Tools

For the High-Tech GM

There are many tools that can facilitate campaign management. Whether you need a way to keep your adventure organized, create battle maps for your players or perhaps you're looking for epic music to get everyone in the mood, you'll find some great options in the following list.

Virtual Tabletops

Virtual Tabletops (VT or VTT) are designed to allow users to play games on their computer that are traditionally played on or around a table. There are several different flavours of VTT, free and commercial, each with their own pros and cons.

Roll20

A free, fast-growing VTT with a big plus: runs entirely on your browser. They have a big user-base so it's quite easy to find a game. They also have different subscription levels (for the GM) that remove the ads and include great features such as dynamic lighting and mobile support. The only limitation of that big plus I mentioned is that you can't run very big maps with dynamic lighting, or it'll lag.

d20Pro

An oldie but a goodie. It's been around since the beginning and is currently getting a facelift after a very successful kickstarter campaign, turning into d20Pro Unlimited. At the moment it supports d20 games, but after they're done in a couple of months, they'll add support for virtually everything. It's free for users as long as the GM has a license that allows them to join. The license is paid for only once unlike a subscription, and many features are always included such as dynamic lighting. It does require you to download the software, but it should allow for higher performance.

Fantasy Grounds

A commercial VTT with a great look and feel. It's high-fantasy interface is regarded as the best by it's users, and supports quite a few games out of the box, including the latest installment of D&D. It does have a free demo, and also offers either subscription or lifetime licenses. It's community is also very active, so you won't have much trouble finding a game to play.

While those are some of the most well-known ones out there, they're by no means the only ones. If you'd like to check out a big list, head over to Wikidot and read this article.

Campaign Management

We all love pen and paper, but it can some times be a hassle to organize your story. This is especially true for long running campaigns, but these applications can give you a helping hand.. or perhaps even two.

Obsidian Portal

A free, web based wiki-style campaign manager. Allows for the creation of several pages to detail information on your characters, cities, adventures or even magic items in your possession. The free version does have some limitations though, but if you need something basic and easy to begin, here's the place. 

Realm Works

Amazing commercial software that makes preparing your adventure extremely easy and intuitive. Not only can you add tons of information such as quests, characters, items and maps, but you can visually tie them together so you never lose track of who's who and what's where. A player edition is also available at a reduced price.

Scrivener

While not made specifically for gaming, Scrivener is a commercial word processor and project management tool created for writers of long texts such as novels and research papers. It has been recommended everywhere as a great tool for campaign management or writing, but it will be missing the gaming touch of other tools presented here.

Masterplan

Built for D&D 4e, but usable with any game, Masterplan is a free tool that makes management easy by linking events, battles and key story points to follow their proper course. While you won't be able to take advantage of the D&D 4e specific features if you use it for other games, it is a great free alternative to Realm Works.

A plethora of campaign managers exists, or tools that can aid with it. Thought not aimed at gaming, many GMs use software such as Evernote or Google Docs to simply sync their documents accross multiple devices.

Map Making

There are two ways to go around role playing: TotM (Theatre of the Mind) where there are no maps, grids or miniatures, or using Battle Maps with grids, accurate distances, obstacles, and tokens. This section will help if you'd like to delve in the latter.

Dungeon Painter

A free web-based tool to easily and quickly create tiled maps. It has a good set of basic objects for your everyday dungeon or town, but if you need to a lot of custom items it may fall a bit short. You can save your maps or export them as images to quickly add them to your VTT game. Export tile size can be changed to fit the different VTTs or print, great addition!

Campaign Cartographer

Highly regarded as one of the best commercial softwares for map creation, but slowly falling behind the new players in town. You can add objects and tiles as you please, and the results are quite good. Don't let that take the interest away though; if you manage to learn how to use it properly you can create amazing maps.

Dundjinni

Another oldie but a goodie. What's especially great about this one is actually the community; they share hundreds and hundreds of objects for everyone to use in their maps, and the price is slightly lower than that of Campaign Cartographer, it also is a little easier to use but normally with a legacy feel. Definitely worth checking out, at the very least for the community.

Grid Cartographer

This one caught my attention some time ago but didn't have the chance to try it yet. A promising map creation software that seems especially oriented at battlemaps and dungeons as opposed to world maps. It has a free demo with some limitations, and the Pro version is very accessible. I still need to test it, but it might not be great if you also need a lot of customization, unless you want to add the objects manually with another software after the map has been made.

Tiled

Tiled is a very easy to use multi-platform software that let's your create maps with, you guessed right, tiles! You can change the size as you need it, import any images you have for tiles, work with orthogonal, isometric and staggered maps and export your finished product ready for VTTs, or to keep adding more resources with your favorite editing program. -Shared by MessyConfessor

While there's nothing that screams RPG more than graph paper and books piled in your table next to those character sheets, switching to more detailed and feature-rich maps can improve your game and is not something hard to do. If you rather use Photoshop, GIMP or another flavour of an editing application, check out our resources section that will help you get started with amazing results very quickly. (And some ready-made maps too, if you're out of time!)

Random Generators

It is great to plan ahead, but it is fun when you don't know what's coming. It can be names, quests or entire dungeons, but a little bit of randomness makes the game a game, so roll your dice and seal your fate!

