, but Google has you covered for any dice-roling needs.

It really is as simple as the Starter Set and a group call. One of the benefits of this minimal set up is there’s a whole lot less that can go wrong and players have less to fiddle with so *hopefully* will remain more engaged in your storytelling.

See what works for you and which parts of the game running you want to enhance. If the players find it tough to imagine locations, Roll20 and tilemaps might be right for you. If they really enjoy the character building element of the game, run your first full session with the newly updated Character Builder app.

Let’s face it: if you’re over the age of 18, the hassle of getting four (or more) people on the same call at the same time can be the biggest threat to any Dungeons & Dragons campaign. If you want to see if DnD is right for you, it’s best to keep it simple in the beginning. The starter set is great, as there’s nothing big to learn or read before playing, and for the DM everything is nicely scripted and easily understandable.

If everyone in your party is as eager to learn as you, hit up the more detailed guides. If you’ve caught the bug watching streams, seeing Dungeon & Dragons in movies and TV, just settling down and playing with as few barriers to entry as possible is what RPGs are all about.

And trust me on the Divinity Original Sin 2 part!

Jimmy Dance, self-appointed expert.