Last Updated 12-13-2020: Notes: the market has changed and some of the items recommended are no longer in print, pushing them into the more expensive secondary market prices.
DnD gifts can be hard to pick out. A lot of gamers are notorious for buying everything they want. When it comes to DnD gifts specifically, you need to know a little bit about your target gift recipient.
Gonna be honest, I love giving & receiving gifts. We debated if an early March gift guide is completely topical, but coincidentally, it is both my and Friend-of-The-Show, Justin’s birthday this week! Also, I have like 8,000 words just on dice. I will come back to that in a later article. I whittled it down a bit so I could focus on the broader, generic “DnD Gifts” theme.
Here’s the deal, buying gifts for gamers can be hard, especially from non-gamers. I’m going to break it into some useful categories, based around how involved the gift giver is with the hobby. A couple acronyms: Players Handbook(PHB), Dungeon Master’s Guide (DMG), Monster Manual (MM). These are all book names. WotC is Wizards of the Coast, who own the D&D IP.
Level of knowledge: Is Dungeons and Dragons a . . Sex Thing?
Ahh. So you know nothing about the hobby. I have earnestly been asked this at a party before. Never fear, it’s not a sex thing. To quote the IT Crowd “It’s the furthest thing from it!” Good on you for being attentive to your friends. Let’s be honest, it’s probably family because if you were friends, you’d probably only be able to hang out when you could play Dungeons and Dragons.. I applaud your efforts to search out some good DnD gifts.
Brief overview: It’s a game! The DM writes the world and encounters/levels of the game. The Players create characters to run through the world and there’s a lot of Improv and Role-Playing. All the characters have stats assigned to them, and you roll dice, add your stats and that determines the outcome of the encounter. There are dozens of books devoted to pre-made adventures and stat blocks for enemies. As a result, some of the most coveted gifts are Books & Dice.
Click clack math rocks are almost always a hit! Dice are probably one of the most popular DnD Gifts, at least in our circle. They start at $8/set for standard Plastic dice, $25/set for metal dice, $80/set for gemstones and if you are celebrating something extraordinary, you can find Mammoth Bone Dice for $2100+ from artisandice.com. For the more affordable gifts, Die Hard Dice & Norse Foundry are our go-tos.
All you need to know: maybe favorite colors. Dice are fun and come in every color combo you could think. I personally have a ton of dice. Since I bought a couple 1-lb bags of mismatched Chessex dice. They sit in a glass vase in my Kallax game shelf. It’s a fun, kitschy decoration and people are free to use the dice. I’ve already made the investment, but Wizkid mismatches look prettier. Now – note that sometimes these have minor defects so that’s why they’re in the bag.
Low: Die Hard Dice Polymer Sets ($9+) As a note – they also have beautiful Pride collection called the Heartbeat collection, where 100% of the proceeds will be donated to The Trevor Project, year round.
Medium: Skull Splitter Metal Sets ($28+)
High: Norse Foundry Gem Sets ($90+)
Mind Blown: Artisan Dice Mammoth Ivory ($2100+)
Honorable Mentions: WizKids Pound Of Dice (~$20)
I hate recommending buying books as DnD gifts. Mostly because we already have books, and there’s a giant library from which to choose, so it can be overwhelming to an outsider. Generally, save buying books until you can peep on their library, or wishlist. However, if you have access to their wishlist, do you even need this article? Wizards of the Coast create all kinds of special editions, gift editions, and related accessories, all aimed for those seeking the perfect Dnd Gifts.
Our Safe bets:
Low: The Essentials Guide ($15+) People are super happy with this starter set. It’s technically a Target Exclusive, but you can find it Amazon sometimes.
Medium: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything ($25+) I love this book. Most of us consider it the best 2nd book to purchase after PHB. It’s an amazing addition to the standard rules, allowing for further customization.
High: The Special Edition Cover 3-book Set: PHB/DMG/MM ($475+ on Amazon as of 12-13-2020) WotC has released a gorgeous set of Art-deco style, foil printe reimaginings of the original cover art. Comes with a matching DM screen.
