Two years ago, Wizards of the Coast finally caught up to Roll20 by releasing their own digital D&D tools called D&D Beyond. The digital replacement for physical character sheets has been a godsend, save for one teensy oversight - you can't actually load your character sheet in the D&D Beyond mobile app.
D&D Beyond wasn't the first time Wizards of the Coast had tried importing the world of D&D into an app, but their previous efforts had completely fallen flat. D&D Beyond, which is developed by Curse, was far, far better, although it was still fairly rudimentary at the time of launch.
But if you were the type of person who forgot their character sheet on a regular basis, or were introducing a new player to D&D and needed something that would automatically calculate a new player's bonuses for attack rolls, easily remind them of their DC saves and the various effects and powers of spells, conditions and other actions, D&D Beyond was great.
If you had a laptop or tablet.
There's been two parts to D&D Beyond since its launch. There's the official site, where you can create and view characters, start campaigns and invite other players into, share campaign content (this is great for DMs) and add homebrew content, something that was sorely missed at launch.
The second part is the mobile app, which lets you view the rulebooks for any content you've purchased (or content that's been shared with you). You can also search lists of spells, equipment, monsters, races, classes, feats and more.
But the one thing you can't do? You can't view your character sheet on mobile.
I can understand that the desktop D&D Beyond format isn't immediately compatible on mobiles. But getting character sheets working on mobile has been done before, and it's been done well. Fifth Edition Character Sheet, which has freemium and premium versions on Android and iOS, is a great example. It's not pretty by any means, but it displays your raw stats, modifiers, proficiencies, cantrips and spells, equipment, and automatically calculates everything you need without much fuss.
On the bright side, Wizards of the Coast confirmed via a livestream that character sheets were coming to mobile sometime this year. Another D&D Beyond developer update is scheduled during the D&D live festival this Sunday, where an upcoming alpha version of an encounter builder will be shown off. But progress on the character sheet has been held back, partially due to the content entry required to incorporate the upcoming Ghosts of Saltmarsh adventure. Community managers have also pointed out to fans on the D&D Beyond forums that the Beyond site is fully responsive for mobiles, although that's reliant on internet access, and it's nowhere near as smooth or crisp as what an in-app experience would offer.
But as admirable as the update is, this is also a feature everyone has been asking for since D&D Beyond was announced. The major advantage of relying on pen and paper instead of digitised sheets is that players tend to focus on the table, and each other, more than their screens.
D&D Beyond has helped cut out a lot of questioning and rule-searching, especially for newer players, but sitting around a table of five laptops and tablets doesn't have the same vibe. People end up thinking about Facebook or work more than their roleplaying, and it's hard to blame them - the notifications are right there, and Wizards of the Coast hasn't helped by taking two years to incorporate the most simplest of features.
This is a subscription based service, remember. If you want full access to the character builder, you'll need to buy the Player's Handbook, an $US26 annual fee. If the DM wants every D&D sourcebook available, that's another $US212.92. That's a lot of money for material that players have generally already purchased at least once - there's no mechanism for recognising physical purchases in D&D Beyond.
Transferring to mobile screens won't fix the notification problems entirely, to be clear, but it will save a ton of space around the table. And that's just better from a quality-of-life perspective - it makes it easier for moving miniatures and shifting snacks about, which makes for a better experience for all.
Wizards of the Coast's D&D team, and the developers who have been working on D&D Beyond for years, know this. So hopefully once Ghost of Saltmarsh is out, work on mobile character sheets can finally get out the door. It's been a long time coming. Do us a solid, won't you?
Update: Clarified that Curse, rather than Wizards of the Coast, are the developers of D&D Beyond (although Wizards are still promoting it directly through their official Twitch and social media channels).