D&D Series

D&D Series #5: Playing Online

Hello book bees and welcome back to my D&D series! Today I’ll be talking about how to play online, a topic I think is pretty relevant considering the worldwide lockdowns and the boredom starting to hit us all…


Roll20 is a website that has a variety of useful resources for playing online. First and foremost, it hosts an online playing system. How the system works is one person (usually the DM) creates a game using the free game creation system. They can invite players with Roll20 accounts to join the game, and as DM can create character sheets for the players to fill out and use. A nifty part of the character sheets is that once you’ve filled it out, you can click on various skills and weapons and the system will automatically roll attacks for you, or a pop up will ask you to clarify what you want to roll. Of course, plenty of online games still allow players to roll their own dice at home, but if you don’t have dice or don’t like to do the calculations when you roll this is a nice alternative.

If you’re the DM, it can be a lot of fun setting up a game in Roll20! You’re able to create layers so you can have lots of battle maps prepared and hidden from your players. You can also set it up so parts of a map are hidden until your players explore more, creating the illusion of a dark cave or hidden passages. You can import battle maps, use free (or premium content if you pay for a pro account) tokens that are provided to you, or draw freestyle if that’s more your thing. You can easily track hit points and ACs on NPCs and opponents, as well as have access to all your players’ sheets if needed. There are voice and video chat functions, though many people (myself included) use Roll20 in conjunction with Discord voice chats.

In addition to the system to create games, Roll20 has a compendium of information on monsters, spells, creatures, and items. It can be really useful if you’re googling something on the fly. There’s also a forum in which you can search for games, players, DMs, or information. Roll20 has occasional glitches, like any other website, but is a pretty solid resource for playing D&D online.


Most people are familiar with Discord, the popular app for chatting. Using it for D&D is relatively simple and along the same lines. The typical “table” will have a Discord server with a text chat and voice chat. The voice chat is, naturally, used during the game. A lot of servers will have an additional “whisper” chat which is used for when the DM is imparting private information to one or more players without the rest of the table hearing. While I, like many DMs, send text whispers it can be useful to have a voice chat dedicated to whispers for longer conversations, or when multiple players are involved. It’s also useful to have the text chat just for writing, for OOC conversations and if a player’s mic is out for some reason. Roll20’s text chat is the same area that rolls and ability checks come out from, so it can get confusing if you’re trying to maintain a chat there as well.

Roleplaying Online

Roleplaying online can be more difficult or less difficult, depending on the person. For me, a lot of my roleplaying is done through body language. Depending on your group, this can be easily resolved if you use video chats. But a lot of groups–mine included–don’t and rely entirely on voice chat. Of course, this gives a bit more privacy for everyone involved, but it can make roleplaying a little more difficult. I discussed in my last post that I don’t really use accents but instead inflections to emphasize different NPCs. Because my group does’t use video chat, I also have to use inflections in order to make emotion clear. Tones of voice to convey sadness, happiness, anger, and foreboding are all things that I’ve had to figure out in order to convey information in certain scenes to my players.

DMing Online

Not only can roleplaying be more complicated, but acting as DM can be more difficult when playing online. With voice chats, it can be difficult to control the conversation if it starts to veer too far from the game or topic at hand. It can also be slightly more complicated setting things up, such as battle maps or having items and treasure ready. I find that having access to random generators and descriptors is very handy (in general, not just for online DMing) and being able to send links to items online is actually a lot easier sometimes than having to transcribe all the stats and information onto a piece of paper or reciting them verbally. I’d say that DMing online can be just as fun and not much more difficult than in person so long as you’re keeping up with things. Make sure you’re still getting a sense of how much your players are or aren’t enjoying the game, since body language isn’t as visible or nonexistent if you play by voice only.

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By Catherine

I'm a lover of books, coffee, wine, and bees. Happy to join the ranks of book bloggers everywhere!

One reply on “D&D Series #5: Playing Online”

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