How to Play Dungeons and Dragons for Free


Dungeons and Dragons is the most popular tabletop roleplaying game in the world. While a lot of hardcore enthusiasts enjoy spending thousands of dollars on Dungeons and Dragons miniatures, accessories, and gaming materials, you can run an entire campaign for free! The materials you need to build and run a game can all be generated or found online, and you can always write your own campaign from scratch. Game materials like dice, miniatures, and maps can all be replaced or built as well and there are plenty of free online programs that can help. Keep in mind, there’s no wrong way to play Dungeons and Dragons. No matter how overwhelming it may seem, all it really requires is a few friends and an active imagination!

Part 1
Getting Campaign Materials

Getting Campaign Materials on How to Play Dungeons and Dragons for Free

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You need a copy of the rules and the Player’s Handbook to run a Dungeons and Dragons game. Luckily, every written published text that you need is available online for free. You can download the basic rules online at . The entirety of the Player’s Handbook can be found at .[1] The Dungeon Master’s Guide and Monster’s Manual can be found online at . The Dungeon Master’s Guide teaches you how to run a campaign from the dungeon master’s perspective, and the Monster’s Manual contains information regarding the creatures in the worlds of the game. A physical copy of the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, or Monster Manual will cost $50-60 each.

Getting Campaign Materials on How to Play Dungeons and Dragons for Free

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A campaign refers to the materials involved in a story arc that are needed to run a game. A campaign includes maps, plot lines, characters, stats, and descriptions. To find free campaigns, download a few campaigns from . Click the panel on the side, click “Story,” and then click “Story Archive” to pull up old campaigns that are free to use.[2]The outlines of campaigns are often free since you need to know what the stories actually are before you buy them. You can fill in the missing information in the outline with characters, maps, and encounters that you find online in forums.

Getting Campaign Materials on How to Play Dungeons and Dragons for Free

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You can cut and paste a campaign together by using the outline of an official campaign with characters and encounters that you find online in Dungeons and Dragons communities. Forums are filled with users publicly sharing characters, items, maps, and plots. You can find them at , , and . The community at stores lists of random campaign information in sets of 100 so you can roll 2 D10s to select events at random.

Getting Campaign Materials on How to Play Dungeons and Dragons for Free

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If you have an idea for a story, there’s no need to borrow materials from other creators. Write out the outline of a story, come up with names of the key figures in the world, and make the maps yourself. This is an excellent option if you’re a fan of world-building and don’t mind spending a lot of time to flesh your world and characters out.[3]Tip: You don’t need a map forevery setting. You can alwaysimprovise and save materials bydrawing a broad outline of themap in a notebook. Only make gamemaps for areas that you know willinvolve combat.Tip: You don’t need a map for everysetting. You can always improvise andsave materials by drawing a broadoutline of the map in a notebook. Onlymake game maps for areas that you knowwill involve combat.Tip: You don’t need a map for everysetting. You can always improvise and savematerials by drawing a broad outline of themap in a notebook. Only make game maps forareas that you know will involve combat.Tip: You don’t need a map for every setting. You can always improviseand save materials by drawing a broad outline of the map in a notebook.Only make game maps for areas that you know will involve combat.Tip: You don’t need a map for every setting. You can always improvise andsave materials by drawing a broad outline of the map in a notebook. Only makegame maps for areas that you know will involve combat. You can find an excellent step-by-step tutorial on how to write your own campaigns online. A playlist of videos can be found at . You can make fantasy maps for your world at . You can make town maps for free at . To start writing your own campaign, come up with a major villain that the party will have to face. Then, think through what the villain’s motivations and goals are. This will give the main conflict in your story a central focus, and will make fleshing out the rest of the world a lot easier.

Getting Campaign Materials on How to Play Dungeons and Dragons for Free

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Instead of buying books or digital copies filled with stat-blocks (sets of numbers you need for specific people and places), generate your own characters, monsters, and towns online. You can use to generate random towns and to generate random characters. Use these instead of pulling characters from an expensive database or book.[4] Use an online name generator to come up with random names of characters on the fly. Go to to generate some random character names. In Dungeons and Dragons, an encounter refers to anything that stops the player’s progress. This could be a puzzle, role-playing situation, or combat interaction. A lot of online creators release the outline or premise for a campaign for free, but keep the stat-blocks for the characters behind a paywall. Using the outline and simply filling in the missing characters and towns with randomly generated versions is an easy way to run a campaign.

