As the song goes, “These are a few of my favorite things!”
My favorite D&D things, of course!
Seriously, though, these are some of my favorite products… the ones I use in my games and the ones that I consider to be some of the best out there. I’ll keep adding to this over time, but here’s the top of my list at the moment.
Favorite Books & Supplements
I’ll skip the official D&D content here, and focus on the books that those newer to the hobby may not have heard of yet.
Monsters from Kobold Press
I haven’t used their other products, so I can’t speak to them, but their monster books are top of the line. Creature Codex, Tome of Beasts, and Tome of Beasts II are amazing. I’d pick these up before Volo’s Guide to Monsters or Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes. They’re that good.
I think How to Run Great Games Without Devoting Your Life to Session Prep, would be a more accurate title, but it probably wouldn’t sell as well. This book is better than the Dungeon Master’s Guide at actually teaching people how to run games.
I’m focusing here on campaign-length modules. There are tons of shorter modules, but those require a lot less investment, so if you grab one that’s just so-so, you haven’t lost that much. The bigger ones, though? You want to make sure you choose the best, because they take a big commitment.
This is my all-time favorite campaign-length module. It’s from second edition, but I’ve used it for several groups across multiple editions, and it’s always great – an awesome sandbox of a campaign that spans the surface world and the deep underdark… and the villains aren’t drow.
I’ve only run this once, but I loved it, and I think you will too! It spanned a year’s worth of Dungeon Magazines (issues 124-135, to be exact), and brought adventurers into conflict with the emerging wormgod Kyuss.
Note that these can be notoriously difficult to track down, as they’re out of print and spread over 12 issues. The Noble Knight link takes you to issues 101-150, but you only need 124-135. The Amazon link only takes you to the first issue.
Storm King’s Thunder
The first chapter might not be anything to write home about, but the epic adventures that follow are well worth the mediocre start (or the trouble of replacing the first chapter with something more fun).
If you’ve kept up with my videos, you’ve probably seen these artists’ work already. While I use art from all over the place, these are the artists that I continue to return to because their work is so consistently awesome.
This is my go-to artist for maps. Lots of highly detailed complete maps (usually 20×20, 25×25, or 30×30), along with assets you can use to modify them or build your own. I prefer these when I have an idea in mind but can’t find a static map that fits well.
There are so many of these to choose from, and I have yet to find one that I dislike. I prefer these whenever one of their maps matches the scene I want to portray, but they don’t come with additional assets to customize the scene, so they can be hit-or-miss sometimes.
He’s got a ton of free tokens that come pre-packaged with Roll20, and those were the first top-down tokens I ever used. His art has improved a ton since then, though, and if you like this style, I highly recommend picking up some of his more recent work.
Well-known for their mapping assets (that are easy to integrate in DungeonDraft), I actually use Forgotten Adventures tokens more than anything else. The style is close enough to Devin Night’s work that they don’t clash, and many of these come pre-packaged with the 5E system for Foundry VTT.
In this video, we’ll break down the three easiest ways to create top-down tokens for Foundry VTT (or other virtual tabletops) using Hero Forge. Two of the methods require a subscription, but one doesn’t, and Pixlr makes the free method super easy. We’ll also compare tokens created with each method.
I could just say, “Because it’s awesome,” but that would be a copout.
I’ve spent 1500+ hours on Roll20, mostly as a GM. I’ve spent quite some time on Fantasy Grounds, always as a player. I tried to get a Tabletop Simulator game going, but the prep time proved too cumbersome to even get it off the ground. I’ve experimented with several other virtual tabletops as well, most of which couldn’t do the things I wanted them to. Foundry Virtual Tabletop is definitely what I consider the sweet spot.
Let’s look at the highlights.
It’s got modern software and code, and it’s miles ahead of Roll20 in this regard.
It’s a one-time purchase, which makes it a better bang for your buck than subscription options (assuming you play often enough).
It’s got an amazing developer community with hundreds of add-ons that make it incredibly flexible. You can set your server up to automate combat mechanics like Fantasy Grounds, keep things simple like Owlbear Rodeo, or anything you can imagine in between.
There are multiple ways to integrate with D&D Beyond (from syncing the game log so your D&D Beyond rolls who up in Foundry, to importing your assets into Foundry altogether).
To be honest, that was enough for me. Is it enough for you? Is there a better option out there?
Where to start? I get this question a lot, and here are the answers! Despite the definitive answers you’ll get from some folks, there are actually a lot of different ways people get started in the hobby. The most common are A) joining a game that other folks are already running, or B) buying some of the products and getting started on your own. If you’re in Group A, congratulations! You already have a pool of players whose brains you can pick for these answers… but if you’re in Group B, I’ve got you covered!
Please note that many of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means I receive a portion of the sale when you purchase using one of these links. This doesn’t affect how much you pay, and it goes a long way toward supporting my work.
Each of these is a prepackaged way to kick of your gaming, and includes all of the basics. They come in various flavors, but each has everything you need to run at least a handful of sessions. That said, while these are convenient, they’re not all that cheap for what you get. They’re good products, but you’re paying for the convenience (or the novelty in the case of the Stranger Things set) rather than the actual stuff.
