D&D General 'Playing D&D' When You're Not Playing D&D

What are your favorite ways to 'play D&D' when you're not at the game table?

  • Reading the rulebooks

    Votes: 48 44.9%
  • Reading other books

    Votes: 40 37.4%
  • Writing the adventures

    Votes: 56 52.3%
  • Worldbuilding: creating new people and places to visit

    Votes: 66 61.7%
  • Rolling up new characters

    Votes: 30 28.0%
  • Writing my character's backstory

    Votes: 12 11.2%
  • Drawing my character portrait

    Votes: 7 6.5%
  • Plotting out my next few character levels

    Votes: 17 15.9%
  • Drawing maps

    Votes: 38 35.5%
  • Designing new monsters

    Votes: 33 30.8%
  • Designing new magic items

    Votes: 32 29.9%
  • Creating macros for the VTT

    Votes: 3 2.8%
  • Typing up/reviewing the game notes

    Votes: 21 19.6%
  • Talking strategy with my fellow players

    Votes: 14 13.1%
  • Coordinating the next gaming session

    Votes: 18 16.8%
  • Writing the next campaign

    Votes: 29 27.1%
  • Painting minis

    Votes: 22 20.6%
  • Painting terrain

    Votes: 6 5.6%
  • Building props and handouts

    Votes: 10 9.3%
  • Working on my cosplay

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Other (described below)

    Votes: 7 6.5%
  • Discussing D&D on EN World

    Votes: 64 59.8%
  • Writing my own houserules

    Votes: 31 29.0%
  • Listening to D&D podcasts

    Votes: 14 13.1%
  • Watching D&D livestreams/shows

    Votes: 12 11.2%

A VTT for in-person play is a great compromise that avoids the worst of prep time with for online games and the worst of time spent on setting up terrain or drawing on a battlemap. Of course if you play almost entirely TOTM, then none of this is an issue.

I bought a TV case from Collabrewate for gaming. Not touch screen. I used it with minis. I used Map Tool (which is free, open source VTT). I only used it to display maps and reveal areas from fog of war as the party explored.

There is some initial learning curve, especially figuring out how to have the DMs view on your laptop and the player view on the external screen, both running from your own laptop. And it takes a bit of time to learn how to quickly prep a map and use the drawing tools to clear fog of war. But once you figure that out, the prep time is almost nil. I could run complete sand box games. No need to prep maps with walls, lighting, etc. I can have thousands of maps organized in folders--or just dumped in one folder if they are file-named well--and search and pull one up in seconds. A few more seconds to apply fog of war filter. A few more seconds to reveal it and size it so that the squares are 1" by 1", and then everything else works just like using a Chessex battlemap, except you can have maps with cool artwork with fog of war. If you don't want to use minis, you can use digital tokens, but that does require applying a grid, which gets a bit more fiddly, but is probably less time than hunting out minis and placing them. But like using minis. I just wanted an easier and quicker way to pull up maps and put them into play and a way to have fog of war without having paper cutouts or cotton balls to hide areas.
We play usually at least once a week or every other week, for 3-4 hours. We play in my garage in the summer and living room in the winter. My neighbor and I have talked about possibly building a table with a TV but it would have to be somewhat portable. Those conversations usually ended with us tabling the discussion. No pun intended. Is it worth the investment in time and money for how much we play? And my instinct tells me that its only a matter of time before someone spills a beer on it or the screen gets cracked or some other accident happens. But Im going to do some research on Collabrewate, looked at the site briefly and they look nice.
 

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MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
We play usually at least once a week or every other week, for 3-4 hours. We play in my garage in the summer and living room in the winter. My neighbor and I have talked about possibly building a table with a TV but it would have to be somewhat portable. Those conversations usually ended with us tabling the discussion. No pun intended. Is it worth the investment in time and money for how much we play? And my instinct tells me that its only a matter of time before someone spills a beer on it or the screen gets cracked or some other accident happens. But Im going to do some research on Collabrewate, looked at the site briefly and they look nice.
Yeah, I went through all of that. Here was where I was at when I made the decision to go with what I did.

1. I had a good but not dedicated gaming space in the basement. Spending a lot of money of a nice and good-sized gaming table wouldn't work, since we will use the space for other things. I needed to clear things away.

2. I wanted the ability to take the display to a friends house or to a gaming store.

3. I wanted to be able to use it as an extra TV when not being used for gaming.

After doing some research, including making something on my own, I ended up going with a Collabrewate (Tabletop Gaming TV Case — Creative Graphic Art Solutions Winter Haven, Florida). Mine looks almost exactly like this:

1663926196247.png

You can't really see in this picture but it has short legs to keep it a maybe an inch of the table. On the website you'll see various flair that can be added to decorate the sides, but I like the simpler look and worried that decorative wood flair would be damaged moving it around. Plus, I wanted to keep the cost down.

