We live in a world where there are more ways to play your favorite RPG than ever before. Long gone are the days when paper and pen were the only things you needed to sit down with some friends and clear out a dungeon.
Today, you can play D&D with video chat, you can use a virtual tabletop, and even if you’re playing in person, you still probably have a laptop or phone at your side to aid you.
As the game has evolved over the years, so too have the tools we use to enjoy it.
In today’s article, we’re going to be talking about some of those fantastic tools DMs and players have at their disposal, right at the tips of their fingers.
There are countless D&D and general RPG apps out there, and it’s been my job to scour the digital market and find the absolute best for you to bring to the table.
Remember, no one has paid us to be put on this list; this isn’t just some advertising scheme. These are apps that I believe in and apps that I personally use to make my life easier.
Read on and see why you should be using these apps for your own campaigns.
How Can an App Help Me Play D&D?
It’s the question you really need to ask yourself before you decide to keep reading. Fortunately, the answer is simple.
D&D apps allow you to focus less on which goblin in the initiative count just lost 3 hit points and focus more on how to describe your player’s character’s epic lunge attack.
These apps are tools to lighten your burden and let you have more fun.
Dungeons and Dragons has a lot going on, and while 5e may have an emphasis on simplicity, it certainly isn’t rules-light.
Keeping track of everything that’s going on, taking notes, remembering the important pieces of your character sheet, creating random encounters, controlling NPCs, rolling up magic items, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
It too quickly becomes a chaotic juggling disaster.
That’s why we built technology though – to make our lives a little bit easier. Passionate roleplayers with coding knowledge all around the world are putting in the effort to give themselves and you a new, simpler way to play D&D.
With an app running by your side, you can focus on what really matters: playing a great game with friends.
Top 6 DnD 5e Apps (Free and Paid)
As always, I like to clarify a few things when I make lists like these. First, I’m not placing the following apps in any specific order, so this isn’t the kind of article where we rank things against each other.
Second, none of this is necessary to have fun playing D&D. These are all tools to make your life easier.
I’ve even avoided music and soundboard apps because, while exciting and potentially immersive, they aren’t an example of using an app to make a normal part of the game easier.
Lastly, I am not the be-all-and-end-all of D&D apps.
You could absolutely hate one of the apps on the list or think I’ve screwed up because I missed “the most helpful app of all time,” but either way, that just shows us that apps are really down to preference.
Different UIs are helpful for different people. Some people like being able to customize and code while others want to press a maximum of four buttons to get the result they’re looking for.
Everybody comes into their app store hoping for a slightly different “Perfect D&D App.”
Because I understand that there are a wide range of preferences out there, let me also just quickly clarify what criteria I’ve rated these apps on before I actually get into informing you about each one.
- Straightforward User Interface – An app either needs to be completely self-explanatory or hooked up with a presentable and easy-to-follow tutorial.
- Worth It – If the app costs money, it’s only on this list because you are getting a sufficient return on investment.
- Applicable – Obviously, you want to be able to use any of the apps on this list as a tool for playing D&D. The apps I’ve chosen each have a specific, or multiple, application(s) in common gameplay areas.
Without any further adieu, let’s get into rating some apps!
5th Edition Spellbook (Free)
5th Edition Spellbook by m&m Apps
Spells are one of the hardest things to keep track of in D&D, and there’s one very silly reason why that’s so. They are a lot to write down on your character sheet.
Most spells are bulky, and a pen-and-paper game means avoiding carpal tunnel as much as possible as you expand your spellbook.
This app puts a spellbook in your hands in a very simple format, and I enjoy that it is dedicated to just keeping track of one thing. You create a spellbook for your character (or characters), and then simply add spells into it.
Then, selecting those spells from your spellbook allows you to cast them, automatically making your roll in-app and keeping track of spell slots accordingly.
The one downside of this app is that it only has SRD content preloaded. This means you only start with a fraction of 5e’s spells to work with.
Still, they provide you with the ability to create new spells, and typing a few spells in on your phone is a lot easier than writing every last spell you need out on a piece of paper and struggling to find room for the next one.
This app does have ads that you can pay to remove, but they’re so unnoticeable that I constantly forget I don’t have the premium version.
5e Companion App (Free)
5e Companion App by Blastervla Productions
Few apps manage to combine simplicity, functionality, and beauty in the way this gem by Blastervla Productions does.
Upon startup, you’re met by six colorful icons surrounding a d20, each icon leading you to a different section of this app.
Character sheets, party tracker, random encounters, bestiary, combat tracker, a homebrew cauldron, and of course, a space to roll your virtual dice are all fully fleshed-out pieces of this one superb app.
Truly, this app knocks it out of the park and could easily be the only one on this list if I didn’t value variety.
The user interface is just incredible and you maintain the ability to reinitiate the comprehensive tutorial at any time.
This isn’t just a readme.doc or a video either; this app’s tutorial gives you subtle hints as you interact with new components for the first time, making it very easy for newcomers to pick up the intricacies of an app like this.
All that being said, this app gives DMs so much of what they want that it’s hard to think about other options.
As a regularly updated app, if they reach the point where they incorporate a wide variety of tables, they might just corner the market completely.
Again, the ads in this are so negligible you won’t even notice until you finally glimpse one and wonder how you’ve accessed so many features without spending a dime.
D&D Beyond (Paid)
D&D Beyond by Wizards of the Coast LLC
I’m not just including this because it’s the only tool app that’s actually endorsed by the makers of D&D. Well, I guess I am actually.
