Before jumping into the best places to play DnD online, allow us to paint you a little picture of how Dungeons and Dragons have grown into the virtual world!
It is definitely safe to say that Dungeons and Dragons (DnD) played a large part in spawning a whole industry, one which today we take for granted but which in the early ’70s might have seemed as fantastical as the worlds it was building. And whilst other games and designers, innovators and writers have helped expand the Role Playing Game (RPG) community into the massive concern it has become, none has had the impact that D&D, the true original of the scene, has exhibited.
And like any great idea, it has evolved with the times, adapting its form and responding to new avenues and opportunities as they arose. It inspired other RPG’s. It simplified its core ideas so that it could be translated into board game variants. It expanded its rules. It invented the idea of gaming conventions. It transformed into video games and even found outlets as blockbuster films. And now, through the power of the internet, it can be played online, replacing the social, friends-around-the-table aspect, of the game with global connectivity as magical and transformative as the wizardly powers found within its gameplay. In this article, we’ll list down which are the best places to play DnD online.
The World Wide Web of Intrigue
Enter “play Dungeons & Dragons online” into your search engine today and you will be spoilt for choice as to where and how you can play but all the games have a lot in common. Generally, you sign up to a website, which may be a paid service or just a free browser driven game, create the character, and enter the game. This type of game is referred to as a Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game, sometimes a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) and refers to the fact that the game is designed to accommodate thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands of players, the word Massively is well chosen.
The Choice is Endless…
…but here is a very short list of some of the best places to play DnD online that we recommend:
- Neverwinter – Perhaps the best known D&D world is run by Arcgames and is a free-to-play, MMORPG world, which allows you to explore numerous locations and scenarios. It is often powered by player content and so is always expanding. A good place to flex your on-line gaming muscles;
- Dungeons and Dragons On-Line – Combining the simplicity of a computer game with the depth of an RPG, in this game, which has a reasonable monthly fee, you explore the city of Stormreach. It makes it a bit more contained than many games and it suffers from a few questionable design choices but when you compare the price against experience it is great for beginner and experienced adventurer alike.
- World of Warcraft – Although not a D&D game, it is based on the same sort of world, powers, and races, and has risen to be the most famous game of its kind, in turn spawning films, merchandise and a following that would rate as a country in its own right. (When we last checked it had a population akin to that of Greece!) It’s appeal…it’s massive! In fact, it makes the word “massive” feel as if it isn’t quite up to the job.
The Pros and Cons of the MMO
The first word of warning is one which is applicable to all on-line activity and that is people aren’t always what they seem. That might seem a bit obvious for a game where you take on the personalities of mythical creatures performing heroic deeds in fantasy land but it is something which you might want to think about for a moment.
Obviously that half-orc smuggler you are employing to get you past the elven guards isn’t a real half-orc smuggler. But at least when you are playing around a table you know that it is actually Bob from Human Resources.
Many MMO’s have forums and messaging systems outside the game experience so bear in mind that in such places the half-orc smuggler who appears to be a 19-year-old girl with a cute profile picture from the next town along might actually be a shady, 55-year old trucker from Akron and their motives might not always be so innocent. It’s a minuscule chance and shouldn’t be enough to put you off any on-line gaming, but even with the best moderation and in-house policing in place, it still pays to be cautious.
So with the cons, and possibly the ex-Con’s dealt with, the pros are many. MMORPG’s appeal for many reasons. Accessibility is the main one. If you can’t find an active table-top group then joining an online game is a great option. Similarly, if you are someone for whom the thought of joining such a group fills you with anxiety, then the on-line approach takes away such difficult and perhaps prohibitive social interaction.
Obviously, for many, it is the social aspect of playing D&D around a table with friends that is the real driving force of a session, a chance to hang out with like-minded people. This is lost to some extent via the MMO approach, although most have forums and social portals, and many friendships are forged through such connections.
And of course, there is nothing to stop you from taking part in both. Meeting in-person to live out your heroic fantasies when time allows. Hopping online to explore a whole different world when the logistics make a face-to-face gaming session impossible.
Finding Your New Home
Whether you stick to a D&D simulator or find a D&D-like world, there are a few things to consider before you relocate to the realm of your dreams…and perhaps nightmares.
Fee-To-Play versus Free-to-Play
Why pay when there are free games available? Because you get what you pay for. Free games will be simpler, less immersive, and probably earn their revenue through advertising so expect annoying banners and disruptions.
A paid game will generally require a recurring monthly fee but will allow for a more realistic experience. We’re not sure if realistic is the right word here considering that in an hour’s time you might be scaling the side of the Temple of the Lizard attempting to steal a magical jewel from its undead guards. But you get the gist.
Also, beware of games that appear free or surprisingly cheap but which require you to buy add-ons or equipment with real-world money to gain the full experience.
Here Comes The Fresh Meat!
Before you join any game, read the reviews. Some systems are known for being elitist and treating new players cruelly, again a small percentage. Make sure you chose a game that you can evolve in, going from bumbling newbie to the stuff of legend without ever feeling out of your depth. No one wants to be merely this week’s cannon fodder.
The Sandbox verses The Scenario
You will see the term “Sandbox” used to describe certain games. A Sandbox game is one where there are few restrictions and little direct guidance from the narrative. This means that you can go where you like and do whatever you want, to whom and with the pointy object of your choosing.
The opposite would be a game focussed more on a fairly linear narrative, making you feel more like a character in a book. The choice is really about how “lost” you want to feel when you play. Some players revel in the unknown, others might want a little more guidance.
A World Away
So, as with any purchase or commitment, do your research and find the world, the system, the style, which suits you. You wouldn’t buy a new car just because it looks nice, similarly, you shouldn’t choose a whole new world in such a fashion. After all, you are going to spend some of the best years of your alternative life in this place. Choose wisely, have fun, and very soon the bards will be singing songs about you. Make sure it is for all the right reasons!
That’s it from us and our recommendations on the best places to play DnD online. If you don’t understand how Hit Dice work in Dungeons and Dragons or perhaps want to read more about DnD Stats then check out our useful guides in our blog!