Dungeons and Dragons (or any RPG of your choosing) is a game best played around a table with your friends! Sometimes, unfortunately, that’s not an option. Be it distance, a global health crisis, or ease of scheduling, sometimes it’s best to take your game online. There is a huge number of options when it comes to playing Dungeons and Dragons online – we’re here to help narrow down the best D&D online sites. In this article, we’ll take a look at the best Virtual Tabletop (VTT) services available. The services are:
- Fantasy Grounds
- Owlbear Rodeo
- Tabletop Simulator
- Above VTT
- D&D Beyond
- GM Forge
- RPG Engine
- Game Master Engine
- Let’s Role
We’ve also got some tools that make it easier to play online and organize your game, which we’ll go over after our list.
Even before the pandemic rolled around and meeting in person meant masking up for safety, my group was using Roll20 to play. I’ve used it while travelling to Australia to play with my stateside party, and it’s kept us playing together through at least 5 people moving around the country. I personally have over 700 hours in Roll20 games and 30 different campaigns throughout that time. Roll20 is our top choice for ease of access and ease of use. It also allows you to step up your games if you want to make the investment.
Roll20 is free by default, and offers base features like character sheets for any RPG you can imagine, a comprehensive mapmaking system, the ability to import any image you’d like, and even a built-in music player. They do offer subscription services that give you access to their token library, advanced fog of war mapping, and even premade modules on their marketplace. I’ve played the entirety of Dungeon of the Mad Mage on this VTT with assets from Roll20’s marketplace and it all ran very smoothly, thanks to the premade maps and tokens.
I have dabbled in Fantasy Grounds, and it is a very in-depth VTT. This is the top choice for those who really want to get into the nitty gritty of fleshing out everything a VTT can do. Anything in this VTT can have macros assigned to them, opening up a world of possibilities for interaction from the players! Want to set a certain tile to do something when a party member “steps” on it? In Fantasy Grounds, you can do that and more!
There is a free demo of Fantasy Grounds so you can see if it’s your cup of tea. If you want to get the standard version, it’ll run you $39 at time of writing. The standard version lets you join games and host for others with the standard version. The ultimate version allows you to host games for free users for $149 at time of writing. If you have a party of at least 4, it’s the best bet to pitch in and buy the ultimate version for your DM (or do that anyway and share the password, but you didn’t hear that from me!).
Our first 3D VTT entrant, Talespire is a recently Kickstarted game on Steam that allows you to craft maps and host games for others who own the game. The interface and potential for immersion ranks high on our list! The only downside currently is that it’s in early access, but some may see this as a plus. It’s actively being developed and gets updates every week or so. The developers are also intent on listening to the community and what the areas of biggest demand are.
If you snap up Talespire right now, it’s $25, but you have to act quick. The price is sure to rise once it’s out of early access and becomes a full fledge release. Keep in mind that all players will need to have Talespire in order to participate in the game!
D20PRO has a similar interface to Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds, but focuses on game automation in order to emphasize the roleplaying of your roleplaying game! The VTT will track attacks, movement, and spell areas of effect for you, all while you take in the amazing visuals with their dynamic fog of war effects. And even if automation isn’t for you (you’d prefer tossing your Pound-O-Dice onto the table), D20PRO offers non-browser action with great map layout options.
There are two available options for D20PRO. The Player License gets you one seat, full access to character sheets, and interactivity with any map your GM presents for $10 at the time of writing! The bigger, badder GM License will allow you to host up to 6 guests without licenses and includes all the perks of the Player License as well. This will run you $50, but they do have sales occasionally.
A demo is available for Foundry VTT for free. The full license key will run you $50 for access to all these features. Foundry lets you host a server that your party can connect to via web browser for free, so only one person needs to purchase it!
This is a unique take on VTTs. Owlbear Rodeo is a one-time use map-sharing service. You start up a game and give your players a password, and they all join in through their web browser. No making an account or paying for premium services. Just quick and easy battle maps! The one drawback is that it does not have an integrated die rolling feature, so you’ll have to stick with ol’ reliable (physical dice).
A classic game, Tabletop Simulator can bring you any board game your heart desires, so why not D&D or any other TTRPG? There are countless miniatures and goodies for your party to find on the Steam Workshop that you can quickly and easily import into the game. If you devote time into figuring out the minutia of Tabletop Simulator, you can whip up some pretty slick macros too!
On Steam, Tabletop Simulator will run you about $20, or $60 for a pack of 4. A good deal for an adventuring party!
As you can tell by now, nearly all of these VTTs offer the same usual package. You’ve got your map sharing, character sheets, dice, and player control. The unique thing about Rolisteam is that the whole project is free and available for open-source development! If you’ve got a hankering for cobbling together some features for your table, you can. This is also one of the few VTTs we were able to find that is specifically crafted to work on Linux.
Shmeppy advertises itself as “your wet erase mat,” and that’s just what it does! It’s similar to Owlbear Rodeo in that it focuses on the creation of maps and leaves the rolling of dice to you. The interface is simple enough that you are able to draw up maps on the fly instead of needing them to be pre-prepared, which is nice if you’re delving in a dungeon that you don’t want your players to know all of quite yet.
It will cost $5 a month for the GM account, though, but it’s free for player accounts!
The RPG and Game Master Engines
Another Steam-based VTT, The RPG Engine offers similar features to that of Talespire, but focuses more on creating full maps instead of Talespire’s encounter-based creations. The RPG Engine also offers a plethora of items and characters to customize your experience. Currently in early access, The RPG Engine is going for $20.
More machinery, we’ve got Game Master Engine! This Steam game has some more customizability in your environments, but that comes with a price hike. Game Master Engine can be found on Steam in early access for $50.
Tools to Play Online
Some of these VTT options come with an option for voice and video chat, but we would recommend a separate application for that. Discord would be our service of choice: it’s sleek, you can organize servers, and it’s pretty easily navigable. Both Skype and Zoom are also great options if those work better for your party!
Some questions about playing D&D online!
Where Can I Find Good D&D Players Online?
There are some great looking for group (LFG) forums and sites online! Reddit would be a good place to start at /r/LFG.
Is There an Online Game of D&D?
There is! Dungeons and Dragons Online is an MMORPG from Wizards of the Coast that sets you on your own adventure in the world of D&D.
Is D&D Online Pay to Win?
That depends which D&D online you’re talking about. For the “tabletop” game, it depends on if your DM takes bribes or not. For the MMO, the expansions cost money, and that gives access to higher level content.
Do DMs Get Paid?
Depends on the group! There are certainly dungeon masters for hire, and there are some who make a living DMing.
Wrapping Things Up
Overall, the setup we would recommend for the best general experience playing D&D online would be using Roll20 as your VTT and chatting it up on Discord with your party! Of course, this doesn’t mean that other options are obsolete. Many services offer in-depth customization that Roll20 simply doesn’t. If your intention is to just hop on and play, though, using those two is your best bet!