Using IRL Accessories to Up Your Remote Game

In the interest of public health and safety, lots of D&D sessions are going remote. This is the beauty of the game, it always finds a way! But, if you’re missing that IRL feeling, a great way to reclaim the magic is with gaming accessories. Or at least, it’s my favourite. And it’s a wonderful way to support your fellow nerd, who would usually depend on convention season for their livelihood. If you’re a fellow dice goblin, consider a few of these real world trinkets to enhance your next virtual session. Please note, this is not a sponsored article, just a list of stuff I like and have been useful in my games.

         Speaking of dice, they’re a fun and easy way to customize your gaming experience. Lots of players dedicate sets of dice to certain characters, or certain spells. Dungeon masters can use different sets for NPCs, monsters, and other big bads. Or just to roll randomly behind the screen to keep their players on their toes. No judgment. You can find all sorts of dice from Chessex and other big manufacturers, but the resurgence of Dungeons and Dragons has also inspired an army of incredible dice artisans. Search them out on Twitter or Etsy for sets made from wood, metal and gemstones, hand-forged from meteorites, or inspired by nature, ice cream, and pop culture. You can even find dice specially made for your class or your favourite spell!

And don’t forget to give your new dice a cozy new home! Dice bags, boxes, and trays are very helpful to contain the beautiful chaos. For wooden accessories, Wyrmwood, is the go to for fancy nerds and Critical Role fans (check out their boxes decorated by acclaimed cartographer Deven Rue), but I also love Elderwood Academy, Staff and Branch, and Talon and Claw. For a bit of whimsy, there’s Dodecadonut, if you like sugar cravings with your session. Want to customize something with your character’s name, or favourite colours? You can do that! Send the call up on Twitter and find your perfect match. Bags and trays are especially customizable and are as varied as your favourite dice, do you want chainmail? Something extra portable? Beanie Babies? Lots of pockets? Inspired by candy? The internet has your back. Go forth and commission, my friends. Stuck at home and looking for something to do between RPG sessions? You can also try your hand at making a dice bag or tray yourself. Youtube is chock full of tutorials, browse through the videos until you find one that fits your vision and the supplies you have on hand.

         Now, on to the other most used accessory: the character sheet. D&D Beyond has been instrumental in bringing a lot of players online for their character sheets, and it does add convenience to virtual sessions. But sometimes, I miss the old school pencil and paper. I actually keep two versions of many character sheets, an e-version and a hard copy, so I can have the best of both worlds. Thanks to sheet protectors and wet erase markers, you can get a sheet that’s useful and also a work of art! I’ve been using r_n_w’s sheets for years, because they’re cute and helpful to use, but, once again, there are lots of artists offering custom character sheets online. The Rook and the Raven, for example, have some droolworthy customizable notebooks available that combine character sheets, spells sheets, and all sorts of other goodies to keep you organized and on track. Or, use an official D&D sheet, but commission an artist for your character art, it’s a simple way to make the sheet your own and immerse yourself in the world. DMs this is a great tool for you as well. Commissioned art of your party and NPCs is a great way to connect everyone and make sure they’re on the same page, and it can be shared remotely! Looking for an artist? A few cancelled conventions now have virtual Artist Alleys for you to peruse at home, take a look at the ones for Emerald City Comic Con or Wondercon.

As a DM, I love using props and art to help immerse my players in the world.  I’m having to be a bit creative to continue that obsession in remote games. It’s still possible, and a great way to support some of my favourite creators, it’s just requiring more snail mail than is normally custom for a D&D party. I’m currently planning a collection of care packages with the props I’d normally share at the table.

My biggest tricks for creating atmosphere? Something they can see, something they can hear, something they can hold, and something they can smell. The first is easy and I mentioned it above: commissioned art. It’s so much fun to share unique art of your players’ favourite NPC! You can also order custom maps of your homebrewed world and have it printed or upload it to a site like Roll20 to share with your group. If you do have a physical map you’d like to share, especially with terrain and miniatures, try setting everything up and rigging a webcam or smartphone to broadcast it to your players. You can also take photos and send them to the group. Experiment with different strategies and see what works best for you.

For sound, Syrinscape and Youtube are my go-to solutions, but Roll20 also has some great audio options for remote games. For physical props, I’m a big fan of rewarding my players with tangible loot, items they can hang on to, that make them feel like they’ve actually earned something. Campaign Coins and Gale Force Nine are super helpful with appeasing my beloved murder hobos. Campaign Coins has all the fantasy currency even the greediest murder hobo could desire, and their D20 coins make great inspiration tokens. Gale Force Nine’s Magic Item cards not only offer a physical representation of the treasure, but are also a quick reference guide to its powers or effects.

And, last but certainly not least, my very favourite way to bring all my players into the same world: scents. It’s really easy to dismiss or forget about our sense of smell, but for me, it’s the quickest way to get into a different headspace. Cantrip Candles has specially designed scents to evoke different environments, and it’s wild to see how the experience changes with that extra detail. Send the same candle to each of your players, and it’s like you’re all in the same room!

All these fun accessories are a great way to re-connect with your group and ease the transition of going remote. Whether you’re a player or a DM, tangible connections to the game and your party can help plug you into the game, wherever you are. And, if you’re used to being remote, some extra props can add excitement and variety to a campaign that mostly exists in an virtual space. However, none of these props are necessary. The wonderful thing about Dungeons and Dragons is that it can be played as simply or elaborately as you’d like, and it can change from session to session. Feel free to use this time to experiment, explore new resources, and support your friends from afar, we’ll all get back to our tables soon enough.