The process involves e-mailing them your requirements, the most important being the TV size. There will be some back and forth over e‑mail over what TV you are going to use. They will make recommendation and tell you if they can work with the TV you want to buy (mainly has to do with where the various ports are located on the TV). Then you buy the TV and ship it to them.

They will take 2-4 weeks to make the custom case and ship it to you.

I've been very happy with it. It has seen heavy use since 2019 with no issues. Note that it is designed to be permanent. You are not going to be able to take the TV out and put it back in easily.
  • A plexiglass screen provides full protection for the TV screen.
  • On the bottom, there are small legs on each of the 4 corners, so if you spell something, the display will be above it. Plus it helps cool the TV
  • Note that the back is open. So it is not full protection. You still need to be careful if putting it into the trunk of a car, etc. But this also helps keep cool the TV, makes it easy to get at ports, etc.
  • It has a handle, making it easy to move from room to room or to/from the car to game store/friend's house/home
  • With the wood frame and legs, you can stand it vertically to use as a TV/video game display. NOTE - it is not made for this and you would be taking a risk just standing it up vertically in the middle of a table. But when not used for gaming, I stand it up on a dresser against a wall in the guest room and we use it as an extra TV or my son hooks his Play Station into it for video games.
  • A fan is built into the case that is wired a box that powers the fan and the TV, so only one plug needed. Helps keep the TV cool. It does add some noise and can't be turned off. You have to unplug it to turn off the fan. That is the only downside. Would be nice to have a switch to turn off the fan. But the focus is on using it as a horizontal gaming display and cooling the TV. It is only an "issue" when I use it as a TV, which isn't, fairly, what it is designed to be used for.
The customer service and communication from the company was excellent.

As for total cost:
  • I bought a Vizio D40F-G 40" CLASS (39.5" Diag.) 1080P LED LCD TV from CostCo Online for $219 and paid an extra $39 for express business shipping (1 or 2 days).

  • Collabrewate charged $240 for the custom-built case

  • Shipping from Collabrewate to my home was $73
Total came to: $571. I could have save $39 by going with free shipping from CostCo instead of express.

I found 40" to be the perfect compromize for the competing priorities of having sufficient play space, ability to use on most tables, portability, and easy storage.

When gaming at home I use a couple large fold-up banquet tables that are sturdy when set up, that I store in the garage between game days. The game TV & case I set up in the guest room and used as a normal TV between game days.

While not cheap, it is far less expensive than a gaming table. Which wouldn't work for my situation anyway. I like being able to set up a "game room" anywhere. Usually in an area of our finished basement, but there are time when the wife and kids are away visiting in-laws, and I can setup in the kitchen and living room. On nice days I can setup in the garage. I can pack up the folding tables and and display and take them to a friends home or to a cabin for some evening gaming on a fishing trip. I can grab the display and take it to my FLGS.

Overall it was the right decision for my lifestyle, house layout, and multi-use spaces. I think it would especially make sense for someone living in an apartment or condo.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
Again, I'm looking for your favorites. I know that we all will do most of the things on the list, depending on the week...but which do you enjoy doing the most?

For me, I voted for my personal Top Five: Worldbuilding, Drawing Maps, Worldbuilding, Writing Adventures, and Worldbuilding.
God I love worldbuilding! Drawing maps, reading books, discussing on ENworld and writing house rules are fun too.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
Ahhh, yes. The "lonely fun".

I'm convinced the vast majority of game books are sold primarily for lonely fun and never make it into an actual gaming session. Some systems that exist I'm not sure have ever been played.
Lonely fun was my primary gaming outlet for years, and remains a big one today. Its why I get so out of shape when the lore gets erased. Reading the story of D&D was my primary engagement.
 

