I’m a total technophile, so when I started playing Dungeons and Dragons I immediately wanted to find out how I could make my life easier with my various devices. Turns out there are lots of different helpful tools for both Android and iOS if you’re a tabletop gamer!
There are some general categories that these D&D apps tend to provide: Virtual Character Sheets, Dice Rollers, Resources, and Adventure Management/Creation. I’m saying this stuff out for you because when you’re searching through Google Play or iTunes for tabletop apps, it can get confusing trying to figure out what the app actually does.
Virtual Character Sheets: These apps will usually take the file generated by the D&D Character Builder (.dnd4e filetype) and load it up for you. Keeping your character sheet on your phone or tablet is a pretty neat idea, it can act as a backup if you forget your sheet at home (or spill beer on it) or you could just straight up work from that sheet depending on how robust the app is.Some will let you dynamically change it the way you would with the pencil and paper version.
What do I mean by “dynamically change”? This means it lets you spend Action Points, Healing Surges, Hit Points etc as well as take short and extended rests, automatically updating your sheet to reflect those things. Don’t have a D&D Insider subscription? Many of these programs will let you directly fill out the character sheet form.
Dice Rollers: There are tons of dice roller apps, some are bare bones and just display a number read out, others try to emulate the feel of rolling the dice by having you literally shake your device. I like my dice shakers to look like actual dice, that’s just me. The most important thing to look for when you’re trying to find a dice roller with visual dice is legibility. Can you quickly read the result? No? Don’t use it!
But one thing is that most of these dice roller apps are not “Download and Go”. They will work much better for you if you take a few minutes to set up preset “batches” of dice. Figure out what dice or dice combos you tend to roll frequently (ie: your thief’s Sneak Attack Damage die, your hunter’s Hunter’s Quarry Damage die, etc.). Many of these apps let you enter a number to be automatically added to your roll (like your Attack Bonus for your favorite weapon).
Resources: Apps that give you access to things like definitions and the D&D Compendium.
Adventure Management and Creation: These apps are dedicated to helping you build your campaign with organizational features and encounter generation.
And some of these apps combine these features, so even if it’s a character sheet app, it might include a built in dice roller for the attacks, so make sure and look over features carefully before accidentally buying something else with the same feature (like I did). There’s nothing wrong with wanting something that JUST rolls dice or is JUST a character sheet. Going shopping for apps is like anything else, it goes a lot smoother if you know what you’re looking for.
Now that you’ve gotten an idea of the different possible types of tools out there, here’s a break down of the better apps that are available.
Sylloge D&D Compendium Search by slovenlyimp ($.99, Android only): My absolute favorite is Sylloge! Sylloge requires that you have a D&D Insider subscription and makes having an Insider account very worthwhile. This is because Sylloge connects to your insider account and gives you access to the Compendium, letting you do searches and sort by category when you’re in need of a definition of Bull Rush or forgot what Shardminds can speak.
Compendium by Cordax Software LLC (Free with Ads/$2.99 without, iTunes Only): Another Compendium resource. It does exactly the same thing as Sylloge but on iOS, so it connects to the D&D Insider Compendium but I’d say it has a better, cleaner look to it.
KSheet Pro by KERPOW.NET ($2.00, Android only): Ksheet comes with a built in roller! You just click one of your Skills or Attacks and it’ll roll it for you, displaying what you got on the die and the final total when your bonuses are added.
On a phone it’s a little hard not to accidentally tap/roll something since the interface is just text on black without a visible “button” area.
There’s a version of KSheet that’s a 60 day trial, KSheet Trial that has all the features of the paid version, it just stops working after 60 days. I bought the paid version after using it a bit and have no regrets.
Cheeky’s D&D Buddy by Cheeky Software (Free, Android Only): Another character sheet app. Honestly, I don’t like it on an aesthetic level because I’m very shallow. It’s hideous. If that kind of thing doesn’t bug you, it’s a really solid app at a price you can’t beat so that’s why it’s on this list.
Goathead Software Apps: This company has a suite of apps available for D&D for both Game Masters and Players that are available on iPad/Android/PC/Apple OS. These are the most comprehensive apps available and are really meant to bring your game very much into the digital/portable realm:
Player Minion – 4E ($1.99)/Player Minion HD – 4E ($1.99)
DM Minion – 4E ($6.00)/DM Minion – 4E Lite (Free)
DM Minion – Pathfinder ($5.00)
One big thing to remember is that these are intended for tablets/netbooks/desktops and NOT phones. This is because the programs are simply too complex to be handed with such limited screen space and lower processor speeds. Unfortunately, they don’t have free trial versions available for all of their products so it’s hard to know what’ll work or not until you buy it. So far, only the DM Minion has a free lite version.
The DM Minion apps are Game Mastering management apps that have several different screens you can page through to keep track of your campaign: Adventures, Players, Monsters, Encounters, Battle, Camp. The Battle screen for use in an active encounter is very robust and a big sell point, featuring an integrated dice roller and calculator, keeping track of what happens every round which is great for “Wait, did that thing attack me last round? Am I still immobilized?” type questions.
There’s a very nice feature that lets you connect the app to Dropbox and backup/load files you stash there.
DM Minion vs DM Minion Lite – In the free version you can’t import character sheet and monster files from D&D Insider (like .dnd4e), but that’s the only difference.
Player Minion apps work much like KSheet, you load your character sheet and you can spend and gain healing surges/action points/etc with it, there’s an integrated die roller too, it organizes your information beautifully. The benefit it has over KSheet is its better visual appeal and how it turns a tablet into a very well functioning D&D character sheet. This literally feels like you have a futuristic version of a character sheet in your hands, you’re able to see lots of information at once and it’s definitely the best virtual character sheet I’ve seen.
Dice Shaker D&D by Pallosalama ($2.99, Android only): I think this is the most attractive looking one and the most stable. It’s pricey though.
The Dicenomicon by Gandreas Software ($4.99, iTunes only): Very robust and nice looking with an attentive developer, very easy to read dice. Also very pricey! But then how much money do you spend on real dice…?
Even though I’m recommending these, you have to remember that these are my experiences on my various devices. They might very well be unstable on yours, so always try before you buy if you can. I hope this gives you all a good starting point for integrating your tablets and smartphones into your game!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adriana is an artist living in Seattle working in gaming and doing comics on the side having learned to draw through the use of a montage and cool rock music. She has a small, crappy cat, an intense love for Batman and an open relationship with The Legion of Super-Heroes. She is a thin layer of indifference wrapped around a large nougat of rage and possesses the World Record for holding grudges without letting them touch the floor.