At first glance D&D might seem to be a very expensive hobby. If you saw Critical Role you will see everyone using their D&DBeyond Player Handbooks (PHB), miniatures and even terrain and constructions as maps to make it look more realistic or create inmersion (Dwarvenforge). However, running and playing the game can be as expensive as you want it to be (yeah, even free if you like). If you are going to be playing for a while though, support the creators by getting some of their products, preferably from game stores to support them too.
I didn’t create this article to tell you how to play this game for free though, but to be able to play or run it in the best possible way on a budget:
To start with, you and your players should have this at hand, either printed out or in your own tablet/phones. I recommend having it print to avoid getting distracted with your phone while playing.
This manual will give you all the basic information you will need to play. It might not have all the classes, subclasses, races, subraces or spells but it has just enough for you and your friends to try the game out. If you end up liking it, consider getting a PHB, Dungeon Master’s Guide and Monster Manual for the whole group if you are low on money, or at the very least the PHB. Getting them on D&DBeyond and sharing a subscription with your group is another good choice too!
You can use whatever you want to represent your character, or not use anything at all by playing in Theatre of the Mind, but I’ve got a better option. You can find on the internet (maybe your local game stores have some too) bases for D&D miniatures at a very low price. My personal recommendation is to get colored ones that have a spot to place a card or paper like in the picture. That way, you can differentiate everyone by color coding them. Fighter is the red one, while the druid is the green one. The goblins will use purple and have numbered papers to help everyone discern them.
Want to make them look even better? Use those same bases I talked about and get some paper miniatures from the internet. PrintableHeroes has got some free ones you can try out, or have full access to his catalogue by subscribing to his patron. Trash mob minis is another one I really recommend if you want to go for a more goofy style. These can be used either for your players and monsters, and combined with the bases, it will cost you nowhere as much as the prepainted minis.
Click on the images for access to their webpages:
Paint your own minis
Another possibility is to get some (or even make your own with clay as I’ve seen some people do) unpainted fine looking miniatures and paint them yourself. Lots of people love painting their own minis and it has become a bit of a hobby for me. I find painting them yourself to be relaxing and you end up with something you can be proud of and show to your friends. There are tons of video tutorials on YouTube on how to get the best results. If someone with my skills can make something very decent from one of those, you have no excuse for trying it out. It also costs about half the price of the prepainted ones, so I find it to be worth the effort.
So you don’t want to spend money on physical miniatures or prefer to take the digital route. That’s ok, there is one way I know of, as long as you have some tablet, notebook or TV at hand. Roll20 is a digital tool you can use for free for combat, tactical drawing or more. Simply grab some images from the internet to represent all the parts in the combat scenario and place them on the screen. It works great as a visual representation and can be used even when you are not playing online
Even though you can have an app to roll dice in your mobile device, the feeling of having your own dice to put the blame on when you roll badly can’t be achieved with anything else. Dice are very cheap and you can get some for a small amount of money. There are better looking ones, which are more expensive and beautiful, as well as dice sets, but there are dice that are sold separately too. These ones tend to be cheaper, and if you are new to the game you should consider having all the different sided dice have a different color to better distinguish them.
With the festivities right around the corner, why not get your families and friends the gift of knowing how to play this awesome game? Get some of these products and start rolling! Next week I’ll be continuing this article with some other things to get you started even if you are running low on money.
Do you have any other tips you would like to share to save some coin while using quality content? I would love to hear about them!