Dungeons and Dragons (often abbreviated to D&D or DnD) is the perfect social hobby that can provide good times with friends or family regardless of your budget.
The tabletop role-playing game genre has had a recent boom in popularity thanks to the likes of Netflix's original show Stranger things and publicly streamed games. If you're new to D&D we would recommend watching a few episodes of Critical Role Season two (a popular online campaign voiced by professional actors) to get a flavor for how the game system works.
For anyone who has yet to try this classic tabletop role-playing game, we also have some introductory guides on where to get started in these uncertain times. The joy of playing games like D&D is that you can get started without dropping money on the expensive kit – PDF's of the sourcebooks can be downloaded for free, along with template character sheets. Simply throw in some dice (or an online dice roller), some pencils, and a pinch of imagination and you're good to go.
If you have some deep pockets, however, you can sink some cash into creating a fully immersive RPG experience for your players by purchasing a smart speaker and additional smart home accessories. It may not be possible for everyone to play in person right now, but if you have the time to work on upgrading your gaming space for when we can all meet up ladened with snacks and wizard hats, then you may just win yourself the coveted "best Dungeon Master" award.
- How to play board games online
- Best dice roller apps and simulators for playing D&D online
- How to play D&D online – and actually enjoy yourself
Dice rolling & RPG apps
Both Google Nest and Amazon Alexa devices can assist with dice rolling. Some of you may prefer rolling your favorite dice manually, but for anyone that has a Fireball trigger-happy Wizard, this method could be a blessing. Using your smart speaker of choice you can say "Alexa, roll ten d6" or "okay Google, roll ten d6," and the voice assistant will relay the final result for you, negating the need to scramble some quick math skills at the table to work out the damage on your spell.
Sadly, you're unable to state actual spells such as "okay Google, I cast Fireball", and we haven't been able to locate any good add-ons that will do this for you so you'll still need to know what dice you need rolling per attack.
For anyone in the US, If you haven't managed to convince your friends to actually play with you then both Amazon and Google have also provided some fun RPG games that you can solo. Using your Google Nest smart speaker try saying "okay Google, talk to The Darkness at Innsmouth" for an interactive choose your own adventure game inspired by the works of H.P Lovecraft.
Amazon has something of a monopoly on these voice-powered adventure games, with optional downloads for Dungeon Adventure, The Magic Door, and even Skyrim Very Special Edition – proving that you can, in fact, play Skyrim on just about anything these days.
Dungeon master assistance
If you've ever found yourself reaching for a DM's guide during a game to check some rules then this downloadable Amazon Alexa skill will be perfect for you. 'Ask The DM' can be accessed by both UK and US users as a handy compendium for 5e rules. The provided list of what can be achieved with this skill is extensive, with given examples 'what is the range of Fireball,' 'how do I cast Locate Creature,' and 'how much damage does Thunderwave do at level 7'.
While you can't use this skill on a Google Home speaker, there are other ways that you can integrate your favored system into a game. Both Amazon and Google devices will respond to requests such as "tell me a joke" for any Bards at your table that may be struggling to vocalize a spell, like Tasha's hideous laughter, as well as provide humorous pick-up lines or songs.
In fact, the everyday capabilities for your smart speaker are so vast, you could turn them into an amusing NPC (non-player character) to accompany your adventurers on their campaign. Having to deal with a character that doesn't always make sense when questions are asked can create some unscripted hijinks and encourage engaged roleplay from your players.
"Alexa, we're entering the dungeon"
If you have (arguably) too much money and time on your hands then you should consider buying some smart home devices to integrate with your selected smart speaker. The above video isn't directly relevant to Dungeons and Dragons, but it does illustrate how fluid an environment change can be with Amazon Alexa Routines.
Philips Hue Smart Lighting can communicate with Alexa devices or be controlled via the Hue app or physical remote to change the color of your home lighting. You can purchase bulbs to replace most conventional lightbulbs in your lamps or main room lights, or strip lights that can be strategically placed around the room or games table. This isn't a cheap process if you want to kit out your entire gaming space, but thankfully you can keep the lights on a neutral setting when not trying to impress your players.
To create this experience you'll need to download the Amazon Alexa app. From there, select the 'more' tab at the lower right of the screen and click on 'routines'. On this page, you can create a voice command that will trigger a series of effects around your home by communicating with any connected devices. A great example is to set your routine to trigger on the phrase "Alexa, roll for initiative" and then create actions to play your favorite battle music and set all available smart lighting to an exciting color. The process for setting up these routines is extremely simple and user friendly.
You can really run with the concept too, creating routines for different environments and boss battles - think "Alexa, we're fighting a Kraken" with some all blue lighting and a hearty reply from your voice assistant of "All hands on deck!", or a mix of orange and yellow for anyone entering the fiery planes of Avernus.
This isn't to say that any of this is necessary for enjoying tabletop RPG's, and some of the best games I've had have been with borrowed dice and a printed character sheet that has seen better days. But for anyone wanting to add some AI-assisted character to their campaigns, a smart speaker can really help set the tone for exciting sessions.
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Jess is a former TechRadar Computing writer, where she covered all aspects of Mac and PC hardware, including PC gaming and peripherals. She has been interviewed as an industry expert for the BBC, and while her educational background was in prosthetics and model-making, her true love is in tech and she has built numerous desktop computers over the last 10 years for gaming and content creation. Jess is now a journalist at The Verge.