D&D Starter Kit
This set has everything you need to get started, including the ever-popular Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure.
I’ve chatted with many people who run 100+ modules at any given time with their Foundry VTT setup, but my personal list is significantly smaller. I’ve tried (and probably reviewed) more than I currently use. You’ll probably look at this list and say, “Whoah! How does he survive without X, Y, or Z?!?!” Truth is, Foundry is a pretty sweet VTT even without running a million modules, so the answer is probably, “I tried it and didn’t like it,” or “I tried it and didn’t think it was necessary.” It’s also possible I didn’t know it existed… there are nearly a thousand to choose from, after all.
This list changes often, as I add new ones I like and remove older ones that I find I’m not using anymore. This list will probably be outdated in 48 hours, but for what it’s worth, here’s what I’m using right now:
These add-ons affect how players interact with the game itself.
Better Rolls for 5E – This allows some automation of dice rolling for those players who prefer to use the character sheet in Foundry. (Yes, I’m aware that Midi-QOL exists. I’ve tested it as a DM, used it as a player, and I prefer Better Rolls. It’s cool for those of you who like it, though. I just want to save you the effort of telling me about it in the comments.)
Beyond20 – Technically this is a browser extension, not a Foundry add-on, but it allows for really easy integration with D&D Beyond without having to do any importing. Just click something in D&D Beyond, and it rolls in Foundry too. For players who don’t want to fool with a browser extension, or who use an unsupported browser, you can also use the D&D Beyond Gamelog add-on module to simulate this, but you miss out on some of the features that Beyond20 offers.
Chat Reactions – The ability to put emojis in the chat log.
D&D Beyond Importer – For players who prefer the character sheet in Foundry, this lets players import their characters from D&D Beyond.
Dice Tray – Adds a clickable row of dice under the chat log so you don’t have to remember dice commands.
Forien’s Quest Log – Adds a video-gamey quest log to journal tab. Great for helping players remember the details of quests, especially if you have a lot of branching storylines in game, or if you play infrequently.
GM Notes – Adds a secret text box to each journal note that only the GM can see.
Koboldworks – Ready Up! – Reminders for players for when their turn is coming up.
Pings – Create a short-lived animated graphic in a scene to draw peoples’ attention to that spot.
Popout Resizer – Lets you resize your popped-out windows and (even better) remember their sizes so they’ll open in the same spot next time.
Torchlight – Quick set of tools to toggle torches and light spells rather than having to change token vision settings mid-game.
Purely Visual Add-Ons
These add-ons affect how the game looks and literally nothing else. They look cool, but they don’t affect how anything else functions.
Auto-Rotate: Automatically rotates tokens to face the direction they were moved in. It’s a little awkward if you move a little too far by accident and need to back up, but most of the time it’s super convenient. I list it under “purely visual” because facing has no mechanical bearing on 5E (unless you’ve adopted some house rules).
Custom Nameplates – Change the font and size of token labels.
Community Lighting by Blitz – More animated lighting options.
Dice So Nice! – Rolls 3D dice on the screen. Totally unnecessary, but they do look cool.
Image Hover – Shows a big preview image of tokens when you hover your mouse over them.
Minimal UI – Makes the user interface smaller so you can focus more on your maps.
Tidy UI – Game Settings – Collapses the game settings menu so that it’s not an unruly mess.
Token Magic FX – Cool animated effects for tokens. I keep often-used macros in the bar for various effects (faerie fire, poisoned, on fire, etc.)
Add-ons for setup and scene building:
DF Architect – Lots of little tools to improve efficiency and make map-building easier.
FXMaster – Animations and weather effects for scenes.
Multilevel Tokens – Among other things, it lets you mirror tokens from one location to the next.
Scene Defaults – Lets you save your own default scene settings rather than having to set them manually on every map.
Stairways (Teleporter) – Create doorway-like icons that players can use to teleport their character tokens from one place to another.
Wall Height – Lots of tricks you can do with this as far as what your players can and can’t see on a scene.
Compendium Folders – While this isn’t a compendium itself, it does help separate the ones you use often from the ones you scroll past most of the time.
Copper Dragon’s Hoard (Patreon Content) – This is my personal collection of homebrew items. There’s a free version of this on the Foundry site, but this version has more content. Get it here. It’s small but growing.
Kobold Press OGL Compendium – Monsters and spells from Kobold Press, my favorite non-WotC publisher of D&D stuff.
Shared Compendiums – You’ll have to look up a tutorial because you have to set this up manually, but this is an easy way to swap resources between campaign worlds. If you’re only running one campaign, it’s probably unnecessary.
Last but not least, a short list of “dependency” modules. Honestly, I don’t know what these do… but another add-on I like tells me that they need these in order to function, so I install them. Don’t bother adding these individually. If you download a module that needs one of them, you’ll get an alert telling you that you need to install it. I’m including them here just for the sake of completeness.