Summer D&D: Playing D&D in the sunshine

It’s nearly June – and for those of us in the northern hemisphere, summer! Time to play D&D outside? After two years of Covid and virtual dice, a sunny day in a garden or park seems too good to pass up. There are a few practicalities to consider first.

Health and safety

At the risk of being a killjoy, it would be remiss of me not to mention the importance of shade, sunscreen, hydration, appropriate clothing, and so on. Even if you’re only playing outside for a couple of hours, you might regret it afterwards if you spent the whole time in direct sunlight.

Theatre of the mind

I love minis and have written about the joys of painting and collecting them, but for games outside, they’re more of a hindrance than a help. I strongly recommend switching to theatre of the mind. Discuss this with your players before hand – it can be a bit of a culture shift if you’re not used to it – and read through Sly Flourish’s guide to theatre of the mind combat first (it’s definitive). My biggest tips for DMs here: be a fan of the players, be generous, and don’t sweat the small stuff. For players: trust your DM, be open about what you want to do, and don’t sweat the small stuff. In a word: unclench. (In fact, all of this is good advice for any game. It’s just more important with gridless combat.)

Lower the stakes

Something you might not think of the first time you play outside is just how many distractions you and your players will encounter. Wasps! Bees! Mosquitos! Neighbourhood pets! It’s just that little bit harder to focus outside, so I would keep the game casual if you can.

Technology

Few of us get by without a bit of technology at our tables, whether that’s D&D Beyond, Syrinscape, online databases, or just a Word document with our notes on it. If you’re playing outside, be prepared for dodgy internet, unreadable screens, and laptops running out of charge. Again, you might want to run something light: a comedic one-shot, perhaps, or an adventure from one of the starter sets.

Other practicalities

You’ll want rolling trays or a flat surface for your dice. If you usually rely on electronic character sheets, paper back-ups might be wise. Keep the number of sourcebooks small: I would try to get by with the Monster Manual alone, plus any published adventure you are running. If you’re playing into the evening, check your lighting situation!

Final thoughts

Playing D&D outside can be really special. I have fond memories of games in the sunshine as a teenager. It’s not something we Brits get to do very often, so make the most of it. I hope this article helps you make it happen.

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