Discord is one of the most powerful tools for running Dungeons & Dragons, or any TTRPG for that matter. It can even be your only tool, if you plan on running theatre of the mind battles or a system where combat isn’t involved at all. You can just make an account, send out invite links, and start a call. Like many tools, however, Discord has a lot of uses apart from its most obvious one. Here is how to level up your Discord from a simple call app to a thriving community hub.
The easiest and first thing to do is create your own server. This is accomplished with the push of the “Add A Server” plus sign icon on the Discord app. From there you’ll check a few simple options. Then comes the part where you customize by creating channels.
Channels are essentially your chat rooms. You may only need two when you start using your Discord for D&D: one for text chat and one for voice/video call. Be sure to name them something simple just so players know exactly where to go.
If you’re running multiple games and/or plan on using Discord to chat with your streaming community, you’ll probably want multiple text channels and maybe even separate voice channels. Popular text channels include a general chat, a private chat for Patreon subscribers, one for memes, and specific ones for each campaign. Likewise, you will want private voice chat rooms for campaigns and paid subscribers. Giving your party members closed-off campaign channels helps them communicate better and fosters a sense of camaraderie.
One very important channel to have as you grow is a “Welcome” channel. You can use the settings to make it the default channel newcomers see. This channel should be locked to messages and contain only a list of rules and guidelines. Examples of good rules include non-harassment and best gameplay practices. Typically, newcomers will need to message a mod or type in a special code word hidden within your rules to indicate that they’ve read and agree. Only then are they granted access to the full channel.
At first you can get by managing everything by yourself. But if you grow into a more successful GM or content creator, you’ll want some help. You can use the “Server Settings” option on the menu to manage roles. Roles allow you to give a select few members the power to manage channels, deal with unruly players, and approve members. Trusted people in different time zones with upgraded roles is a great asset for a growing community.
A more fun way to use roles is to award them to longtime players. This is more for streams/podcasts, but you can bestow roles with a fancy title but no actual power to users who are active in the community. Many creators do season-long competitions where roles are used to track progress, with those who earn the highest roles winning prizes at the end.
Bots are something you’ve likely heard of before, and might have seemed too intimidating to use. They do things like announce important events, automate dice rolls, and even play music during a call. Those functions must require some coding, right? In reality, many Discord bots are straightforward and only require a few permissions to set up.
Each bot’s website should have its own individual instructions, but it typically boils down to clicking a link and giving the bot certain specified privileges. Essentially, the bot will act with the same powers as a moderator.
This bot is made by the D&D Beyond team, so you know it comes with a mark of quality. This one is great for parties that play using mostly theatre of the mind for combat and action. Avrae can track dice rolls with all the usual modifiers you come across in the average D&D game, and integrate character sheets to accurately reflect character abilities. It also has a built-in initiative tracker.
Discord bots used to be a great way to play ambient music for your games. Unfortunately, Google didn’t like the way these bots played with YouTube and issued a cease and desist. This act took two big bots out of the picture, but made room for Hydra. You should probably still stay away from YouTube as a music source, but Hydra will accommodate your playlist needs.
MEE6 might be the most popular Discord bot of all, and for good reason. It’s the most all-purpose bot for keeping a community-focused server running. Its primary use is as an auto-moderator. It can be used to give regular announcements, run games for members, and assign simple roles. It can also act as a music player.
This last step is more for fun, but can be a great way to get a community invested. A simple tab on your “Server Settings” menu lets you upload custom emojis. Up to 50 images can be saved, and the option of animated GIFs is open to those with Discord Nitro. Creating custom images to act as emoji can foster in-jokes and can reward fan artists for putting the time in to make something based on your game. Again, it’s completely optional and more for servers that have active artists.
Once you have channels, roles, and maybe a helpful moderation bot, your TTRPG server is ready to go! Send out those invite links to players and fans, and watch your community grow!