Last Updated on January 22, 2023
From handwritten character sheets to high-tech LCD gaming tables, there are a lot of supplies that you can use to play a game of D&D. At the end of the day, it really all boils down to preference and budget, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a peak at all of the amazing things the world of D&D merch has to offer.
In this article, we’re going to be looking at all sorts of D&D supplies, be they necessities or lavish quality-of-life improvements. We’ll be sure to categorize what’s a necessity, what the basics are, and what sort of items qualify as premium supplies.
What Do I Need To Start Playing D&D?
In reality, you don’t need much to get started with your first game of Dungeons and Dragons. A couple of friends, some way to develop the story, a few dice, a pencil, and some paper will be more than enough to experience everything the Forgotten Realms and beyond have to offer.
These few things define some of the main categories of D&D “supplies.”
First, you need someone to play the game with and a way of playing with them. If you’re going to play in person, you need somewhere to play, while you’ll need a virtual hangout spot to play with people from far away. We’ll call this category Gathering Supplies.
Next, we have ways to develop the story or Story Supplies. For some groups, this isn’t anything more than a few sourcebooks and a bit of imagination. Others might have armies of miniatures at the ready along with finely sculpted terrain for any scenario.
The last category, which I’ll call Gameplay Supplies, is defined by our dice, pencil, and paper. These are supplies we actually need to play the game, not just set it up. We use our dice to determine results, deal damage, and so much more while we write down anything important on a piece of paper or two.
With all of these categories covered, you and your friends have a place to gather, tell a story, and play the game. What else could you need?
Well, nothing. But that doesn’t mean you can’t want more. There are so many D&D accessories out there that you can grab if you’re willing to spend a little bit of money.
This brings us to the other side of the category coin. Again, we have three categories: Necessities, Add-Ons, and Luxuries.
Necessities are, well, necessary to play the game, even if you can get as crazy as you need with them.
Add-Ons are fun things that you can purchase to enhance your gameplay. They aren’t prohibitively expensive, but they sure are exciting supplies that can enhance the quality of life at your game table.
Lastly, we have luxuries, items that are expensive. Let’s face it, for most of us, these are items that we’ll ogle and drool over from behind a computer screen. Who knows though, after years of putting it on your wish list, you might just get it.
We end up with a sort of alignment chart here. On one axis, we have our type of supply while the other axis defines the price range.
As we’ve covered, the only things you really need to play D&D are a few friends, a set of dice, a pencil and paper, and a basic understanding of the rules. Of course, that is a very light way of looking at this, so let’s jump a bit further into what these necessities actually entail.
For starters, our gathering supplies all depend on how we intend on getting together with friends.
If we’re getting together virtually, most of the work is already done. We can use something like Discord or a virtual tabletop like Roll20 to communicate with each other and play the game. Here, we can already see a bit of a difference in price range.
While a simple, free, video or voice-chat option can totally fit the needs of a D&D session, it’s best used for Theater of the Mind. Theater of the mind is a style of D&D play where maps, minis, and measurements mostly fall to the wayside in favor of a DM’s descriptions and the imaginations of the players.
If you want to actually track movement and see your characters go face to face with a mob of enemies, you’ll need a dedicated VTT, most of which are paid. At the very least, most support paid options that have drastically improved features.
On the other side of things, we have our in-person get-togethers. While rent could basically count as a luxury item in this economy, we’ll count that as an outside matter. As long as we have a physical place to get together, most of the work is already done.
All we really need here is a table to sit around, and we’re good to go. Oh, and you know what, let’s throw some food in as a necessity as well. Good luck trying to keep the attention of four people for three or more hours without at least one snack break.
There aren’t many necessities to get a story going. Some would say that the core rulebooks of 5e (Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual, Dungeon Master’s Guide) should be a staple at any table, but access to the internet and a willingness to take some notes here and there can save you the hundred bucks or so that that might drain you.
I know it might sound a bit cheesy, but imagination is one of the most important supplies you can get your hands on. It’s cheap, but that doesn’t mean it can’t open up a world of opportunities for you.
If you do want to play with maps and minis rather than simply using theater of the mind, you don’t have to spend much money at all to get your hands on supplies that will get the job done. Most people have an old Monopoly set lying around or something that can suffice as “miniatures.”
As long as you have some small items that you can designate as the different characters in a game, you’ve got your minis. As for a map, most wrapping papers have a gridded backside to make them easier to cut. This works perfectly as a gridded map, and you probably already have it sitting in your closet.
Cheap alternatives aside, it isn’t prohibitively expensive to get your hands on a 5e starter kit or essentials kit. These will give you just about everything you need to dip your toes into D&D, including a prebuilt 5e adventure that’s ready to play.
The only thing left that you absolutely need to play fifth edition D&D is a set of dice. Even these can be replaced with simple, free dice roller apps, but nothing really beats the clicking and clacking of a pretty set of math rocks.
An average set of dice will run you about $10, which you’ll often find in the form of a Chessex polyhedral set at most of your local game stores. If you’re going to spend money on anything in order to play some D&D, let it be a nice set of dice that you can grow to love (or hate) as they lead you through a life of adventure.