While not cheap, it is far less expensive than a gaming table. Which wouldn't work for my situation anyway. I like being able to set up a "game room" anywhere. Usually in an area of our finished basement, but there are time when the wife and kids are away visiting in-laws, and I can setup in the kitchen and living room. On nice days I can setup in the garage. I can pack up the folding tables and and display and take them to a friends home or to a cabin for some evening gaming on a fishing trip. I can grab the display and take it to my FLGS.
That was a good description, definitely gives me something to think about. My gut says its probably out of my price range of what I'm willing to spend, and it seems with the right tools and some know-how one could be built and customized.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
That was a good description, definitely gives me something to think about. My gut says its probably out of my price range of what I'm willing to spend, and it seems with the right tools and some know-how one could be built and customized
Someone who is a bit handy, could certainly make something on their own for less. But you don't really even need a case. There is GM in my area who I see at a couple of the FLGSs in my area, who just lays a TV flat on the table and puts a sheet of plexiglass over it. Didn't pay enough attention to what he used to keep it stable and a bit off the table to disappate heat, but shows how you just need a cheap LCD TV, something to rest it on for stability and cooling and a piece of plexiglass to put over the screen.
 

Someone who is a bit handy, could certainly make something on their own for less. But you don't really even need a case. There is GM in my area who I see at a couple of the FLGSs in my area, who just lays a TV flat on the table and puts a sheet of plexiglass over it. Didn't pay enough attention to what he used to keep it stable and a bit off the table to disappate heat, but shows how you just need a cheap LCD TV, something to rest it on for stability and cooling and a piece of plexiglass to put over the screen.
I was thinking the same. (4) 2x4s cut slightly undersized screwed together with some holes routed out for cables, power chords, a few PC fans, a sheet of plexiglass would probably do the trick. Myneighbor has a spare TV we use to watch football games in the garage so thats covered.
 

Corinnguard

Adventurer
I think you missed an option. ;) Collecting D&D books. When 3e D&D came out years ago, I collected a number of this edition's books- their PHB (1 and 2), DMG and MM (all five of them), campaign setting books (Forgotten Realms and Eberron), and the Complete Books (Complete Divine, Complete Adventurer, etc.). I wasn't a D&D player at the time. I had played 2e in college and only a year ago began playing in 5e.

I tried collecting 4e. But when Pathfinder 1st edition came out, I began to collect it's books instead. :p

I have a few 5e books (Monsters of the Multiverse is my latest acquisition). But since most of 5e material is online now, I haven't physically collected much of this edition.

Aside from collecting D&D books, I have visited and participated in the forums on Enworld.org, visited D&D Wiki and GM Binder, and thought about what my Dragonborn character is going to do next with his teammates as they adventure in Hell. And I have backed two projects on Kickstarter- one for En Publishing's Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition and the other for Lunar Games' Endless Realms: Creature Compendium for 5e :)
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Mine were all about either worldbuilding or character design- creating, planning, or depicting them artistically. I’ve got at least 3 different campaign WIP files, and I don’t know how many dozens of PC designs, mostly for 3.X and 4Ed. Some are even statted out in multiple editions.

Some are statted out across game systems,
 

Mad_Jack

Hero
Actually playing D&D is one of my least common D&D related activities, lol.

Outside of actually playing D&D, my most common activities are generally character creation and world-building/story design. I'm one of those folks who simply can't turn off their excess creativity so I'm constantly creating new characters or building worlds and playing out various adventures in them. As a trained actor with interests in psychology, sociology, archaeology, and history, I'm always exploring various angles in my head for how a specific character would behave in a situation, how a certain nation or culture would develop given its history or what sort of geological history would form a specific kind of terrain, etc...
I love posing myself "What if?" and "How would?" questions and following them out logically to see where they go or trying to reverse engineer a particular situation to figure out how it came about.
Basically, whenever I'm not focused on some sort of life task or other form of entertainment, my brain constantly spits out new people, places and character dialogue. A quick mental estimate of my 40 years of D&D says I've easily got about two hundred PCs I've either completely statted out or at least have a clear vision of in my head, and probably about 50 clearly-defined NPCs.
I also like the mechanical aspects of the game, so I like going through the rulebooks to improve my system mastery and find interesting synergies in various game elements, particularly character optimization.

I previously spent a lot of time doing a lot of image manipulation to create character portraits (which was really a separate hobby all on it's own), but haven't done anything with it for a long time.

Apart from the constant flood of new content pouring out of my brain, though, my biggest game-related activity is painting and collecting miniatures - which, again, is another hobby all on its own. (I rarely ever paint or sculpt figures for use as my personal characters or for tabletop use.)
As painter, I primarily paint Reaper Miniatures figures. As a collector, I primarily collect the old Ral Partha Official 2nd Ed. AD&D 11-XXX series figures, as well as various Ral Partha, Grenadier and TSR box sets.

I also haphazardly collect previous-edition books and modules, and D&D-themed toys, video games and other merchandise. In particular, I have a great many of the LJN action figures and toys produced in the 1980's, as well as the first twenty or so of the old Endless Quest books.
 
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