You step out into an open field with your friends, endless possibilities ahead of you. The smooth leather of your sword hilt rolls under your hand as you twist your weapon over and over, contemplating your next steps. Will your party go to the ancient dwarven caves, chasing the promises of wealth untold, or will you rush to the aid of the helpless farm town that is on the cusp of being raided by goblins and orcs? You turn to your party and everyone nods in unison as your path becomes clear. You give a mighty shout and charge into adventures unknown, changing the world you are in… for better, or for worse.
The ability to create and build a character beyond the limitations of computer programming in video games is appealing to some. For many years, friends have gathered around a table with a book, pens, paper, a few dice, and their imaginations to have hours of fun. For example, James may have been a Dragonborn fighter and Alicia may have been an elven sorcerer while Michael could have been a human ranger, with all of the adventure taking place in one friend’s basement.
Today the adventure isn’t limited to one physical location, though it certainly could be done in that friend’s basement still. Today, you can play a game with friends all around the globe. With social media groups centered around interests, you could even make new friends playing this game over the internet. Perhaps this isn’t something you have thought of, or perhaps it’s something you have tried without much luck. Well, this formula may just help you to do just that: connect with friends all over the world. It is flexible enough that you can manipulate it to fit your needs, but should give you enough of a basis to help you get started.
To get started you’ll need these few things:
A Player’s Handbook (PHB)
A Dungeon Master (DM)
A Character Sheet
The first step is to find someone that is willing to be the Dungeon Master. They will be the one that creates the world that you will be playing in and the adventures that you will be going on. It is usually best to find someone with some experience with the game to be the DM, but if you have a friend that is willing to do a lot of reading and research, they can pick up the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Monster Manual and give it a shot.
Once you have someone delegated to be the DM, you’ll have to find some more players. Parties can range from 2 to as many as your DM will allow, but a party of 4-6 is ideal. You’ll want to form a pretty balanced team. Having someone to take the brunt of the damage, someone to heal the group, and the rest to do damage is best for combat. For story building, you’ll want a variety of backgrounds that can problem solve–finding things, learning the lore surrounding different aspects of the game, and fitting into difficult places to uncover special items, for example.
If you don’t have many friends that want to play Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), you can always find more people in various places across the internet. If you play with people you don’t know, you’ll want to be especially careful to not share any personal information with anyone in the group. If you haven’t made your social media profile safe from people that aren’t on your friends list, you’ll want to do so before starting a game with people you don’t know. You can join Facebook Groups or other communities centered around D&D or just geekiness in general. (I am kind of partial to ours as a Christian geek community: Geeks Under Grace Community.)
With your party set, you’ll want to start making your character. You can click this link to buy the Player’s Handbook from Amazon. If this is your first time playing, you’ll want to take the time to think out what kind of character you’ll want. Read the instructions on how to make a character and formulate one on your character sheet. You can click this link to get to download the character sheet. Often times, seasoned players or the DM will be willing to help you make your character. Once you have chosen your class, you can also search builds and find good guides online.
For example: I want to make a sorcerer. I search “Sorcerer Build D&D 5e” on Google and click one of the links for a guide. The guide helps me choose everything from my race, to my background, to my starting stats.
You will need a set of dice for the various things that you will do on your adventure. Some seasoned players prefer to have physical dice. If you would like to use physical dice, there is a good set that you can buy here.
For those that prefer the convenience of using their phones or tablets to house everything, there are a few apps that will help you track and play your game.
For iPhone and iPad users, there is a great Character Sheet app called Fifth Edition Character Sheet. You can track everything that involves your character for free. If you want to take advantage of the automatic level-up process, you’ll have to pay $2.99 (which I did, because it is very much worth it). The best dice rolling app that I have found is Dice and Dragons. It is a free app that allows you to save your different ability rolls with applying the different modifiers. The startup tour process is lengthy and can be a little confusing, but once you get through that, this app is great! There is also a great app that a DM can use to share maps with you called 3D Virtual Tabletop that you can add your characters’ pictures to.
If you have an Android device, you know that some apps don’t work for every device, so I can only give the two that work the best for the devices I know. The same Character Sheet app that is available for Apple devices is also available in the Google Play Store: Fifth Edition Character Sheet. You can track everything that involves your character for free. If you want to take advantage of the automatic level-up process, you’ll have to pay $2.99 (which I did, because it is very much worth it). As far as a good dice app, DnDice works well. It is 3D, works well, and it’s free! 3D Virtual Tabletop is also available on Android.