Dice are probably the most explored aspect of D&D though, seeing as there have to be at least thousands of different dice sets out there. You can find every combination of colors, thematic inspirations, visual textures, opacity, IP tie-ins, and more if you really search. This, naturally, means that you can end up spending some serious money on dice if you really want to.
Seriously, if you want to lose five hours of your life just go to Etsy and type dice into the search bar, it will be like walking through an art gallery.
Character sheets are simple enough to print out, there are free 5e PDFs all over the place. Of course, you can easily make one in Google Sheets/Docs or even just draw one up on a piece of paper. Note taking is similarly easy to do. A cheap notebook goes for about a dollar, so you don’t have to worry about spending much money at all here.
This is where we get into the exciting section of D&D supplies. Everything in here is totally optional, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find them at most tables. Most of these add-ons are quality-of-life improvements more than anything else, so you can expect to spend a bit of money.
Of course, some of these fall into the realm of hobbyist items. Where you might buy one dice tray and be completely content with your purchase, things like paint supplies will be purchased time and time again.
One of the few ways to elevate the gathering experience without spending absorbent amounts of money comes into play when you’re meeting virtually. Those VTT subscriptions we mentioned earlier can offer up huge quality-of-life improvements that actually affect every aspect of the game.
If we look at Roll20 for our example, they offer three tiers of membership. The free membership still lets you access all of the basic features of the platform, but the amount of data you can use is severely limited. It’s enough to get by with an introductory game, but most groups will want to upgrade their DM to the plus membership for the best experience.
The second tier, which currently costs about $50 for a yearly membership, greatly expands the amount of storage you have, increases the number of players that you can share your compendium with, and introduces a whole slew of premium features that make the whole process of virtual play more exciting and engaging.
Then, there’s the pro subscription for about $100 dollars yearly (still less than a Netflix subscription) that will fetch you a bunch of rewards, access to community mods, and early access to features that are still in development.
This kind of tier system isn’t uncommon, and in today’s day and age, virtual tabletops are all that are available for a lot of players.
In person, there aren’t many add-ons to the gathering process that are directly related to D&D. Sure, some nice chairs and a good table will make a huge difference when you’re sitting around for hours on end, but these won’t be D&D focused until you get into the luxury tier of supplies.
We’ve already covered that rules and interaction are the things that really define our story supplies. So, it makes sense that spending more money on those would be how we move beyond necessities and into add-on territory.
There are, and I can’t stress this enough, a lot of books out there. Wizards of the Coast has published more sourcebooks than even I own, and I write about the game for a living.
The digital compilation of all sourcebooks and adventure books will run you nearly $1,000 dollars at the time of publishing this article, and 5e isn’t slowing down on production.
Physical copies tend to run a bit more expensive depending on where you buy them, and you can raise the price even more if you want to fill your shelf with alternate copies of previously published books.
D&D can quickly become an expensive copy, but as we’re no longer in the necessity section, you don’t need every single sourcebook to play the game.
Realistically, you’ll probably be looking for one or two pieces of information from several sourcebooks. At that point, you can rummage around on our website and learn the things you’re interested in. Beyond that, if there are a few specific books you’re interested in on a more holistic level, feel free to purchase them.
Just remember that you don’t have to drain your bank account to have fun in D&D.
Then we get to the maps and minis. There are layers of financial dedication even within this bracket, so let’s get into it.
When it comes to miniature figures, you have a few options. You can purchase pre-painted minis for just about any of your needs. You can purchase paintable minis along with paint and become a hobbyist painter in your free time. You can even create your own custom miniatures on sites like Heroforge and Eldritch Foundry.
I personally like to keep it simple. I have about 10 miniatures. There’s a handful of adventurers representing the different archetypes, and there are a few goblins that I use for smaller creatures and a dragon that I use for large creatures.
You can realistically spend as much money as you want on minis. Some people’s collections require dedicated rooms full of organizational bins, while others (like myself) can display all of their figures on top of a small bookshelf.
While you’re at it, pick up some condition rings. These small rings sit on the base of your minis and let everyone at the table easily see who is restrained, poisoned, incapacitated, and everything else.
Or, pick up some spell area effect grids. These are small plastic grids that you can overlay on your map to show who would be affected by just about any spell.
Of course, you’ll need somewhere to put all of these supplies, and a wrapping paper map is only a temporary solution for most people.
Maps are great, and there are a lot of different ways to go about them. You can buy pre-landscaped rollout grid maps, or dry-erase grid maps to serve every purpose.
After that, you can get into purchasing some terrain if you want a more three-dimensional experience. Everything from foam terrain blocks to custom 3d-printed models are out there; it’s just a matter of nailing down your preference.
On the DM side of things, a DM screen is a multi-faceted add on that has been a staple since the early years of the game. The basic premise is a screen that you can use to hide your rolls and notes from your players. They’ve evolved to be a one-stop shop for everything a DM might need to reference.
