It gets earlier every year! WELCOME to the 2022 Scroll for Initiative Holiday Gift Guide.
A few things first. This is an independent blog. There are no affiliate links here, nor am I being paid in any way to endorse these products.
As always, please support your Friendly Local Game Store. Archduke Beeelzebezos has reached 20th level and has enough gold to launch his own Spelljammer. Unite against the darkness!
If you get to the end of this post and still don’t know what to buy, why not give a gift card? Local is best, and if you’re in the UK, I highly recommend the following:
- Leisure Games (London)
- Magic Madhouse
- Mighty Lancer Games (Yorkshire)
- The Shop on the Borderlands
- Thirsty Meeples (Oxford, Bath)
- Travelling Man (Leed, Manchester, Newcastle, York)
- Tritex Games (Stafford)
- Wayland Games (Essex)
- Zatu Games
Onto the gifts! They generally get more expensive as you go down the list.
Dice and related accessories
Top of the list! Everyone loves dice. Even if you’re playing online, it’s nice to have something to interact with which isn’t on a screen. There’s a huge range of colours and materials available, so you should be able to get something a bit special without breaking the bank. Etsy is a great place to go.
For those who have stumbled upon this blog and don’t know what they’re looking for, the classic dice set consists of seven dice: a d20 (that is, a 20-sided die), a d12, two d10s (one in multiples of ten for rolling percentages), a d8, a d6, and a d4. I’m increasingly seeing sets with two d20s, as the current edition of D&D often asks players to roll two at the same time, and some streamers might want to have a jumbo d20 that can be seen better on camera (I love mine). Other players might want to have a bunch of extra d6s – for sneak attacks, fireballs, or rolling ability scores – or a few extra d8s (for divine smite). There are even some cute little ‘healing potion’ kits that come with all the d4s you need to treat your wounds! (Just don’t step on them: d4s hurt.)
As well as the dice themselves, consider dice trays and towers (for rolling dice) and dice pouches or boxes (for storing them). There are some fun options here like dice pouches shaped like mimics and owlbears, but also some seriously classy products made by companies like Wyrmwood Gaming. Shop around.
Wizards of the Coast obviously like to push The Merch™ (D&D T-shirts, D&D hoodies, D&D socks, D&D beanies), but I personally think a lot of D&D players would get more enjoyment out of a humble notebook.
We all have our preferences. Hardcover, softcover, wide lines, narrow, large, small . . . If you’re buying for a DM who uses their notebook for mapping, you might want to look for a notebook with squares, dots, isometric grids, or even hexes. Here again, Etsy is a great place to shop around. I’m also a big fan of the notebooks from Leuchtturm1917 and Clairefontaine. If you’re in the UK, check out the wonderful products at Paperesque in York. Beautiful!
Then there’s other stationery. A campaign binder, a nice fountain pen or calligraphy set, some parchment paper, bespoke character sheets, an attractive storage box . . . it might seem prosaic, but many DMs love this stuff, especially if they are creative. For cartographers, check out Dyson’s article on the drawing of maps. A set of supermarket biros is a bit of a crappy present, but a set of artist’s fineliners with nice isometric paper is thoughtful and will be appreciated.
As more and more of us are returning to in-person games, what better excuse to get back into minis?
Whether you’re looking for monsters or player characters, I highly recommend the WizKids unpainted range. They are reasonably priced, come pre-primed (a huge time-saver), and the selection on offer is impressive, as you can see here: https://wizkids.com/upm They also offer a range of pre-painted minis, but I don’t think the quality is as good for the price, and you typically buy them in blister packs where you don’t know what you’re going to get. Other good minis for D&D include Reaper and Gale Force Nine, but my go-to is WizKids. I wrote a couple of posts back last year called ‘Your first 100 Minis’, and I stand by what I wrote there. For that old-school vibe, though, no one beats Otherworld Miniatures.
Then there’s custom minis. HeroForge is unquestionably the market leader. They’re very special (and if you’re ordering outside the US, be aware that import taxes can make them a bit expensive), and the quality is outstanding. The ever growing range of options available is just amazing. They now offer full-colour minis, and you even have the option of downloading your models for use on Tabletop Simulator. Be prepared to spend ours tinkering with your designs. I recommend the premium plastic material.
If you’re looking to get started with mini-painting, then see this article from last year. I recommend the following: four brushes (a large brush, a drybrush, a size-zero detail brush, and a size-two Raphael 8404 for everything else – better than Winsor & Newton in my opinion), some brush cleaner and preserver, some brush-on primer (if your minis aren’t pre-primed – I like Vallejo surface primer), and a selection of Vallejo game colour paints. I am a huge fan of RealmSmith’s mini-painting tutorials, and his white dragon one is an excellent place to start. Everything else that you need is either cheap or you have it already: a good lamp, an old mug for water, some paper towels, and some kind of old cloth to protect your desk. Larger minis like dragons might seem intimidating, but I personally find them much more fun to paint.
Now we start getting into some of the really nerdy stuff.
It might seem a bit basic, but a dry-erase flipmat is an absolute godsend for people playing at the table. (Seriously: Sly Flourish has a whole article on this.) There are various options available, but try to make sure it’s something that lies flat. Bonus points if you get something with a hex-grid on the reverse.
