2021 Holiday Gift Guide

The holidays are approaching, and with global supply chains disrupted by the ongoing pandemic, we here at RPGBOT are eyeing present ideas earlier than usual so that we can be sure to get gifts lined up before things get too crazy.

If you need gift ideas for yourself (or if your friends and family need ideas for you), our gift guide is here to help. We can’t fit everything available into one blog post (I’ve tried; it crashed WordPress), but these are some of our favorites. We’ve gone beyond the usual advice of “buy the latest book or adventure that came out” to try to give you some actually novel gift ideas.

While the items below are all available online, we ask that you please support your Friendly Local Game Store. Brick-and-mortar game stores are an irreplaceable part of the tabletop gaming hobby, and your business is irreplaceable. While they often can’t match the prices or inventory of online retailers, I still ask that you support your FLGS if you are able to do so. If you don’t know where to find your store, the store locators from Wizards of the Coast and Paizo are here to help.

Please keep in mind that most of the links below are affiliate links. While this doesn’t affect your shopping experience, it does mean that we at RPGBOT will get a small percentage of the purchase price, which helps us do cool things like run this site and the RPGBOT.Podcast. More information about affiliate links can be found on the RPGBOT FAQ.

Table of Contents

Gifts for Newer Players

Newer players are generally the easiest to shop for. Tabletop RPGs are a deep hobby with a lot of fun accessories, but people who’ve been playing for years often forget that they’ve built their collection over a long time. I still have (parts of) the first set of dice and my original 3rd edition rulebooks 20+ years after buying them, and it’s jumbled up in a veritable treasure hoard with all of my other game stuff. Newer players typically start small, so adding to their collection is an easy source of gift ideas.

Books, etc.

D&D Core Rulebook Gift Set

The core rules are essential for any player. Someone just dipping their toes into the game may be fine with just the Player’s Handbook, but for someone who is clearly going to stick with the hobby, the full set of core rules is an exceptionally kind gift option. If you know that they already have one or more of the books, or if the price tag is a bit high, you can also pick up the Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Master’s Guide individually.

D&D Rules Expansion Gift Set

Did someone already get your recipient the core rulebooks? No problem. Wizards of the Coast has a new rules expansion set which includes all three of the setting-agnostic rules expansions. Unfortunately this one missed the 2021 holiday season and releases in January 2021, but a pre-order means your recipient gets to enjoy holiday festivities well into January of 2022.

D&D Essentials Kit and Starter Set

The Essentials Kit was published several years into the lifetime of 5th edition, so it benefits from years of accumulated wisdom and improved game design, providing an absolutely stellar resource for new players considering their first time as a Dungeon Master. It includes rules for playing with parties as small as one player character, so even if the only people playing are you and your lucky gift recipient, the Essentials Kit is still a fantastic gift.

If you’re a little more budget conscious, the Starter Set remains an excellent way to get into the game at an extremely low price point. It’s frequently on sale on Amazon for around $10, which is a steal considering that it contains a dice set which on its own would probably cost $7 or more.

Pathfinder 2nd Edition Beginner Box

Is your recipient the sort of player who really engages with the mechanics of the game? Do they enjoy exploring character builds, studying the minutae of spells, and fiddling with numbers until they get things just right? Well, they might be just the sort of player who would love Pathfinder 2nd edition.

The Beginner Box is an excellent introduction the Pathfinder 2nd edition. We even have a Beginner Box Guide that will help you get up and running!

Pathfinder 2nd Edition Core Rulebooks

Is your recipient ready to go beyond the PF2 Beginner Box? The core rulebooks are the logical choice. If you’re only going to get one of them, I recommend the Core Rulebook, followed by the Bestiary. While the Gamemastery Guide is a truly excellent source book, you can run PF2 with just the Core rulebook, especially if you also get them a published adventure (see below under “Gifts for Dungeon Masters and Game Masters).

