The “ultimate DnD table” uses LEDs to track health in combat

DnD ultimate gaming table lit up by green LED light strips around the inside of the table and walls of the room

There are no tabletop RPGs without tables – it’s in the name, right? The pandemic may have seen a big spike in digital D&D games, but when playing in person, there’s nothing quite like hearing the dice tumble over a hard surface to decide your fate. Many gaming tables have innovated the experience even further with plush felt sunken play areas, and even built-in cup holders – but one team of engineers from Minnesota reckon they’ve put together the ultimate DnD table.

“Our DnD group saw a tutorial for a TTRPG table with inset TV on Reddit a while back and naturally had to build a similar one for our campaigns”, 22-year-old engineer (and professional magician) Patrick Roche told Reddit on July 25. “After browsing for a while longer and seeing so many groups including LEDs in their tables, us being engineers decided to take this tech to the next level to create the ultimate DnD table”.

In an interview with Wargamer, Roche explained the table’s development in more detail. Roche worked with fellow engineers and D&D players Zack Hammes and Josh Bestgen to produce the final product – which includes a sunken play area, built-in TV screen for digital maps, and LED strips controlled by custom-built software with 20 ambient animations to choose from.

“This all runs on a single PC built into the table that the DM can use to store notes, look up battle maps, play music, or do anything else they need to keep the session going”, says Roche. “I designed and built the table, wired the hardware, and worked on the software for the project.”

“Josh Bestgen (23, software engineer) assisted in building the table and writing the software for the project.” According to Roche, Bestgen played a big part in designing a user interface that controls the setup and tracks player HP during “combat mode”.

DnD ultimate gaming table setup lit by red LED lights around the walls of the room and on the inside of the table

In combat mode, player health, death saves, and other information from a player’s DnDBeyond character sheet can be displayed using LED lights. “Zack Hammes (22, software engineer) helped with writing the software for the LEDs and worked heavily on designing the combat mode animations – especially the animations for death saves”, says Roche. He adds this is the team’s favourite table feature – “we might be biased since that’s what we’ve worked on the hardest”.

Roche says the ultimate DnD table has taken just over a year to build, and the ‘LED20’ project team (as the trio now call themselves) isn’t done yet. “While we might have a physical table currently built, we don’t really ever consider our project to be finished”, Roche explains. “We are always coming up with new ideas and adding to the build.”

This is reportedly the group’s first D&D DIY project, but it seemingly won’t be the last. “We have become rapidly addicted”, Roche says. “We have started 3D printing and painting our own minis. We will definitely be continuing to expand our D&D DIY projects and have recently been looking into making character costumes.” “We have also been heavily considering making electronics in our setup into a product that we can make available to others”, he adds.

As for how the ultimate DnD table actually functions as a gaming table, Roche says it’s highly effective. “We have been playing two different D&D campaigns on this table for the past year, and we absolutely love using this setup!”

DnD ultimate gaming table lit up by blue LED lights around the walls of the room and the inside of the table

“One of our favourite recurring moments in both campaigns is the collective panic when the combat mode intro animation is activated by the DM shortly before they say ‘roll for initiative.’”, he adds. “It feels so cool to have the dynamic ambience fill the room during sessions and makes the setting feel so much more immersive.”

Check out videos of the gaming table in Roche’s original Reddit post.

Our guide to gaming tables may not have the ultimate table included yet, but you might find another neat surface for your game nights. We also have a guide to the best DnD books for anyone looking for more material.