Another potentially useful product is condition rings. These are plastic rings in different colours which you can throw over miniatures to show that a character is stunned, poisoned, unconscious, or what have you. Totally unnecessary, perhaps, but fun. Etsy is your best bit for these (eg, these ones pictured above).
Then there are combat risers. (Combat what now? I had been playing D&D for nearly two decades before I first encountered these online.) If you’re more into ‘theatre of the mind’ combat, you may want to give these a pass, but if you like to be quite particular about movement on a five-foot grid, and you run a lot of aerial combat, then these are for you!
If your DM runs games in person, perhaps a travel bag would be useful, either a rucksack or a messenger bag. And if you like having music in your games, consider Syrinscape. I’ve been using this for Dungeon of the Mad Mage, and it definitely adds another dimension to your game!
Finally, if you want to splash out, you might want to look at terrain and terrain tiles. Dwarven Forge is king here, and it is beautiful stuff, but import fees can make it prohibitive if you’re in the UK. I really like the look of the battle maps from Ratrrap Games, too. WarLock tiles seem to be quite popular, and if you’re in the UK, you might want to check out some independent terrain-makers like DMB Games. And again, there might be some fun options on Etsy.
Introductions to D&D
OK, this list is largely intended for people who are already playing D&D, but I couldn’t put together a list of D&D gifts without the D&D starter sets. There are now three of these: the original Starter Set launched in 2014 (often referred to as Lost Mine of Phadelver, the adventure it focuses on), the 2019 Essentials Kit (aka Dragon of Icespire Peak), and this year’s Dragons of Stormwreck Isle. Which should you get? Stormwreck Isle is the most beginner-friendly, and the Essentials Kit is the only one that supports two-person groups and lets you make your own characters. It also comes with the most stuff. But eight years on from its release date, my favourite is still original Starter Set, which is not just a good adventure but one of the best of 5th edition so far.
D&D rulebooks and supplements
Buying actual books can be tricky, for two reasons. Firstly, you might not know what books they have already. Secondly, you don’t know whether they want the book on D&D Beyond, as a physical hard copy, or on some other platform like Fantasy Grounds or Roll20. Personally, I still enjoy a physical book because it’s a permanent artefact, but I get the appeal of online versions. Here’s how to give a book as a gift on D&D Beyond.
If you are going to buy a book, there are lots of solid options. For players, I recommend Xanathar’s Guide to Everything or Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. For DMs, I recommend Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse, Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons, or Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft. These are the books that actually ‘expand the game’ in some way. Fizban’s is the newest and the one that your D&D-playing friend is least likely to own already. Many of these books also have alternative covers that some players like to collect.
Then there are adventures. This is even trickier territory, and I wrote a whole article about the best adventures of 5e. For what it’s worth, my hot pick would be Tomb of Annihilation, Curse of Strahd, or Ghosts of Saltmarsh. However, these adventures are quite different from each other and might not be every group’s cup of tea. For something newer (and I therefore can’t completely endorse them as I’ve yet to read or play them all the way through), The Wild Beyond the Witchlight and Journeys through the Radiant Citadel were both positively reviewed, if quite different from more conventional D&D.
For really special editions, check out Beadle & Grimm’s store. They have all sorts of ludicrously lovely gift sets.
Not really the subject of this blog, but there are of course many brilliant D&D-inspired video games. Ones I would recommend, some classics, some modern:
- Baldur’s Gate
- Dark Souls
- Divinity: Original Sin
- Dragon Age
- Icewind Dale
- Neverwinter Nights
- Pathfinder: Kingmaker
- Pillars of Eternity
Sacrilige! Except, of course, not really. It’s well worth dipping your toe into other systems, and you may even find that you prefer them to D&D! Buying books from other systems can also be a safer bet than buying D&D adventures or supplements.
Books about roleplaying
There are also some fantastic books about roleplaying out there. I recommend Hamlet’s Hitpoints and Robin’s Laws of Good Game Mastering by Robin Laws, Of Dice and Men by David Ewalt, and literally everything written by the following authors: Keith Ammann (product links on his home page), Matt Colville, James D’Amato, or Mike Shea (Sly Flourish – again, his products are linked down the side of the home page). As many people have said, Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master is the book the Dungeon Master’s Guide should have been – it reallys that good.
Possibly the most unique and personalized gift of all, a commission could be a framed drawing of a character or the whole party, a specially printed map (try Etsy), or even – yes – a cake!
Artists and clients is a great place to start for artwork, as are subreddits like r/artcommissions and r/hungryartists. Or, you know, if you’re Sofia Vergara, get Jeff Easley to paint your husband’s favourite D&D character. We can all dream. There are lots of fantastic mini painters offering their services on Fiverr and Etsy, like George Coleman, who painted my model of Zargon (above). The cake pictured above was commissioned for me by my soon-to-be wife (#keeper) at The Cake Shop in Oxford’s wonderful Covered Market. She definitely rolled a natural 20 with that one.
Did I miss anything? Leave a suggestion in the comments!
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