If you’ve done a bit of searching or you’ve watched the second campaign of Critical Role, then you’ve probably heard of DnD Beyond (DDB), a site dedicated to D&D 5e content. It contains a lot of features and handy bits such as the following: Character Sheets, Rulebooks/Expansions, Homebrew Support (not full), Full List of Official Spells, Core Classes, Encounter Builder, Full List of Monsters, Twitch Extension, Avrae Compatibility, and more! All in all, the only thing DDB really lacks is a VTT (Virtual Tabletop) though there’s an extension called Beyond20, which allows you to use DDB and Roll20 together (however I don’t use the extension myself).
What’s Free And What’s Paid?
If you’re like a lot of people who don’t really like spending a lot of money on DnD, especially if you’re just getting started, then this is an important question to ask. And the answer is: A lot actually.
When you sign up for a free account, you get:
- Access to the character creator which contains a dice roller, a section for resistances, immunities, vulnerabilities, and conditions, an extras section for any familiars, summons, companions and pets you have, as well as sorting for your character’s info, plus the ability to export your character sheets to a PDF. Also can’t forget Fantasy Name Generators integration for your characters
- The Basic Rules compendium which adds all the classes excluding Artificer with a couple of subclasses to start you off
- The ability to create and publish your own homebrew content though you can’t use published homebrew even though you can look at it
- The ability to see a list of all spells for a certain class or of a certain school, without buying the books, though you will need the books to actually see what they do or add them to characters you make
- Access to an encounter creature which allows you to use ANY monster, even if you don’t own them though once again, you don’t get to see what said monsters do without buying the books
- You can make a campaign with your friends to share your homebrew, organize your notes, and more.
- The content for Elemental Evil Player’s Companion which includes races, and spells to expand your options, though it’s mostly meant for expanding Princes of the Apocalypse
- The ability to post on the Forums, and even see stuff posted by others there.
Of course this is quite the handful! But it gets better: If you purchase a subscription, you can create unlimited characters and campaigns, exclusive monthly rewards, use homebrew content within DDB and get early access to new tools for a hero subscription, or pay a little more to share all your unlocked official content to players in campaigns with no more than 12 players each! Plus, you can purchase all the official source books!
Problems With DnD Beyond
Now I love DDB as it really makes things a breeze, and is slowly improving! But I have a few problems with it which are as follows:
- No VTT, so you need to use it for in-person games, ToM games, or find another VTT like Roll20 (alleviated by Beyond20 for free on most browser extension stores)
- You can’t Homebrew Classes (Goodbye Blade Soul).
- You gotta get creative about adding extra features such as a boon that adds a special bonus.
- If you bought the physical books, you can’t use the content in them until you buy them on DDB.
- The homebrewing pages can be confusing to read.
- You can’t customize core rules.
- It only works for 5e.
Some of these are perfectly fine, though they can be real deal breakers if -like me- you want to play online without needing to have map scrolls for everything, and you really want to give your players the option to play something that isn’t a standard option (or Critical Role), such as a Variant Class to change how rules work, or if you want to play a campaign inspired by some media you and your friends all enjoy (such as Harry Potter), or even re-work certain rules.
Verdict On DnD Beyond
To conclude, DDB isn’t perfect. It’s great at what it does, and tries to empower players and DMs alike, with mostly flexible tools, and ways to help you stay organized.
If you enjoy playing regular games in person or with Theatre of Mind (or with Beyond20 for VTT integration), don’t mind the problems listed above, want more characters, and don’t mind spending $6 each month (or less with an annual subscription, and even less with a Hero subscription instead of a Master one), DDB can be worth every penny.
If the above problems are deal breakers for you, or you can make do with the base features, then perhaps the extras of DDB might not be worth paying for. I personally find that even though I have to use a bit of programming to make things better, roll20 has the essentials and freedom I need, even if I would like to automate and simplify things (Like rests) the way DDB does.
It all depends on what you need, what your situation is, and how you like to play. So use your better judgement, keep looking, and perhaps you’ll find what you’re looking for. And if not, you can always make it yourself! So I hope you find what you’re looking for, and enjoy!