Finding the best platform to play the game on will be different for each group. You may want the convenience of a platform you are familiar with, or you may want to keep your game communication separate from everything else you do. Each group will likely be different, but you’ll want to come to an agreement on what type of platform you want to use. There are two main options that I have found that work well.
Most people have a Facebook account these days, so a natural option for those that want to use a platform that they are familiar with is using messenger on Facebook. It isn’t always the easiest form to use, but it can be done. You’ll likely only want to use this platform with people you are comfortable with seeing your profile picture (and only if you have made your profile safe from people who aren’t on your friends list). If you are playing with a group of people you already know, you will be fine.
You’ll want to create two messenger groups: one for your in-character (IC) posts, and one for your out-of-character (OOC) posts. The IC group will be where you will type the things that take place in the world. If you are role-playing (RP) that your character is checking out the dungeon or swinging a sword, that post will go in this group. The OOC group is where you will discuss things that wouldn’t fit in the story. If you need to ask the DM a question or need to make a roll to attack, this group is where you will do it.
It is easiest to keep a secret group open with your group if you use Facebook for anything that needs to be shared or discussed that isn’t time sensitive. The group is where you will share your character sheets (if you choose to), maps of places you will frequent, any variant information (if the DM allows it), and things of that nature. Keeping these things readily available makes it easier than having to scroll up through several messages to try to find an important piece of information.
Slack is a great platform that you can use to house all of your adventures. It allows you to pin important posts, it has cross-platform apps, and it is free! You’ll just follow the steps to create a Slack account, get the player’s email addresses to send them invites to setup accounts, and follow the steps for setting up your page.
There are a few bonuses to using a platform to encompass all aspects of your game and nothing else; safety being one. You don’t have to worry about someone you don’t know very well looking at your profile. In addition, Slack allows you to make a profile for your character, which adds flavor to the game. Instead of seeing everyone’s Facebook profile pictures, you see a picture associated with their characters.
You’ll create an IC and OOC channel to toggle back and forth between. You won’t have to have a third page to manage, as you would have to using a secret group on Facebook, because you can “pin” important events and posts to show up on the right side of the page. Then you can view them any time you want without having to scroll back up to find them.
Playing with others around the globe has its drawbacks. You will likely end up with a group of people in different time zones and conflicting schedules. Having everything available on your mobile phone to allow you to play when others can is a plus to playing online, though. You could be at a number of places and bored out of your mind, but be able to find escape with your friends through D&D on your phone. Playing while traveling becomes an option too. You no longer have to have your character take a hiatus from the group or pause the game when someone goes on vacation. Your time may be more limited, but the game can go on.
Another way to alleviate some of this problem is to schedule some time with everyone to get in a few solid hours of playing. Then, you can know that you will have everyone’s undivided attention for that block of time, and an encounter won’t take days to get through. You can make a note and pin it on Slack, make an event for everyone’s calendars, or create an event on Facebook for everyone to track when the group will be available. Scheduling time may not always be an option with a busy DM, and not everyone will be able to make it to every scheduled setting, but everyone will know when the event is taking place if you can do so.
Jumping into your D&D character and world no longer requires you to be at a certain place at a certain time. You and your friends can be anywhere in the world and play at any time you are all available. These are certainly not the only ways this can be done either, but you can sure manage a game this way. Give it a shot and let us know, in our Facebook community (Geeks Under Grace Community), how it worked out for you. What worked well and what didn’t? Maybe you can even form a group!
May your adventures be plentiful and your enemies be crushed under your feet!
You can purchase dice and any of the books you need by clicking the images below:
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About the Author
Shawn serves on the board for Geeks Under Grace and director of marketing. He has played video games since he was 2 years old and has immersed himself deep within the geek culture. Writing short stories and releasing them for free to the public began his writing journey, and now he uses what he has learned along the way to help Christians benefit from geek culture. Out of his desire to serve Christ, he also founded DUDEronomy and continues to write short stories that entertain and give perspective into the life of a Christian. Shawn's hope is that his life would exemplify a follower of Christ and lead people to accept salvation through His grace. He wants to be a good father, husband, son, and friend to those around him.