Running D&D on Animal Crossing

I’m running D&D on Animal Crossing. I’ve turned my island into the Sword Coast’s frozen Far North and am running Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden (ROTFM) every week with my family. They come to my island, explore, talk to the NPCs and even fight some monsters. It works ridiculously well.

D&D with my family

My dungeon-delving family consists of me, husband, two grown sons and one of the sons’ girlfriend. We started trying to play in person the traditional way – around the table with maps and real dice. But with four dogs in the house when everyone gathered, it was way too insane to be able to focus on the game. So we switched to online – using Roll20 and D&D Beyond. That didn’t work either, for a variety of reasons. So we gave up for many months, until I got this crazy idea.

We’ve been getting together for three weeks now. We gather in our living room, each with a Switch. They travel to my island using “local play.” I’ve got my console hooked up to our big TV, and we can all easily watch the action. My husband did have a rough time moving around at first. He still gets stuck between rocks and keeps getting lost. But he’s catching on and actually thinks it’s fun.

My ACNH island has turned into the town of Easthaven from Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden.
All Images by Nintendo/Carla Bumstead

I don’t know why I didn’t happen on this idea before now. I’ve been addicted to Animal Crossing even longer than I’ve been hooked on D&D. I also don’t know how the idea first popped into my head. But once it was there, I was on a mission. I’ve been spending the past month re-doing my island into the appropriate frozen tundra setting for Rime of the Frostmaiden. It’s easy to do.

3D VTT – Running D&D on Animal Crossing

For those who do not know what Animal Crossing is, it is a Nintendo Switch game where you wander around an island that you can design from the ground up. It’s called “Animal Crossing” because you share the island with cute animal neighbors. It first came out in 2001, but I am playing the newest edition – Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH).

Grid Squares

An ACNH island is made up of squares, which works perfectly for the 5-foot square grid used for combat in D&D.

Terraforming

The ability to terraform is what makes running D&D on Animal Crossing work. I can physically create landscaping like rivers, waterfalls, lakes, cliffs and even little mountains. In addition, I can position these things exactly where I want – much like one would do with dungeon tiles. It could also be considered a 3D VTT. Everything on ACNH runs by squares. It’s the perfect grid.

Immersive – Running D&D on Animal Crossing

Running D&D on Animal Crossing is much more immersive than D&D online with VTTs like Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, etc. Because ACNH has the capacity for a group of players to gather together on the same island, the players are basically in the map. They can “interact” directly with each other, explore and go in and out of buildings. They can also move square-by-square during combat.

Melee combat on my island – my husband (Bo the Bard) knocks back the bad guy!

No Need to Describe the Room

When running D&D in Animal Crossing, there is no need for me, as the DM, to describe any room or any specific location. I can decorate virtually anywhere, inside or out, with a huge variety of stuff. After all, one of the main “objectives” in Animal Crossing is to decorate. Lucky for me, there are tons of items that work quite well for a high-fantasy setting like ROTFM. They’ve got everything from armored knights to ice walls to cave entrances. Herbs? Weapons? Furniture? The list of stuff you can get is almost endless. You can also make it any time of day and any season you want. For ROTFM, it is winter and always after sunset.

In my ACNH island version of Easthaven, the owner of the White Lady Inn has one room devoted to herbs and other natural remedies.

Characters and Clothes

In addition to the zillion different items you can get in ACNH, you can also get clothes. Tons of clothes. And a wand. If you use your wand, your character can instantly change into any outfit – complete with headgear, shoes and even backpacks. It is pretty darn easy to come up with an outfit for most NPCs. It is harder to dress the monsters though.

The White Lady of Easthaven

My NPC Fru is about to instantly become the White Lady of Easthaven.

Too Cute? – Running D&D on Animal Crossing

As you have likely noticed by now, the look of Animal Crossing is a lot different than the typical D&D style. It’s less serious and a lot cuter. So, if you do not want to homebrew an adventure to run, you need to be very careful what modules you pick. Curse of Strahd is not going to work. Strahd is not cute, and he would be in ACNH.

Durth Sunblight, even when dressed in his armor, does not look like a lawful evil duergar mind master in my version of ROTFM.

I’m running Chapter 1 of Rime of the Frostmaiden. It’s quite sand-boxy, which works well. There are also a lot of NPCs to meet and the role-playing opportunities are abundant. So far, I have found the role-playing part of running D&D on Animal Crossing to be especially fun, both for me and my players. But you have to run it with some humor. Because ACNH has such a cute look to it, all the bad guys and monsters are going to end up looking adorable. So far, all my monsters have looked like they have CR of -10. Animal Crossing and “deadly” just don’t go together.

This is supposed to be a Yeti. It’s obviously all wrong. But it is kind of cute!

Lighthearted, Doable D&D

Running D&D on Animal Crossing has been wicked fun so far. I’m enjoying it just as much as the rest of my players/family. But waving my wand around as I switch between NPCs does make me a little dizzy. I am sure there are all kinds of things that will end up not working well as time goes on. But so far, it’s been an experiment I plan to continue.

How am I ever going to do the Frostmaiden herself?
Maybe I’ll just use the villager Judy. She scares the shit out of me.

– Me, wondering to myself

Running D&D on Animal Crossing
I was able to run this scenario (the seance by Rinaldo in the White Lady Inn) pretty much as written in the Rime of the Frostmaiden module. My husband is on the right, my oldest son is in the center and the other son’s girl friend is the Tabaxi sitting at the table. She is talking to her recently departed uncle, Leonitis. She has just learned she must fulfill her destiny and save the Ten Towns from destruction.

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