DonJon

If you have ever stumbled upon a random something generator, it was probably here. There are plenty of tools to make a stew, including but not limited to Names, Adventures, Worlds, Dungeons and several system specific generators as well. If you're looking for something and don't know where to start, look no further.

Chaotic Shiny

A good website with tons of different generators to choose from, ranging from Characters, NPC Attitudes, Rituals, Superstitions, Places and more. While the interface is not very modern, there can be no complaints on functionality and the information it provides can be a great addition to any campaign.

Hero Lab

Also the creators of Realm Works, Hero Lab is a commercial character generator with a free trial, and you can use it on a few flavours of D&D, Pathfinder, World of Darkness, Call of Cthulhu and a couple of other systems. It can also come in very handy if you need to create NPCs for your campaign.

Wizards of the Coast

Yes, they have a few generators. For Names and Taverns actually. While the name generator falls a bit short in the amount of possible names compared to other ones, it's still one worth checking (Where my fighter Norian Silverkin was born). The tavern gen is a bit more interesting though, since it gives you the whole place with bartender, clientele, accommodations, menu and a few rumors going around for that new adventure.

Abulafia

All-in-one random generator. It's maintained by the community and it's quite easy to create your own to share as well. Uses wiki-style pages that you need to refresh for new results each time, and the collection is endless. The link will take you to the popular generators, but check out the main site as well for more. -Shared by Matt_Sheridan

Fantasy Generator

One of the new players in town with a fantastic set of random generators ranging from generic names to specific species, groups and taverns. If we're talking names, it's got it all, and it's amazing! -Created by SuperCoquillette

What's great about random generators is that most work for any system. Even if it's based on a particular one, the contents are normally easy to translate. If you'd like to work on one of your own, we're looking for developers to join our team to make something amazing! Let us know.

Dice Rollers

There are millions of stories worth telling about a role playing game, but the best ones always start with a 1 or a 20. At least the funny ones!

Roll20 Wiki

I have to admit, that wiki is better than most dice rollers out there. It uses the same system as the actual virtual tabletop (or at least an old version of it). It is very intuitive and easy to use, and extremely powerful as well with many different types of rolls that can be made. The title links to a wiki page with just the dice roller for easy use, but the full wiki page with the relevant information can be found here.

Rolz

Another free web-based dice roller. It also features a great deal of rolling possibilities, like exploding dice, dropping and fudging. Also they're testing dice rooms, so make sure to take a look if you need that. Another feature that can be really helpful is the dice log, since it shows the previous rolls made as long as you remain on the page.

AnyDice

While not precisely a dice roller, I thought it might be useful to add it here. AnyDice is a Dice Probability Calculator, so it let's you check the chances of a particular roll getting a particular result. It does extend it's functionality with a roller using the previous result as input simply to check the facts, but it's not very easy to use solely for that purpose.

Brock H. Jones Dice Roller

Another alternative for your rolling needs. It has some interesting features, like a few different sets of predefined stats rolling to start creating a character, and a custom search for the d20 SRD. It works great for regular die rolls, but it falls a bit short if you need to customize it too much. -Shared by DJSuptic

You can find many dice rollers for Android and iOS on their respective markets so you can always have them in your pocket in case you need them. Of course if you'll be using a Virtual Tabletop, you'll find that all of them have some sort of dice functionality.

Music

If you really want to go in deep, feel like you're actually about to slay a Dragon or put an end to that Red Wizard's evil scheme, music is the way to go. It can make you feel the life of that town or despair in the empty cave.

Tabletop Audio

Just wow! This artist has created many 10 minute ambience soundtracks for free, that you can listed and create playlists straight from his site. He has set up music for Fantasy, Scifi, Horror, Modern and other environments. Definitely the first site you need to check out for this kind of music.

Plate Mail Games

After a successful kickstarter campaign, they introduced several ambience soundtracks for all kinds of games and settings. They're usually around the 10 minute mark and aren't expensive. If you're looking for a commercial and great product to step up your game you should check them out.

Ambient Mixer

The concept behind this free site is pretty interesting. They give you lots of background music and sound effects and you mix them at any times, intervals, volumes, etc. to create your own. Of course there are plenty of already created soundtracks for you to use as well.

My Noise

Unlike Ambient Mixer, myNoise has predefined soundscapes for lots of common and very useful sounds, such as rain, fire, or even a coffee shop. While it doesn't allow you to add different noises to create your own, it does have an equalizer to customize the output of the ones they give you. It's free, but a small donation will unlock some extra noises. -Shared by MessyConfessor

Aside from those websites, there are always the classics such as youtube, soundcloud and many others. Make sure to take a good look since there are lots of playlists avilable that could be useful. Game soundtracks such as World of Warcraft always make a good addition.

While we believe this is a good list to start, it is by no means complete and we will definitely be expanding this section with more tools as we discover and review them. We are trying to add only the most useful ones so that we don't clutter the page with hundreds of choices, but if you think we missed an important software that's been invaluable to you (even if it is system specific), don't hesitate to send us an email with the details and we'll take a look as soon as we can!