Dungeons & Dragons is experiencing an unprecedented renaissance, with more people than ever before picking up and enjoying the original role-playing game. Published adventures are easy to come by, and you can even find starter sets and dice on the shelves at your local big box retailer. But did you know that D&D now offers what amounts to downloadable content, some of which you can grab for free? Here’s how it works, plus some picks for the very best downloads available.
D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast offers something called the System Reference Document, or the SRD. It contains just about everything you need to play a basic version of D&D, and you can download it for free at the company’s website. However, it’s not really intended to be a starter set. Wizards makes the SRD available under the Open-Gaming License (OGL) in order to provide a template for other companies to publish games and supplements using the D&D ruleset.
One of the features of the SRD is that whatever you make with it, isn’t allowed to exist inside the canonical worlds of D&D. But, the same rules don’t apply to the Dungeon Masters Guild, a partnership between Wizards and OneBookshelf that began in 2016. The DMs Guild is an online marketplace where you can post fan-created content, and that content can make use of the established canon of the game. At the DMs Guild you can find materials that are compatible with Wizards’ Forgotten Realms setting, but also Ravenloft, Eberron, and even Magic: The Gathering’s plane of Ravnica.
“The Dungeon Masters Guild was an idea that I had back in 2010,” says Wizard’s Chris Lindsay, the creator of the DMs Guild. “The goal was to create a place with little or no barrier to entry for fans who wanted to create content and show it off to the world, and perhaps even make a few dollars off their creations.”
Wizards even publishes templates so that everything looks just like the official books that it sells on store shelves. The result is a whole library of fresh content — everything from single magical items to hundreds of new playable races — that’s easy to integrate into your home campaign.
My first proper introduction to the DMs Guild came when I was looking for a quick one-shot adventure to run for my friend’s birthday. That’s when I stumbled upon The Wild Sheep Chase, a simple module with a hilarious comedy hook and great role-playing opportunities. Best of all, it’s available for free.
You can even search through the DMs Guild by the campaign setting that you’re running at the moment. One of the biggest selections is for the city of Waterdeep, the setting for two official 5th edition modules. Most recently I spent $10 to download the floor plan for the 5th edition version of the iconic Castle Ravenloft. It’s made my life much easier as a DM trying to lead a group through count Strahd von Zarovich’s deadly lair. I’ve taken to cutting the pieces out and mounting them on black foam core for ease of use at the table.
Lindsay says that the very best stuff in the DMs Guild comes from his retinue of Guild Adepts, which doubles as a farm team for Wizards itself.
“These are folks that have become prominent contributors to the Dungeon Masters Guild,” Lindsay said. “I have basically put together a digital writer’s room and I give them advanced views of our content and let them go crazy.”
Returning Adepts include M.T. Black, James Haeck, James Introcaso, Rich Lescouflair, Ginny Loveday, and Ashley Warren. New additions for 2020 include Stacey Allan, Celeste Conowitch, Ashley Michaela “Navigator” Lawson, and Hannah Rose. Searching for their names in the DMs Guild will return plenty of excellent modules to add to your game.
Here’s some highlights, hand-picked by Lindsay himself:
- Down Came A Blackbird by Stacey Allan is a four-hour adventure perfect for characters below 5th level. Imagine if Alfred Hitchcock had written a high-fantasy thriller and you’re on the right track.
- College of the Opera gives D&D’s classic Bard class an exciting and powerful new subclass that uses the singer’s voice as a spell-casting focus. Written by Hannah Rose and Kelli Butler, it’s also available in Spanish.
- If you’re jumping into Wizards’ newest campaign setting, Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, Lindsay recommends Taverns, Inns, and Taprooms: In Hell. Written by DropTheDie, Blinne Emersyn, Celeste Conowitch, and James Woodman, it includes several new locations perfect for finding sidequests while tearing about the Nine Hells in a demon-powered war machine.
- If you’re looking for something a bit more substantial, Lindsay recommends Complete Adventures of M.T. Black Vol. I. It gathers together 14 different adventures from one of the Guild’s best and most experienced writers.
- Finally, Wizards runs an organized play series known as the D&D Adventurer’s League. You can find all of its past 5th edition content online, available for a nominal price. It’s among the most polished content on the DMs Guild, with playtesting provided by customers at game stores around the world.
Dungeon Masters Guild (DMs Guild) is an online marketplace that sells PDFs of official Dungeons & Dragons (and other Wizards of the Coast) products, as well as enabling creators to sell their own unofficial digital content based on Wizards of the Coast properties. Dungeon Masters Guild is a partnership between Wizards of the Coast and OneBookShelf.
RPGNow (which merged with DriveThruRPG in 2006 to form OneBookShelf) sold Dungeons & Dragons PDFs until April 6, 2009, when Wizards of the Coast ceased all sales of PDFs online. OneBookShelf reached out to Wizards over the next four years; eventually, in 2012, Wizards and OneBookShelf began having "constructive dialogue".
OneBookShelf, working with Wizards of the Coast, launched DnDClassics in 2013, selling products from every current and past edition of Dungeons & Dragons. The PDFs were new scans, different from those available prior to April 6, 2009; users who had previously purchased D&D PDF products through DriveThruRPG or RPGNow were to receive the updated PDFs for free.
In January 2016, following the release of Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, DnDClassics was replaced by Dungeon Masters Guild. A "community content" program was launched, allowing independent creators to produce and sell content based on all available official Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition material (to include product identity material). They may also produce content based on the work of other DMs Guild creators. However, as of 2020, DMs Guild content is restricted to either use no specific setting, or to be placed in the Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft, Eberron, Ravnica, or Theros settings.
Guild Adept program
In August 2017, Wizards of the Coast announced the Guild Adept program, which spotlights selected producers of content on the DM Guild site. Guild Adept products are identified with a special golden logo. These creators were provided the opportunity to produce supporting material for official Wizards of the Coast products, starting with Tomb of Annihilation.
There’s a new way to buy and share D&D adventures. With the Dungeon Master’s Guild, you’ll be able to self-publish material set in the Forgotten Realms using monsters, spells, characters, and locations.
Dungeons & Dragons is all about creativity. For more than 40 years, the folks who spent the bulk of their time creating amazing adventures, those noble Dungeon Masters, did not have a convenient outlet to share them with the gamers who weren’t sitting at their table. You either had to raise money to publish a physical book or zine on your own, or convince a publisher you had the chops., The Dungeon Master’s Guild puts the power to share that creativity firmly in the hands of the DM.
- A collaboration between Dungeons & Dragons and our friends at OneBookshelf.
- Upload your creations or browse submissions from some of gaming’s most esteemed designers.
- Self-publish material set in the Forgotten Realms. Set your side trek in Neverwinter or Baldur’s Gate, have your characters go toe-to-toe with the Xanathar, the beholder crime lord of Waterdeep, or fall in with some traitorous drow in Menzoberranzan.
- Set whatever price you like for your creation. If you do decide to ask for money, you’ll get half of the revenue while OneBookshelf and Dungeons & Dragons will split the other. We care about our creators and that’s why they get the biggest cut!
- If you have more questions, you can contact OneBookshelf's Customer Service or visit the archived Reddit AMA with Mike Mearls and Chris Lindsay.
Creators can upload whatever kind of Forgotten Realms material they’d like to the Dungeon Masters Guild, but we’ll be featuring side treks, monsters, and backgrounds on the site. At this time, the Guild is only accepting Forgotten Realms material that uses the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons rules. For everything else, we’ve updated the Open Gaming License so that publishers can continue releasing their own material.
Review the OGL
Visit the DMs Guild
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