Mind Blown: Limited Edition Volo’s Guide to Monsters ($700++ on eBay) This is the first of the Art Deco special editions and they did a super limited release, and don’t appear to have plans to re-release, it goes for a TON on the eBay.
Honorable Mention: Stranger Things Starter Set (~$14) A kitschy shoutout to the show that has sparked a huge interest in the game and resurgence of nerds. Tales from the Yawning Portal (~$20) & Ghosts of Saltmarsh ($25) are official WoTC short adventure anthologies. I personally love the Uncaged anthologies from The DM’s Guild. ($15 pdf or $37 hardback) They explore a lot of themes surrounding and involving ladies and the traditional female monsters.
Level of Knowledge: You’ve heard them talking but mostly tune out
So you still don’t really play, but you’ve picked up phrases like “I want to DM” or “This new book is coming out” or maybe they are talking about minis? Fear not, your friend or loved one *probably* isn’t joining the cult of the weird tiny car.
Minis, aka Miniature figurines, are used as avatars on battlefield maps. While some people use “Theater of the mind,” it is very common to have little plastic people and grid layouts to represent what is going on during in-game combat.
We are huge fans of minis, here at Total Party Guild. You can buy them in many materials, like plastic or metal. Some packages sell pre-painted minis. Additionally, you can buy unpainted minis and pay someone on Etsy or at a local gaming store to paint them for you. Alternatively, you can play with unpainted minis, no judgement. Wizards of the Coast also sells booster backs that accompany each adventure and sourcebook. For instance Volo’s and the Monster Manual have booster packs you can buy with random minis that represent creatures from those books.
I have a 3d printer and print cute little minis – I have some pics of the Beholder I printed on the Printrbot in my office up on Instagram. 3d printers are also great for printing “Peripherals” like storage containers, and other tools you can use while playing D&D. I could write a whole post about the different 3d printers. They are getting cheaper and these days it comes down to FDM vs SLA. FDM is where you have a spool of plastic that gets heated and deposited layer by layer. SLA uses a LASER to cure resin in the shape of your items. For newbs, I recommend an FDM, as SLA has some hazardous materials involved. But daaaaaang those SLA minis are nice!
If you choose minis:
Low: Prepainted Icons of The Realms (~$19) A nice starter kit for some generic table fodder.
Medium: Gift Card to Hero Forge ($25) so the recipient can design their own custom mini. (huge hit, love this!)
High: Legendary Adventures Goblin Village ($90) Not only do we use miniature people, but some folks use “set decorations” as well.
Mind Blown: a 3d printer ($250+) I mean. . Yes please!
Honorable Mentions: WizKids Deep Cuts: Townspeople & Accessories (~$45)
Now these are “cool tools that add to the hobby.” For his recent birthday, I 3d-printed a bunch of “condition markers” for DM Sean. These are little rings you can put on your minis to remind you that your stats or dice rolls are effected. I also designed a little box to store them in.
If you don’t have the resources, time or will to do this, it is understandable. It took a couple dozen hours of printing and designing. For those who don’t, can’t or won’t, you can buy them. I have seen custom sets on Etsy and recently they have been popping up on Amazon as well.
Other cool peripherals include stuff like Dice Storage, Dice Trays, Dice Towers, reusable grid mats, spell markers, aoe templates, 3d battle maps. None of these things are really needed to play the game, but they amplify the fun and excitement. You can make art with a single #2 pencil and printer paper, but sometimes upgrades add to the experience.
Low: Chainmail Dice Bag (~$14) These are cute and fun to protect your favorite dice!
Medium: Condition Markers ($36+) We use these all the time and it’a always fun & scary!
High: Wyrmwood Padauk Personal Dice Tray ($95) I just picked my personal favorite, but the Wyrmwood line of products are beautiful.
Mind Blown: Dwarven Forge Hamlet Set ($198 unpainted) Or literally any set of Dwarven Forge sets.
