I recently wrote a post about being a digital Dungeon Master. In this short post, I want to focus on what I think are the key tools needed to be able to perform the role effectively.
A good set of headphones with a microphone
The most essential part of the toolkit, unless you plan to run a cumbersome text only session. And let’s face it, Play by Post games do that much better than a real-time text game.
Anything will do from a set of iPhone headphones upwards. Realistically though, the better quality set the better. I bought a set of high quality Turtle Beach wireless ones. They were a bit more expensive but they perform well in so many ways.
They have a physical mute button which is useful. With three kids in the house, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that I will be interrupted with a query of some sort. The ability to quickly mute the mic without needing to navigate software is great. The fact that the headset is wireless also means I can get up and pick up a source book from the bookshelf without strangling myself.
A Discord server
Roll20 has made a valiant attempt at providing voice and video chat comms available within their application. In practise however, our group has found that it rarely works in full. We’ve had situations where players flit in and out of view or only 2 players can hear each other. Roll20 can’t handle both voice and video, so we only use it for voice.
Discord is very reliable for voice communications and works well in conjunction with the Roll20 web cam. More importantly, it’s free to set up and run a dedicated server for your campaign.
A decent webcam
I like to see my players where possible. However, I’d rather see what you really look like rather than a pixel art version of you. If your laptop webcam isn’t powerful enough then pick up a cheap USB one. They’re powerful and dirt cheap.
A second monitor
Essential for running Fantasy Grounds. Not essential for running Roll20 but incredibly useful if you do have one. Not a lot of people know that in Roll20 you can login to the game again on a browser session in a second monitor. I use one monitor for the map and the other for all of the journal entries. Unlike Fantasy Grounds, you can’t drag and drop between the monitors but it’s still handy.
A personal preference, but I like the feel of real dice in my hand. It also allows me to easily roll in secret without negotiating cumbersome /gmroll commands in Roll20 and eliminates the risk of accidentally rolling in ‘view’ of the players..
I am a 40 something DM/GM located in Scotland. In 2016, I rediscovered the joys of tabletop role-playing games. This blog documents my journey back into the fold.