If you’re budget-conscious or concerned about space, the core rulebooks are also available in soft-cover “pocket editions”. The thumbnails look exactly like the hardcover versions, so be sure to double-check the title on the Amazon page.

Accessories

New players will frequently benefit from a few general accessories to help kick-start their collection. A pound of dice (and something to put it in) will ensure that they always have enough dice to roll, and might expose them to the joy of collecting their own dice. This is a gift where I don’t recommend spending a lot of money, so the inexpensive offerings from Wiz Dice and Chessex are great choices. Wiz Dice has three inexpensive bulk options available in various styles of dice. If you have multiple gamers on you list, you might order one bulk set of dice and split them up into dice bags for easy, small gifts.

Gifts for Long-Time Players

Players who have been in the hobby for a while can often be difficult to shop for, but there are some really great options that might be “off the beaten path”.

Books, etc.

Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History

A fantastic visual exploration of the evolution of Dungeons and Dragons. This is both a great exploration of the history of tabletop RPGs and a beautiful collection of visual artifacts. Among my favorite bits: The two-page spreads depicting the evolution of iconic monsters across editions, including favorites like the Owlbear, the Beholder, and the Mind Flayer.

This is the sort of thing that you can put on your coffee table, if you’re a “coffee table book” sort of person. I’d do it, but I have young kids and I like this book too much to let them destroy it.

Game Wizards

An exploration of the contentious history of Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, co-creators of Dungeons and Dragons. There’s some very real human drama here, and while I haven’t read this yet, it’s high on my personal wish list this year.

DMsGuild

DMsGuild.com is a great source for 5e-compatible products from third-party authors, most of whom are small independent folks like you and me. It also has PDFs for source books from previous editions, many of which are great sources for inspiration and for setting material that hasn’t been brought into 5th edition.

Monstrous Races
Monstrous Races 2

Monstrous Races

Does your party dream of running a game where the players are the monsters for more reasons than their behavior? Look no further.

An Adamantine best-seller on DMsGuild, Monstrous Races converts every creature in the Monster Manual into a playable races for 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons.

The sequel, Monstrous Races 2, covers Volo’s Guide to Monsters.

I wrote both, so forgive me for trying to sneak under your digital Christmas tree. I’m very proud of them both.

3rd-Party Character Options

Blood Hunter Class
The Blood Hunter

Published by Matt Mercer, the Blood Hunter has become so popular as a 3rd-party character option that it’s available on DnDBeyond. I even wrote a class handbook for it!

the Pugilist Class
The Pugilist

While it doesn’t carry the stat power of Matt Mercer’s work, the Pugilist is still an immensely popular class. Borrowing from the fighter to create a non-magical unarmed combatant, the Pugilist shares many mechanics that will feel familiar, but with some novel twists.

I get a lot of requests to cover the Pugilist. At some point I will.

Miniatures

If your lucky giftee plays in person (or plans to at some point), miniatures can be a fantastic gift. However, it’s also extremely difficult to capture someone else’s imaginary picture of their own character.

Enter Heroforge. Heroforge lets you design custom miniatures online and either download the 3d printing file or order the miniature printed by Heroforge. They recently added the ability to print in color or have a professional hand-paint your miniature for you, so there are a lot of decision points here and guessing isn’t going to get you very far.

Instead, get them a gift card. (You’ll need to create an account to use that link.)

Gifts for Dungeon Masters and Game Masters

Dungeon Masters (Game Masters, Keepers, Referees, or whatever else your game of choice may call them) are almost as easy to shop for as new players. The abundance of clever products to make the DM’s life easier and make their games better gives you a lot of options.

Books, etc.

Sly Flourish’s Books

The Lazy Dungeon Master put Sly Flourish on the map, and Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master refines that advice with years of of feedback and shared gaming experiences. Winner of an Ennie in 2019, this is solid content from a well-respected author. It’s also available as a PDF on DriveThruRPG.

As a complement to Return of the Lazy Dungeon Masterer, consider The Lazy DM’s Workbook. Also available as PDF of DriveThruRPG.

