The Alphastream Game Design Blog

Holiday Shopping Guide for the D&D Fan

Shopping Time!

The excellent Tim Harford (hear him on Mastering Dungeons) reached out to me. His son is really getting into D&D, and Tim wanted gift suggestions. He liked my suggestions and suggested I share them as a guide. So, here is my economist-approved gift list!

With all of the supply chain problems impacting shipping and distribution, your FLGS (Favorite Local Gaming Store) is your best bet. Either way, get your shopping done as soon as you can to avoid delays!

Core Gifts

Any starting D&D gamer will eventually want the Starter Set and/or the core books of the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual. A player can make do with just the PH, but most gamers and especially any prospective DM will want the core set. The D&D Core Rules Gift Set is a beautiful way to get all three books and a DMs screen.

The Starter Set, or the Essentials Kit, are recommended if the gamer is looking to try the game with friends. One box gets everyone going and the adventures are amongst the easiest to run. The adventures are extensive, and really well designed.

Adventures and Supplements

If the gamer in your life doesn’t yet have Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons, it is the type of supplement that has something for everyone. You get new lore, character options, monsters, and tons of ideas on dragon-themed encounters and campaigns. You can get the gorgeous special cover only at a local store.

If your gamer is a DM, one of the best adventures 5E has seen is the new The Wild Beyond the Witchlight. It’s up there with the Starter Set and Essentials in being friendly to new DMs and superbly fun. I am not above recommending the Acquisitions Incorporated book which I helped write – it includes a superb adventure, rules for running an organization or franchise, downtime rules, and new rules for assigning character Roles!

If your gamer loves monsters, the books Volo’s Guide to Monsters and Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes are full of monsters and provide great lore and tips on how to create interesting stories for monsters.

For both players and DMs, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything has an amazing amount of neat tips, tools, and new character actions. If they already have that one, another fun option is Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.

There are many options to inspire young readers. There are Stranger Things D&D Comics, blank D&D writing books with fun prompts, D&D comics, and more.

Dice and Fun Tools

You can’t go wrong with dice, and D&D has some official sets that come bundled with neat cards containing lore, plus a map or two. An example is the excellent Laeral dice set. You can also get dice sets themed to most of the recent adventures, including Witchlight. The Dragon Heist dice set includes a health counter, which is very cool. Most players and DMs will enjoy miniatures – these are best purchased in a store, picking out a character or monster the person will really like. My pick for a reasonably priced gift is the premium Purple Worm or a dragon such as the Black Dragon, or a warband such as the Goblin Warband. These are all selling out online, so it’s great to visit your FLGS and see the options in person.

Wet or dry-erase battle mats are super useful (you can find many types online, including with amazing images or simple vinyl). Dice Towers can be a lot of fun for players of all ages and come in a myriad shapes and sizes and even portable options. (As a fun project, make your own!)

There are two kits that combine DM’s screens with tools: Wilderness and Dungeons. Both are fun gifts that a gamer may not think to purchase for themselves.

Other Options for the D&D Fan

Looking for fun tokens to hand out to players as a means to tracking Inspiration? I like using these plastic skulls. You may even find them in post-Halloween sales, or you can get these.

Dwarven Forge has a reputation for being the best, and being expensive. You can find some very reasonably priced introductory core sets that can let you create cool battles. You can also find cool flourishes that can work for any type of game, such as traps and bridges. If you go with Dwarven Forge, you can grab the free adventures and include those with your gift!

A gamer that has everything may be looking for ways to enhance their gaming room. From faux torch-flame light bulbs to dragon heads you can mount on the wall, there are many options.

Books are always a great option. Any DM will benefit from Mike Shea’s books, such as Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master. For the history lover, Jon Peterson’s book Game Wizards is awesome. My favorite of all time is Designers & Dragons series by Shannon Appelcline.

MCDM is one of the most amazing new game companies. A gift subscription to their 5E D&D Arcadia magazine is a superb gift! At the MCDM shop you can also purchase individual issues or the amazing Kingdoms & Warfare book (I worked on the adventure, and it includes awesome rules for running a kingdom and fighting battles).

Product page for Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft on Roll20

If your gamer plays online, the Roll20 marketplace has fantastic options for all budgets and a gift-giving section. The designer in your life can even get maps and art they can use commercially for adventures! I’ve reviewed Roll20’s implementation of Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft and I can also share the Wild Beyond the Witchlight on Roll20 and found it to be excellent! If your Roll20 user isn’t a Plus or Pro subscriber, that’s a fun option as well.

When it comes to digital, the DMsGuild and DriveThru are full of amazing 5E products for all tiers of play, by incredible designers. For example, the excellent Keepers of the Pale Flame adventure by MT Black, Minsc & Boo’s Journal of Villainy, or the new Dungeoncraft series supporting Witchlight.

Similarly, you can gift D&D Beyond subscriptions or books.

Is your favorite gamer looking to improve how they are seen or heard online? My guide to microphones, cameras, and streaming can help… and I recently updated the guide with lighting advice.

Interested in the recent Magic the Gathering set that is all about D&D? My Fan’s Guide can help you find some great gift options.

Board games? I reviewed my favorite legacy board game, Clank Legacy – Acquisitions Inc.

Playmat featuring a gold dragon

Playmats (such as the gold dragon above and lots more here) are another great gift option. They work really well as a large mouse pad you can place under your keyboard and mouse, so you can move your mouse across the entire surface unimpeded. Playmats can also be used for card games, or as a surface for dice rolling. There are some amazing official D&D playmats. Inked gaming also makes a custom playmat or large mousepad from any image (you can see the one my wife gifted me in the picture further above with my microphone setup).

Non-D&D RPGs

Gamers benefit by trying other games. Here are some of the RPGs I find influential as a DM and designer.

Night’s Black Agents, a modern espionage-meets-vampires Gumshoe system RPG by Pelgrane Press.

Timewatch, a Gumshoe game of time travel that can be serious science or Bill & Ted.

13th Age, a dynamic fantasy RPG combining the best of 4E/3E and indie RPGs.  

Shadow of the Demon Lord, a mature dark apocalypse game that provides a quick and fantastic gameplay experience. I reviewed it and the excellent Phoenix Dawn Command both here.

Esper Genesis is my pick for running Star Wars or similar sci-fi games, using the 5E D&D engine. You can find my review here.

Alien and other RPGs by Free League are superb. The tension created when you play Alien is surprisingly palpable due to clever mechanics. Other favorites by Free League are Coriolis, Tales from the Loop, and Symbaroum.

Numenera, the Cypher System, and books such as Your Best Game Ever are all great gifts from Monte Cook Games. You can find games for young (No Thank You Evil!) and for all budgets (up to the incredible Invisible Sun experience). I hope this has been helpful. Most of these links don’t provide me with any benefit. If this was useful, please consider picking up one of my products!

I hope this has been helpful. Most of these links don’t provide me with any benefit. If this was useful, please consider picking up one of my products!

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This entry was posted on November 9, 2021 by and tagged .


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