Category Archives: Advice

D&D Beyond

Let’s face it: Wizard of the Coast’s track record when it comes to their digital offerings is – let’s say –  spotty at best. So it was probably a good idea that they let Curse handle D&D Beyond. Over the last few days I’ve extensively used the website and app to look up rules and to play around with the character creation tools. And I have to admit I am impressed.

But let’s get some things out of the way first: D&D Beyond is in my opinion a bit too expensive. If you want to have access to the full rules and perhaps some of the sourcebooks or modules you have to basically buy them a second time – assuming you already owned them in print. I get that WotC doesn’t want to give the materials away for free, but $90 for the digital access to the PHB, DMG, and MM is a bit steep for my tastes. On the other hand, D&D Beyond allows you to share access with your gaming group, so the offer gets quickly more affordable if you split the costs with your players.

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So what does D&D Beyond offer? Even if you don’t want to pay a dime, you get a complete rules compendium including everything the Basic Rules have to offer. This compendium is fully searchable and the display was optimized for the web (or smartphone and tablet via the app). If you buy additional material, you get access to it as well. People who have subscribed to the Master Tier are allowed to share their library with up to 12 people per campaign (up to three). This sets you back about $6/month. There’s also a cheaper Hero Tier which is meant for players (it doesn’t include the sharing feature) which is only $3/month. Free users have limited character slots and can’t use other people’s homebrew material with the character creation tool.

There are also tools for creating characters, magic items, and monsters. From what I’ve read they plan to add more features in the future, but even now, it’s a pretty nice thing to have. You can also share your homebrew materials with other players but I haven’t really looked into this part of the offer.

The app (which is available for both iOS and Android) currently only gives you access to the rules compendium functionality, but this might change at a later date. What I really like is that it allows you to download your purchased content (including the free Basic Rules) to your device, so you don’t need internet access to look stuff up. If you want to read the D&D 5th Edition rules on your commute, then the D&D Beyond app is the way to go!

Aside from the fact that I consider it a tad expensive, D&D Beyond is – to my surprise – pretty impressive and I haven’t even tried every feature. The ability to look up rules, stats, etc. and a device-optimized display alone is worth it. And even if you don’t want to put down any money, the D&D Beyond app with the Basic Rules is a must-have for any serious D&D player!

GM Binder

You might have had the same problem as I faced a couple of days ago. I wanted to create a short primer for my upcoming campaign for my players. I already had some ideas on what I wanted to write, and I knew I wanted it to look great, so that they might actually be reading it, but I wasn’t really in the mood of tinkering with QuarkXPress (or any similar software all day). That’s when I remembered GM Binder.

GM Binder is an online tool which is just awesome if you want to quickly create good looking documents for your D&D game. It uses a version of Markdown, a simplified markup language which is easy to learn but quite powerful. With the GM Binder editor you write your document in one window using the aforementioned Markdown language and in another window you can see what the final document will look like. If you are familiar with HTML or a similar markup language you should feel right at home.

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The resulting document can be shared via a link, can be exported as a PDF, or can be printed. The basic theme is based on the look of the current D&D 5E core rulebooks, but you can easily switch to another theme using so called “Snippets”. If you’re fluent in CSS you can also create your own theme or tweak the existing one.

Snippets are actually quite handy. There are snippets for inserting a cover image, for stat blocks, tables etc. With just a few button presses pregenerated elements are quickly inserted into your source code which can then customized by you. If you are not afraid of code, GM Binder is a great tool for quickly creating good looking documents for your D&D game (or any other game). The learning curve is definitely less steep than in professional desktop publishing tools and the results are quite impressive.

Listing all the features and a deeper look at all available snippets is beyond the scope of this post, so I recommend you check out GM Binder yourself. There are a couple of great example documents available and there’s an active community on Reddit.

GM Binder is free but you can support the creators on Patreon. I also should mention that there’s a similar tool called Homebrewery which shares a lot of GM Binder’s features. After trying out both I stuck with GM Binder because it was easier to use. If you’re looking for a tool which allows you to turn your homebrew material into a gorgeous-looking document, you definitely should check out both GM Binder and Homebrewery.

Fudge Solo Engine

In my recent post on Ghost Ops I made a reference to another project. That project was an automation of the One Page Solo Engine by Karl Hendricks.

This single page PDF does everything you really need from a solo engine. One the plus side it also has a complex question mechanism but on the down side it is more dice intensive than I personally like (but no where near as many rolls mythic or CRGE).

Hopefully, you should all know now that solo engines work on a weighted Yes/No question and answer mechanism. Questions you would ask your GM you pose to the solo engine such as “Are there any obvious guards?” If you were looking at the front entrance of an airport the answer is very likely a yes but you roll the dice and modify the roll for that likelihood. The engine comes back with one of four common responses No but…, No, Yes, Yes and… . You then use common sense, the game setting and the story so far to decide what that answer means. So a No but… could mean that there are no obvious guards but the area is covered by multiple cameras. A Yes and… could mean there are guards and they seem to be on heightened alert, armed and checking every vehicle.

The One Page Solo Engine has a complex question mechanic. Not every question is a Yes/No. The complex question mechanic uses a pack of playing cards to produce a verb/adverb pair. These can sometimes seem pretty strange. So lets say you see the criminal mastermind in a downtown LA bar with his henchmen. You ask what is he up to or how does he seem? Yes/No is not going to work here but the complex answer comes out with some thing like Creating + Social. You could interpret that as the villain is celebrating something with is henchmen is maybe is courting a gangland rival? Again it is down to the setting, the game and what would make the most sense and advance the story.

Anyway, I wanted to create an automated version of the One Page Solo Engine to do away with all the dice rolling and card drawing. So I bashed together a single webpage with just some plain text, a bit of javascript and some CSS. When I chose to test this with Ghost Ops I then bolted on a Fudge dice roller.

The only part I did not include was the dungeon crawler as Ghost Ops is modern day so I didn’t need a random dungeon.

I have zipped the file up and shared it if you would like to have a play and you can down load it from here. If you save the html file to any device you can use it off line, it does not need to connect to anything, no databases or servers needed to make it work.