No, it’s not the latest steampunk reboot of your favorite thing. It is, however real, actual Dungeons and Dragons, the roleplaying game, reimplimented as a multiplayer game you can play not on a table top, but on your computer. You can purchase Fantasy Grounds on Steam and have an authentic D&D game without having to be within driving distance of your fellow players. It’s not quite the same.  No sharing pizza, cheese dibbles and yellow caffeine-laden soda pop while rolling your D20’s on the coffee table. However, apart from that, you can have a fairly authentic experience playing Dungeons and Dragons with other actual human beings, including a live DM (dungeon master), dice rolling, 2D maps and character movement, and authentic encounter resolution.

The DM's view of a campaign in progress on 'Fantasy Grounds' D&D

The DM’s view of a campaign in progress on ‘Fantasy Grounds’ D&D

Fantasy Grounds, one of the leading virtual tabletop platforms, now offers officially licensed Dungeons & Dragons content from Wizards of the Coast. Available through Steam, the software can allow players to virtually recreate the 5th edition D&D tabletop experience complete with dice rolling, 2D maps and a play experience completely controlled by a dungeon master.

Anyone who’s been playing D&D over the last decade remembers the promise of Wizard’s Virtual Table. First publicized in the back pages of 4th edition core rulebooks, it promised a fully-realized, 3D tabletop roleplaying experience. But over the life cycle of 4th edition the vision got a little wobbly, due in large part to the frustration on the part of the players with the poor gameplay of the new rule set. In 2012 the Virtual Table beta was cancelled.

In the meantime, a number of virtual tabletop solutions cropped up organically online, allowing players to come together from remote locations around the world and have an experience very similar to playing at a table together in the same room, and Fantasy Grounds is one of the best of its class.  It has a surprising array of features and abilities that let game masters make everything from homebrew games, to recreating Pathfinder and other established tabletop systems. What makes it D&D is the officially licensed D&D modules available for download as DLC, including add-on classes, monster collections, and entire campaigns.

The first set of products, including the D&D Complete Core Class Pack, D&D Complete Core Monster Pack, and The Lost Mine of Phandelver,  were posted last week. More downloadable content is already in the works. Fantasy Grounds is working on the Hoard of the Dragon Queen adventure module, and its’ currently under review at Wizards of the Coast. It could be ready in a matter of weeks. Other campaigns, including Rise of Tiamat and the recently released Princes of the Apocalypse, are already in the pipleine as well.

Playing D&D online like this could actually be a transformative experience, and might be a lot closer to the actual gameplay experience the designers originally imagined, now that a computer is keeping track of all the minute details. In practice, a Dungeon Master is hard pressed to remember all the details of what’s going on, even with all the notes in front of him or her.

It’s not cheap at $45, but if you’re a die-hard player, this one might be worth a look.

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