For more, see SlyFlourish.com.

Treasures from Previous Editions

The greatest hits from previous editions are too numerous to list, so I’ll recommend a few favorites.

  • Heroes of Battle – Includes rules for a “Victory Points” system used to simulate the ebb and flow of war-style mass combat so that you can run a war campaign.
  • Heroes of Horror (3.5) – A book dedicated to running horror games in Dungeons and Dragons, Heroes of Horror dedicates nearly 90 pages to explaining how to run horror games, absolutely dwarfing the 6 pages of DM advice we got from Van Richten’s Guide.
  • Red Hand of Doom (3.5) – Still frequently cited as an excellent example of how to write and publish an adventure, Red Hand of Doom puts the players on the defensive, protecting their home from an invading army of goblinoids with a fearsome and capable leader. This is a spectacular example of how to handle war in a dungeon fantasy game.

Digital Gifts

DnDBeyond

For 5th edition DnD players, DnDBeyond is an irreplaceable digital tool and it’s the best place to get official digital copies of sourcebooks for 5th edition. Plus, with some clever social arrangements, DnDBeyond can be surprisingly affordable. I know that sounds insane, but read on.

First: pick someone in your gaming group to be the person who is going to own the books. We’ll refer to this person as the “Master Subscriber”. Usually your party’s “forever DM” is the best candidate, but if there’s someone in your group who compulsively buys every source book and adventure, they’re a good candidate too. This person must somehow have a Master subscription to DnDbeyond, so either sneak into their account and buy it for them or talk them into it by enticing them with gifts. Tragically there’s no way to gift subscriptions yet, so you’ll need to figure this one out on your own.

Next, buy them books on DnDBeyond. The Gifting System FAQ explains how, but it’s fairly simple.

Finally, have your Master Subscriber set up campaigns in DnDBeyond. With a Master subscription, you can have 5 campaigns with 12 people in them (that’s 60 people total), and every one of them gets access to the unlocked content. This means that if you buy your Master Subscriber a book, not only do they get it, but you can read it because they’re effectively “sharing” the book with you and the rest of your gaming group.

This probably sounds too good to be true, but I can definitively say that it works this way. I’m the “Master Subscriber” in my group, and we use my ability to share content constantly. We read The Wild Beyond the Witchlight on release day to prepare for a podcast episode, so there doesn’t seem to be a restriction on simultaneous readers, either.

Virtual Tabletop Gifts

In an increasingly digital word (to make no mention of COVID and its associated social challenges), virtual tabletops are becoming an increasingly central part of the tabletop RPG experience. While many virtual tabletops are free, many also have some premium features which your DM might enjoy, such as Roll20’s dynamic lighting feature.

  • Fantasy Grounds
    • Complete the purchase under your user account
    • Go to your Store > Order History page and click the Gift Order button next to an order that qualifies
    • Enter a valid username and click Confirm Gift
  • Foundry VTT
    • Purchase a license with your own account
    • Once your friend has an account set up as well, use the Contact form on the Foundry site to ask for the transfer, including both of your usernames and the particular license you want to transfer.
  • Roll20
    • This one’s easy: Just use the linked form.

Accessories

Blank Playing Cards

One of my favorite game tools is a stack of blank playing cards. While official decks for spells, items, etc. are immensely helpful, they’re also expensive, and you need to buy a new pack of cards every time a source book is released (plus however long it takes for Paizo or Wizards to publish a new deck).

Blank playing cards present an inexpensive, borderline-disposable alternative. Need two copies of Ray of Frost? No problem. Need homebrew magic items? Grab a pen. Draw portraits of characters on one side and notes about them on the other. Bend them in half to use as “table tents” to display the names of players’ characters.

There are a variety of options available. I recommend sticking to the standard “poker size” cards (2.5 by 3.5 inches), which is the sized used for your standard deck of playing cards, trading cards, etc.. “Bridge size” cards are also available and slightly less expensive, but they won’t fit nicely in many things designed to store cards.

