How to play D&D on a budget

About a year ago, I wrote about my first encounter with Dungeons and Dragons.

It was an epic adventure that first led to victory, and then to despair as we tried to take on the Curse of Strahd (you know, one of the deadliest campaigns ever written for 5th ed). Obviously, we died. Painful, horrible, vampire-ridden deaths.

That did put us off of D&D for a while, so Shane and I spent some quality time pouring ourselves into our other games.

But we couldn’t stay away forever.

Eventually, we decided to host a game in our little basement apartment. Shane started reading up on the story, because he would be our DM; and I flew into a tizzy of guest preparation that would have made a certain cartoon teapot proud.

I cleaned, I rediscovered our buried dining table, and I cooked far too much food. I was feeling pretty good about it.

When our friends arrived to start the game, we spent about an hour on character creation. Once we were all ready to go, we sat down and realized we did not have enough miniatures for the game.

Now, those things are expensive, so that’s when we started improvising—and here are a few of my favourite tricks for running a game on a budget!

Lego minifigs make great D&D figures.

Maybe they’re not the most convincing kobolds or elves, but my stash of Harry Potter and Avengers minifigs quickly became the population of Greenest. They’re the right size, and they’re easily adapted to the situation.

Hermione’s wand turned into a two-handed quarterstaff, a suit of armour from my Hogwarts set became a warforged fighter, and Snape with a Dementor’s cloak became an elf from the House of Shadows.

Plus, I had enough minifigs kicking around for us to populate every battle and NPC!

I mean, if you already have them, why not, right?

Printing your own cards means you don’t have to buy them.

Spell cards are a handy thing for any caster to have on hand, so you don’t have to flip through the book every time you want to fling a cantrip at someone. And sure, any hobby store will be more than happy to sell you a deck of official spell cards for your caster character.

As far as I’m concerned, though, it’s a little easier—and a lot cheaper—to print them out yourself! There are several different sources you can use to find the official cards, and they’re typically up to date.

Apps are your friends.

Finding a good set of spell cards for Pathfinder was easy, but I’ve yet to find a site for 5th ed that lets me print the specific spells my character has (as opposed to printing every possible card there is).

That’s when I discovered the sheer number of unofficial D&D apps there are.

One of my favourites is 5th Edition Spellbook, which is pretty self-explanatory. It’s got a few pitfalls (it only works for classes in the standard Player’s Handbook, not any of the extended), but it’s been really useful for me!

Shane also loves the Fight Club apps. They’re exclusive for Apple devices, but they basically function as auto-calculating character sheets. They do let you “roll” dice too, but we always have better luck with real dice!

Map tiles are also your friends.

Maps are a huge part of the visualization aspect in D&D, but they’re expensive—and very specific to games.

As cool as it is to have the exact map of where you’re supposed to be, sometimes it isn’t in the budget. And for that reason, we use sets of tiles (which are admittedly expensive, but not compared to the maps) that build into whatever we need!

Sure, you have to use your imagination, but hey, that’s what the whole game is about, right?


What are your hacks for playing D&D on a budget?

One thought on “How to play D&D on a budget

  1. I love these D&D “hacks!”

    We have used grid paper as well as Lego pieces for dungeons. We’ve also used bottle caps, pennies, etc. for placeholders, enemies, friendly characters, etc. Our DM likes to scour artwork for monsters and will print something out to show us what they look like. I also personally use Fifth Edition Character Sheet app for android.

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