Honorable Mentions: The same old Chessex Map everyone recommends, this neat acrylic & wood dice tower, These neat Spell Effect Area Templates. Some mystical character journals
Level of Knowledge: You literally Play games with them 1x/week
No judgement, buying gifts is hard as heck, even when you really know someone. Dnd Gifts are even harder because they are so niche! You have to know someone’s Love Language. And that may feel weird but we can still love our friends. I know that DM Jeremy hates clutter. He buys most of the stuff he wants. His wishlist is super expensive. I do know he appreciates the heck out of someone else putting in effort for him. Similarly, some of our friends are transitioning into Tiny Home living. Instead of buying them a ton of big things, I 3d printed them a small, multi-use dice & mini storage solution. Also, gift cards for a nice dinner or trip to the movies (unrelated to nerds, but sound life advice.)
Say you want to really put effort into a gift for a hardworking DM, an enthusiastic player or someone whose company you thoroughly enjoy. Don’t be worried to put some effort into inside jokes or sentimental tokens. Reflect on things that really stuck with you about that person. I am going to break format a little because these prices can vary.
Make or have Artwork commissioned!
If you are commissioning, make a budget for what you are willing to spend. Look for some artists, try to find someone in your price range. Artists can be found promoting on Reddit, Instagram and Twitter all the time. Plan in advance, and stick to a budget without trying to “Stiff” any artists. Life advice: Do. not. ever. offer to promote them in exchange for a discount. “Exposure” is considered an insult when it comes to payment.
Characters: I personally had the first piece of art for Jewel von Onyx commissioned. I was so very happy with it(thanks again Mike!) Something to keep in mind: Contact them early. Some artists have a large backlog and it will be hard to get last minute art. Alternatively, you could foot the bill for the Recipient to coordinate with the artist. This could work if you are very bad at descriptions, or know the recipient would enjoy the process.
Maps: Same as above. There are also artists all over the web offering to make maps for $$. Recently, I designed a large map of the continent in our home campaign as a gift. I personally enjoy map making, it’s kind of zen. I put some time into it and then framed it and it was well-received.
Other Game Related art: Have you ever had something super cool happen in game? One of our local hotspots in our home game is called “Hog And Waffles.” One of the players drew a logo/pub sign. It would be perfect if you touched it up digitally and threw it on a set of pint or shot glasses. I have found customizable flasks, whiskey decanters, DM screens. Furthermore, for the more hands-on, I found an amazing tutorial online and made matching screens for DM Jeremy and myself for Christmas.
You need to know a bit about your friends. It should be noted, some people have very specific aesthetics. To demonstrate: some people live minimalist lives, some LOVE STUFF, some really only like flamingo-based art. One of my personal favorite d&d game night items is a clear glass skull cup. I’ve also seen art, blankets, coffee table books.
Low: Matching Skull cups ($16)
Medium: Fan Merch from Redbubble ($18 +)
High: D&D Arts & Arcana Coffee Table Book Special Edition ($75)
Mind Blow: Wyrmwood Custom Gaming Table (Starts at $3,750)
Honorable Mentions: Dice Patent Art ($18), The ABCs of D&D ($11) An amazing Mind-Flayer Trophy Plaque ($315)
TPG Staff’s Dream D&D Gifts
After a quick poll in the group text, we revealed that some of us have stronger imaginations than others. When posed the question “What are your money-is-no-limit dream DnD gifts?” our team replied:
Vanessa: The Legendary Bundle from D&D Beyond + a decent tablet to use with it. (I swear I’m not a shill, I just really want the usability without having to rebuy all my books in digital form)
Jeremy: Wyrmwood’s The Prophecy Gaming Table with a crank
Sean: Any and All Monster Minis, professionally painted
Tallon: The full catalog of Dwarven Forge terrain
Follow Up Advice
Ultimately, gifts are hard to choose, and sometimes you just have to spend hours clicking around Amazon looking for the perfect dice tray that will reflect some kind of meshing of your personality with the recipient’s preferences. We get it, We do it too!
Overall, we hope that this has given you some insight into at least a process for buying gifts for your DnD-loving friends and family. And maybe some cool resources to ogle.
Image credits: Library Pic: Janko Ferlič | Dice Bag: Alperen Yazgı | Monsters: Clint Bustrillos | Map: USGS | Chromebook: Brooke Lark | friends:Edan Cohen