There are also dry-erase cards which are basically tiny, portable whiteboards. These are great for things you intend to be temporary like status conditions, tracking hit points, recording initiative order, passing notes, or basically anything that might normally lead to your throwing away a piece of paper.

The model I found is slightly larger than a playing card (I couldn’t find smaller), so the cards won’t fit into card sleeves and such, but it may be worth the trade. They also have a gridded side which you could use for maps, puzzles, or just to keep your writing neat.

Pathfinder Pawns

An inexpensive and extremely practical alternative to actual miniatures, Paizo’s collection of “pawns” allows you to provide tabletop representations of a huge number of creatures at very little cost and without taking up a ton of space. The Bestiary 1 collection contains many of the same creatures features in the 5e Monster Manual, so that’s a great starting point. If you want to print your own pawns, you can print on card stock and cut them to fit into Paizo’s bases, which they also sell in a standalone box if you didn’t get enough in the regular box of pawns.

Since these are just pictures, they don’t care what game you’re playing. They work equally well for D&D and for Pathfinder, and since creatures from the Cthulhu mythos appear in Paizo’s content, you could even use some of them for Call of Cthulhu games. The pawns from 1st edition Pathfinder are still in print, too, so there’s a huge number of options.

Spell Cards

Playing a spellcaster can be hard, and often requires opening rulebooks in the middle of the game. Using spell cards is a great way to simplify playing a spellcaster, and can speed up gameplay for everyone at the table.

Spell card decks are available for both Dungeons and Dragons and for Pathfinder 2nd edition. Players don’t realistically need every deck, but having a deck for your favorite class is a great idea.

D&D 5e Spell Cards

Spellbook decks are available for each class in the Player’s Handbook. The Arcane deck contains spells for the Sorcerer, the Warlock, and the Wizard, while other spellcasting classes get their own decks. The Xanathar’s deck includes spells added in Xanathat’s Guide to Everything. Currently there is no deck for Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.

Pathfinder 2e Spell Cards

As of writing this guide, there is no spell card deck for Secrets of Magic.

D&D Stat Trackers

Designed for use in-person with a DM screen, these stat trackers drape over your DM screen to serve as an initiative tracker while presenting a DM-friendly view of the creature’s stat block on the side facing the DM.

The box set includes every monster in the SRD and 50 writeable cards for tracking player stats. Unfortunately we won’t see the full Monster Manual since these aren’t officially licensed, but it’s still a cool product.

Gifts for Dice Goblins

“Dice Goblin” is an affectionate term for people who enjoy collecting dice more than your average player. Everyone enjoys a shiny new set of dice, but for people who sleep atop a mountain of assorted d20s, you may want something a little more unique.

Metal Dice

Metal dice are the logical upgrade from plastic math rocks. They’re durable, they feel sturdy in your hands, and they’re frequently very attractive. Metal dice are available from a number of retailers, but Diehard Dice and Norse Foundry are the big names these days.

Dice Storage

Now that your dice goblins has fancy dice, they need a way to store them and drag them around for games. You have a few options with pros and cons.

Dice Bag

A bag has been the go-to storage solution for dice since literally before I was born. While basically any sack will suffice, handing someone a ziplock bag labeled “dice” isn’t much a gift, and Crown Royal is no longer sold in its signature felt bag, so you’ll need to look a little harder. Personally, I recommend something with felt interior because it won’t beat up the dice too much.

Dice Boxes

As much a piece of art as their contents, dice boxes are available in wide variety of shapes, styles, and materials.

We’re not cool enough to have a promo code or an affiliate link for any of these yet, but if your second-favorite podcast has a promo code, be sure to use it.

  • Elderwood Academy – Their signature “hex chest” is a nice portal format and looks attractive on the table. They even have a keychain-sized version which holds miniature dice, and you can fit the whole thing discreetly into your pocket.
  • Norse Foundry – Their “Chest of Holding” is a rectangular box with slots for each die in a standard 7-die set with a sturdy lid held on by magnets. Available in several varieties of wood wood and metal, you can coordinate your container with your dice.