WotC themselves make DM screens, but you can get your own, more customizable ones with just a bit of shopping around. They come in every range of quality from cheap cardboard to high-grade metal, but the basic premise is all the same, and they are an excellent tool to keep at the table.
Dice themselves probably count as an add-on for most players, seeing as it’s hard to find an experienced player with just one set of dice kicking around. Most of us even have enough dice to build a dice graveyard where natural 1 rollers go to die.
There are plenty of more exciting add-ons to be had though. Most of these tend to be centered around rolling your dice, and I am so grateful that they are.
Even if the only tabletop game you’ve ever played was Monopoly, you’ve probably experienced the annoying event of someone accidentally rolling their dice straight off the table. It’s to the point where most people have standing house rulings on whether or not floor rolls are counted.
Fear not, the community has come through, and there are hundreds of dice rolling trays and dice towers out there so you never have to experience this pain again. Both of these items serve the same purpose, but they do so in different ways.
A dice tray is normally some sort of felt tray with raised edges so you can roll your dice without A. worrying about them falling off the edge of the world and B. waking up the dead with the loud clanking noise of plastic corners hitting a table repeatedly.
Some dice trays even double as dice storage, since nerds are some of the most innovative people you’ll come across. I highly recommend these for players who want to eliminate the issues of dice while still getting the euphoria of throwing them and watching them slowly reach their conclusion.
The alternative is dice towers. I do have to say, these are probably some of the most creative items you can find. Dice towers aren’t what you make when you’re bored and start stacking your dice together.
Instead, they are small towers that roll your dice in a confined space. Insert your dice in the top, and it rolls out the bottom mouth.
These take up a very small amount of space, but they can be incredibly ornate. You can find these in all sorts of models from towers, to skulls, to krakens, to… whatever you want really. Remember how I set that searching dice on Etsy would be like walking through an art gallery? Yeah, dice towers are the MoMA as far as I’m concerned.
But wait, there’s more!
The community has also come up with an incredible amount of simple and elegant solutions to note keeping that might surprise you. Obviously, you can get fancy D&D-specific notebooks with pre-made categories for recording everything from spells and equipment to names of NPCs.
There are more interesting accessories that you can purchase if you really want some upgraded quality-of-life improvements though. Trackers are huge, and you can buy trackers for HP, spell slots, initiative, and even class-specific resources like sorcery points.
Sure, you can do just about any of these with some designated dice, but it’s nice to have something that’s made just for your character.
Now it’s time to appease the high rollers out there. I know it’s bad taste to point out a joke, but come on, that’s punny. Anyways, let’s talk about some items that can be purchased or built if you have deep pockets and a deeper love for D&D.
D&D can be an expensive hobby, but most often this is based on the sheer quantity of supplies an enthusiast might purchase, not the basic price of one or two items. Still, there are a few items out there that really take the cake.
When we talk about luxury items though, most of the time we’re just talking about high-grade versions of things that you can get for much cheaper.
There are dice sets out there that cost over a thousand dollars, enough to build an entire table out of “lesser” dice. You can buy DM screens, like the Wyrmwood Game Master Screen, with incredible functionality and expert craftsmanship if you’re willing to shell out a bit of money in the process.
The real pinnacle of D&D luxury though is something that envelops everything. A dedicated D&D gaming table is something adored by all and owned by few.
These tables aren’t just built well; they have everything you could need for a game of D&D — built-in dice trays/towers and storage, cup holders, trackers, and more.
But, the pinnacle element of a D&D gaming table includes a full screen to display dynamic maps and elements of the game that perfectly combine a VTT with in-person gatherings.
After that, everything else is just a fancy version of something you could put together with scraps lying around your house. Are the fancy versions better? Yes. Are they a necessity? No. Should you put them on your wish lists for every holiday from now until the day you die? Hell yes.
D&D Supply List – With Links
Thank you for reading this far in the article, but I do need to make a disclaimer. I am not perfect, nor am I all-knowing. Every time I think I’m done with this article, I think of a new product to include, and the fact of the matter is that there are more products dedicated to gaming than I’ll probably ever know about.
Still, I’ve compiled a list of all the supplies I’ve mentioned above and more. Some of these have links to Amazon, Etsy, or other sites if they are products I personally enjoy. Other than that, I trust you to use Google effectively.
Please also keep in mind that you can purchase most of the basic supplies at your local game store, and buying local is an endeavor I will always endorse.
With that, here’s your shopping list:
- Adventure Modules
- Condition Rings
- Combat Tiers
- Dice Towers
- Dice Trays
- Dice Storage
- DM Screen
- Effect Grids
- Gaming Table
- Maps / Battlemats
- Spell Cards
And there you have it — everything you need to make yourself or the D&D enthusiast in your life happy as a clam. Remember that no matter what you buy, the goal at the end of the day is always to have fun.
And, as always, happy adventuring.
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As a kid, I was often told to get my head out of the clouds and to stop living in a fantasy world. That never really jived with me, so I decided to make a living out of games, stories, and all sorts of fantastical works. Now, as an adult, I aspire to remind people that sometimes a little bit of fantasy is all you need when life gets to be too much.