Part 2
Replacing Tabletop Pieces

Replacing Tabletop Pieces on How to Play Dungeons and Dragons for Free

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You need a battle mat to place miniatures on the battlefield. Every battle mat contains 1 in (2.5 cm) squares or hexes that represent a space where the players are fighting or exploring. Make your own battle mat by getting a piece of foam board. Use a ruler as a straight edge for a permanent marker and draw a set of parallel lines 1 in (2.5 cm) apart. Draw a perpendicular set of lines to make a grid.[5]Tip: A battle mat typically costs$15-25. If you ever feel likeputting money into the game, this(or dice) should be the firstthing that you purchase to makethe game better for the players.Tip: A battle mat typically costs$15-25. If you ever feel like puttingmoney into the game, this (or dice)should be the first thing that youpurchase to make the game better forthe players.Tip: A battle mat typically costs $15-25. Ifyou ever feel like putting money into thegame, this (or dice) should be the firstthing that you purchase to make the gamebetter for the players.Tip: A battle mat typically costs $15-25. If you ever feel like puttingmoney into the game, this (or dice) should be the first thing that youpurchase to make the game better for the players.Tip: A battle mat typically costs $15-25. If you ever feel like putting moneyinto the game, this (or dice) should be the first thing that you purchase tomake the game better for the players. One hex or square usually represents 5 feet (1.5 m) in the game. This makes calculating movement easy, since player and monster speeds are always listed in increments of 5. Battle mats are sometimes called play mats, playing boards, or hexes.

Replacing Tabletop Pieces on How to Play Dungeons and Dragons for Free

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Every time that you want to put a map over your battle mat, cut tracing paper out into a square based on the size of your foam board. Put the tracing paper on the board and draw over it to make custom maps without ruining your grid. This way you can see the squares underneath but you won’t need to make a new grid every time you want to show a location. In Dungeons and Dragons, a battle mat refers to the base for the map that contains the hexes and squares. The map refers to the visual representation of objects that go over the battle mat.

Replacing Tabletop Pieces on How to Play Dungeons and Dragons for Free

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To replace miniatures, you can use any object smaller than 1 in (2.5 cm) to represent individual characters. You can use washer tokens or coins to simply represent players and enemies. If you want to make it easier to keep track of characters, write down each player’s name on a small scrap of paper to represent their character. Lego characters are excellent replacements since they fit perfectly on a battle mat’s grid and can be customized.[6] The minis have to be smaller than 1 in (2.5 cm) so that they fit on a hex. Larger objects and enemies can be bigger than a single hex. If you want to upgrade your collection, start off with miniatures that can represent multiple enemies or non-player characters. For example, most goblin miniatures can easily stand in for kobolds, hobgoblins, gremlins, bugbears, and skeletons. Cheap miniatures are often made with 3D printers. If you have a friend with a 3D printer, ask them to run off a few miniatures for you. Miniatures can range from $5-25. This can get pretty expensive pretty fast if you want to get miniatures for your entire party and have a variety of enemies.

Replacing Tabletop Pieces on How to Play Dungeons and Dragons for Free

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Wizards of the Coast (the company that owns Dungeons and Dragons) offers a free dice roller online that you can use to roll checks, attacks, and abilities. Open the roller and click the “roll” button next to a specific die to generate a random result on the right side of the screen. This can take place of the physical dice you need to roll over the course of the game. You can find the dice roller at .[7] Dice are named after the number of faces it has. A D4 has 4 sides, a D6 has 6 sides, etc. You need a D4, D6, D8, D10, D12, and D20 to play the game. Try to get a D10 with double digits on it as well to make rolling percentages out of 100 easy (roll 2 D10s with the double-digit die representing the 10s and the single-digit die representing the 1s, so a roll of 40 and 9 would be 49). You could theoretically run an entire campaign without miniatures and just roleplay the whole thing, and you could even improvise as you play instead of using a campaign, but you can’t play the game without dice. You absolutely need either physical or digital dice. Rolling physical dice is often a lot of fun for players and usually a fun source of tension since the outcome of the dice determines events in the game. Using a digital dice roller isn’t nearly as cool and dice aren’t very expensive so consider buying a physical set.