You see, D&D Beyond deserves a spot on this list not for its superb UI or its amazingly useful trackers. D&D Beyond is here because they have every piece of published 5e available for purchase in one neat spot.
Technically, this is a free app because you don’t have to pay anything to download it.
To get any use out of it though, you’ll probably want to purchase at least a few sourcebooks and maybe even a membership to D&D Beyond for better character sheets and campaign trackers.
There is a lot of content locked behind a paywall, but having access to all of it is just amazing if 5e is the one gaming avenue you want to dump your money into.
Fifth Edition Character Sheet (Paid)
Fifth Edition Character Sheet by Walter Kammerer
This is very much in the same vein as the app we kicked this off with – one app that’s so good at the one thing it does that it’s arguably better than other apps trying to come close.
It’s just great evidence that singular focus can create incredible things.
That being said, this isn’t an insanely unique or special character-sheet app. It’s extremely easy to use and has everything you’d want a character sheet to have, and that’s about it.
For this app, it’s the simplicity that hooks me in. Oh, and the fact that this app allows for you to swipe from the last page of your sheet seamlessly back to the first in wrap-around fashion just makes me ever so giddy.
It also has so much more than SRD content, meaning I don’t have to create any custom classes just because I want to play an artificer.
Nope, I was able to create 5 fully fleshed-out characters in less than 5 minutes because that’s just how easy it is.
This app does come at a cost though, sort of. Again this is a free-to-download app, but you’re not getting anything out of it without paying for it.
Premium, which only costs a one-time purchase of under $3, unlocks 2nd- through 20th-level characters and lets you build an unlimited amount of character sheets.
Sure, you could download this at 1st level to sample it, but let’s be honest; if you are hesitant about dropping $2.49, you can just go use a different app.
D&D Genesis – DM Companion (Free)
D&D Genesis – DM Companion by Simple Dev Studios
At the time of publishing, this app is actually still in development. I’ve been playing around with the early-release version for a while now, and I have to say, I am absolutely loving this app.
It’s a collection of randomizers and a compilation of game items, and it has one of the neatest dice rollers I’ve ever seen. What’s not to love?
It remains to be seen if the creators at Simple Dev Studios will keep up the good work and attentiveness as time goes on, but if their earlier work on the Character Randomizer app is any indication, we’re in for a treat.
The app is already incredibly useful with randomizers that mostly feel like someone coming up with a random idea rather than a computer playing Frankenstein with random things that sound like “fantasy.”
On top of that, they have completely up-to-date info on monsters, spells, and items, so you can really look up anything you want in this app and almost just use it as your own personal library.
Combining these two app functions is only natural, and of course, everyone has to try their hands at a dice roller.
The roller from Simple Dev is actually much more like a calculator, where d4s, d8s, and advantage are the buttons instead of normal math.
This means 5d6+1d12 doesn’t just look like a jumble of math rocks tumbling around a screen. Instead, you have a clean number in seconds.
This app already has a premium version that you can purchase, although no features are classified as premium features as of yet. We’ll see how this app changes, but trust me – it’s one you’ll want to keep your eye on.
Note taking, the bane of players and DMs throughout the multiverse. What is it about writing down a few poignant events and characters that makes it such an insurmountable feat?
Well, perhaps it’s that stack of 30 loose-leaf papers you’ve stacked in a corner that you pull out 5 minutes before the session and spend another 5 minutes shuffling through to find something important.
Organization is hard; I’m the first to agree. I still struggle to put my laundry in the dresser once it’s folded. However, the easier an organization system is, the more likely I am to use it.
RPG notes presents us with one of those apps that save us hours of confusion with the simplest of solutions.
Each campaign is split up into categories with more objects inside each category and an additional spot for campaign notes along the edge.
Everything has its place, and you’re also in complete control of making places for new things if it so behooves you.
I used Onenote for a while, and while it was a good application on my laptop, I didn’t want to pay for the whole microsoft suite just to organize my D&D sessions.
This simple little app has come along and given me back my organization with the added bonus of being more themed for D&D, which means all sorts of fantastic icons to choose from when I’m creating categories.
Download this, and you’re one step closer to being on track for a productive game next session.
Other Apps You Should Get
Your phone doesn’t need to be overrun with D&D-based apps, but I do have a few more suggestions that you can feel welcome to take if you feel like your D&D folder isn’t quite full after this article.
The first suggestion is to get a communication app for you and your group. Being able to chat outside of the session helps keep D&D from feeling like a rare activity.
Staying in touch means getting to discuss plans for the next session, staying excited about the adventure, and throwing out ideas that let a DM know what you’re looking for.
I prefer Discord or Slack because you can create multiple threads within a single chat.
A thread for resources, a thread for D&D talk, and a thread for general chat is a nice basis to set yourself up for organized gameplay.
All of the resources your DM shares will be in one neat place and your party will be thanking you for insisting on organization.
This kind of bleeds into the next suggestion: scheduling. Your scheduling tool might not be in the form of an app, but you should definitely consider using some bit of technology to make this process easier.
Scheduling, especially as we grow older, is one of the hardest parts of playing D&D. Having some smarter way to quickly find a suitable next date only makes sense.
Another is to use a shared calendar like Google provides or like on the Time Tree app. This gives you clear openings in the schedule and the ability to see whether or not a day and time will work.
Both of these suggestions aren’t exactly D&D related, but they certainly have been important in my RPG experience.
We have so many tools at our disposal, right at our fingertips. It would be a shame if we didn’t use them to really have some fun instead of staring at 6-second clips all day.
So why not download a few of the best D&D apps and get ready for an elevated experience the next time you sit down to play.
As always, happy adventuring.