Two Years Later, D&D Beyond Nearly Has The One Feature Fans Have Always Wanted

Image: Wizards of the Coast

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.

dnd beyond 5e websiteI just want this in a mobile form.

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).


Comments

    I was behind the idea back when beyond was announced, heck I even bought digital copies of the source books on beyond in preparation, but this is way too late to the party.

    There are so many other established options that are either free or a small one time fee. I currently run Fight Club 5 and have no intention of spending any more money on Beyond.

    Wizards of the Coast's D&D team, who have been eschewing the benefits of pen and paper roleplaying for aeons, know this.
    Eschewing? I do not think it means what you think it means, unless it's a suprise hot take in the last paragraph.

    I was under the impression that there IS a subscription model, but you don't need to subscribe to use the character builder. To buy the manuals are a one off fee, and if you're building a character and want a specific spell, you can just buy that spell/item/whatever individually. That's at least my experience from using it on the PC.

    Last edited 15/05/19 2:20 pm

      It's such an expensive way of doing it though - you're paying over a dollar for every magical item, race, class, spell, and so on. Just buying the player's handbook is infinitely easier, especially for newer players who are just getting integrated into D&D, or people who just want to have everything digitised in one easy place.

        Only one person in the campaign needs to own the books though. Beyond allows you to share all purchased books making only one person in a group own it all and they can share to multiple campaigns unsure on limit.

        It's a lot easier than passing around all the additional material and waiting for someone to be done with Volvo's when preparing to play a all monster race campaign.

    It should be noted that D&D Beyond is owned by Curse and not Wizards of the Coast. They have got approval from Wizards of the Coast to act as the approved digital toolset but that is the ultimate reason content cannot be transferred between the two. You are effectively buying a different product from different companies. I myself utilise and enjoy both avenues.

    I totally thought this was about the impending drop of the encounter builder alpha.

    But seriously though, are people really begging for their character sheets in the D&D Beyond App? It seems like something that can be done so, so many other ways that adding this one way of accessing a character sheet would sorta be like "hmm... ok. Thanks, I guess?"

    We've been waiting for an encounter builder since launch.

      I've been using the mobile website on my phone (through Google Chrome) and it works just fine for character sheets. I had to do a double-take at first, because I'd almost completely forgotten that the mobile app's lack of character-sheet-visibility is the whole reason I use the mobile website!

        Same here.

        Most of my players have been using the character sheet on the mobile website on their phones for the last year or so, without any issues.

    Sorry, but this is so far from the mark. Is the author a DnD player? because it doesn't sound like it at all.

    I run 2 campaigns bi-weekly and we run the entire thing via dnd beyond. No papers, no spell cards, no rule books. Everyone has their characters made up and attached to my campaign, everyone has either a laptop or tablet (or uses one of our spares). This takes away many distractions at the table. Ill be honest, we do suffer from facebook distraction sometimes.. the moment a player PICKS UP THEIR PHONE. Putting the character sheet on a phone is asking for it IMO. Have you played a game using tablets alex? having all the character information and rules available at your fingertips takes away much of the fussing of combat and stat rolls, allowing people to focus on the roleplay so much more.

    I share all of my purchased content to my players, so everyone has access from my *one time* purchase of the rule/sourcebooks. this is done via my $5 per month subscription which allows unlimited character slots (great for DMs who want to flesh out their NPCs) and gives the benefit of sharing content to campaigns.

    Please sample the program in question, with a group of people, before writing an opinion piece which is misinformed and could turn people away from an excellent product that could increase their enjoyment of the game!

    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

    So is the app, it's just a wrapper for a web service. Some actions are run client-side, which works in both the web and app versions, and some require Ajax messages back to the server, which requires internet in both the web and app versions.

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