Replacing Tabletop Pieces on How to Play Dungeons and Dragons for Free

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The Dungeon Master (DM) needs a DM Screen to obscure their rolls, campaign information, and to add an air of secrecy and mystery to the game. Make a simple DM screen by taking 2 presentation binders and laying them on top of one another. Lay the right cover of the left binder underneath the right binder’s left cover. Pinch the 2 flaps together at the top with binder clips to fix them together.[8] You could simply open up 2 regular binders vertically and wrap them around the DM, but players typically store information inside the DM screen over a long period of time. Keeping player information, notes, and maps on the inside covers is hard to keep track of if you don’t fix the binders together. One of the benefits of the binders is that you can store information you need to refer to regularly on the inside folders of the binders. Keep copies of movement rates, treasure tables, terrain speeds, and common item prices stored on the inside of your binder. A premade DM screen can run anywhere from $10-200. Some Dungeon Masters really like expressing themselves with custom-made screens. Other Dungeon masters simply stack books or folders up to obscure the view.

Part 3
Using Online Programs

Using Online Programs on How to Play Dungeons and Dragons for Free

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Visit and create a free account to begin constructing a digital campaign in Roll20, the most popular program for roleplaying online. Once you make an account, you can create maps, roll dice, and place miniatures on the screen to indicate their positions. Communicate over the phone or through a video chat program while playing on Roll20 to replicate the experience of a real game.[9] You can make a Roll20 campaign to play with your friends, or search online to see if any games need new players! If you don’t have any friends that play, searching online in forums is the best way to link up with new people for a campaign. There are pre-loaded campaigns in Roll20 that you can use if you don’t want to construct the maps and characters from scratch. There are other digital programs that players use to run Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, like Tabletop Simulator, but Roll20 is the most popular version because it contains a lot functions. It’s also the only free program.

Using Online Programs on How to Play Dungeons and Dragons for Free

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If you hate flipping around in the Player’s Handbook to find information about your class or struggle to keep track of multiple enemies or non-player characters, you can use the D&D Beyond app to store all of the information that you regularly use. It’s free to access the basic features, and you can always pay a small fee to access tons of additional content.[10]Warning: There are a few otherapps that function like D&DBeyond, but they aren’tsanctioned by the company thatowns Dungeons and Dragons andtend to contain a lot ofinaccurate information. Most ofthem cost money to use as well.Warning: There are a few other appsthat function like D&D Beyond, butthey aren’t sanctioned by thecompany that owns Dungeons and Dragonsand tend to contain a lot ofinaccurate information. Most of themcost money to use as well.Warning: There are a few other apps thatfunction like D&D Beyond, but they aren’tsanctioned by the company that owns Dungeonsand Dragons and tend to contain a lot ofinaccurate information. Most of them costmoney to use as well.Warning: There are a few other apps that function like D&D Beyond, butthey aren’t sanctioned by the company that owns Dungeons and Dragonsand tend to contain a lot of inaccurate information. Most of them costmoney to use as well.Warning: There are a few other apps that function like D&D Beyond, but theyaren’t sanctioned by the company that owns Dungeons and Dragons and tend tocontain a lot of inaccurate information. Most of them cost money to use aswell.Download the D&D Beyond app at . You can use it on a phone or computer.

Using Online Programs on How to Play Dungeons and Dragons for Free

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Skype, Facebook video chat, and Google Hangouts are all free video programs that you can use to communicate with your friends. They make roleplaying easy when you can’t get every single player in the campaign to meet in one place. Agree on a time to play with your party and have everyone get online with your friends. Everyone doesn’t need to be in the same room to roleplay and the DM can always run combat on the common screen.[11]If most of a party can show up to a session but one or two players are out of town or something, you can set a laptop on the gaming table and have them call in over a video chat program to join.