Dice Trays

Do you have fancy dice? Do you have a nice table? Want to keep them both nice? Get a dice tray. A padded, flat rolling surface will reduce the thunderous sound of metal dice absolutely bludgeoning your table, and it will help keep corners and edges of your dice from deteriorating with frequent use.

Artistic Dice

Some dice are probably better suited as a show piece than for actual use, and I’ve seen some truly gorgeous pieces from small artists online. A quick search on Etsy will get you literally tens of thousands of results from small shops selling dice typically made in small batches, so you know that you’re getting something truly unique. I’ve had great experience buying dice like this for people in my life, and hopefully you’ll fair just as well.

Gifts for the Person Who Has Everything

Character Folios

Whenever I play with a physical character sheet, my sheets always end up looking like a used napkin after a few sessions. Between snacks, drinks, and generally being a slob, a piece of printer paper just doesn’t hold up very long. While there’s a certain pride with a character outliving their physical character sheet, sometimes you just want to stick to one piece of paper and keep it in good shape.

Enter: Character Folios. The officially license D&D character folios have plastic sleeves for up to 10 sheets of paper, easily accommodating multiple character sheets (even with that 3rd page for spellcasting), plus 36 slots for cards that you can use for spell cards, magic item cards, etc.

Unfortunately, supply seems to be limited these days, so only two models are available.

Character Randomizer Dice

Need a quick NPC? Want to be forced out of your comfort zone for your next character? Try a randomizer! Sure, there’s software for that, but there’s something novel about rolling a neutral evil tortle wizard on a set of physical dice.

Gifts for Young Gamers

Do you have a kid in your life? Maybe you’re looking to get your kid(s) (or someone else’s) into tabletop gaming and they’re not quite old enough for the Player’s Handbook. Many people got into the hobby with the help of a parent, a cool aunt or uncle, or a close family friend, and you might have a chance to be that person.

None of this is to say that the below gifts are only for kids. If you enjoying coloring and plushies, maybe you need a red dragon for your desk.

Activity and Coloring Books

Adventure with Muk and Muk’s Guide to Everything From Tasha

Published to raise money for Extra Life, Adventure with Muk and the sequel Muk’s Guide to Everything From Tasha are kid-friendly activity books with things like mazes, coloring pages, and word searches.

Adventure with Muk is available as a softcover, but you’ll need to print the sequel on your own. Both are available as pay-what-you-want PDFs via DMsGuild, too, if you just want to download and print a few pages at a time.

Adventures Outlined

The art is a little more complex, but for kids who are more ready to color inside the lines the art here looks great.

Books

The ABCs and 123s of D&D

I’ve read these to my kids, and they are delightful. The art is cute, the story is nice and kid-friendly, and there are some great sight gags for long-time players who are going to be reading these to young kids repeatedly.

Dungeon Academy: No Humans Allowed!

A charming novel about a young girl attending a school for monsters. Released on November 2nd of this year, it’s unlikely that your lucky giftee will already have this one.

The Young Adventurer’s Collection

Four soft-cover books in a gift box, the Young Adventurer’s Collection offers a kid-friendly, accessible introduction to DnD concepts without actually going into the mechanics. The four included books cover core D&D concepts and present them in a fun, explorative format. For players who might not be ready to read the rule books on their own, these are fun and helpful options.

If you want even more, the authors also published Beasts and Behemoths, which is another great addition to the book series.

Plushies and Figurines

Plushies and figurines are great for kids of all ages. Do you have a newborn? Get them attached to a red dragon. Do you have a slightly older kid? Grab them a plush mimic and hide a bag of dice in its mouth.

I have a handful of vinyl figurines on my desk that I use to distract my kids while I’m working. I think I’ll pick up some of these to add to my arsenal. I think they’ll really like the Giff.

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