If you are GMing 5e, or multiple 5e games, dndbeyond is probably one of the most useful tools I've seen released. There is a downside to it in cost. If you like paper books (and I do) buying the content twice can be a hassle, but aside from that I have to hand it to Curse. They had the opportunity to just make D&D 5e content online by way of looking through the books, and they went and did a lot more.
As normal, let's start with the bad. There are only three things I see as problematic for dndbeyond that may be turn offs for folks.
- Rebuying Content - This is not actually Curse's fault as Taking20 details in the linked video. Dndbeyond is not a Wizards of the Coast product, but an affiliated product from Curse. The branding is confusing, but ultimately Curse made a third party resource for D&D 5e, and are thus bound by the same rules as all other 3rd party affiliates. This means you may have to buy content multiple times if you want paper books. Or if you are also getting the content for platforms like Roll20 or other online Table Tops.
- Requires Online Mostly - Dndbeyond is an online tool for 5e. It requires an internet connection and connection to Curse's web server via your browser to get the full use of. You can download the books you've purchased for dndbeyond in an app for your phone, and you can download character sheets, but you can't update characters, make new ones, or do the same custom searches if you're not online.
- Weak Custom Monster Creation Tools - This is GM specific, but the monster creation for home brew monsters is weak. It gives a good form to put information into, but it desn't help you calculate CR or make a monster following a guide through the DMG's ruleset for making monsters.
I'm going to talk about a few good points that I find the most useful. Each is big enough though I'm going to give them their own topics.
The character creation process in dndbeyond is awesome. It can't randomly generate stats for you, but that's about its only weakness. The website guides you through character creation step by step, letting you choose from the options available to you with the option to have them explained for what they are both narratively and mechanically. This makes it the ideal method of helping a new player create their character because instead of having a stack of books dropped on them, everything is kind of parcelled together and explained well enough they can make up their own mind on each choice as it comes up.
Dndbeyond also handles all your stat bonuses and equipment stuff. You don't have to tell someone that even though they rolled a 16 for Strength they are putting down a 17 because of their race, the site does it for you - and tells you why. At the end of the process you can have a PDF of your character sheet with all the information you need to know what abilities do, what bonuses you have, or how many times you can use stuff written down.
Campaign Content Sharing
Campaign Content Sharing requires a monthly service fee. This may be a downside. However, it also allows one person to share all their purchased content with all the players in a single game at no cost to anyone else. This means if someone at your group is already using dndbeyond they can give access to their content to share books. Or you can pay for dndbeyond as a group and everyone benefits that way from the content.
This content sharing also expands into running the game. You can share character sheets with the GM (by default with campaigns) which allows you or your GM to add experience points to your character, modify coins and equipment, track damage, and even level up. This makes DNDbeyond useful even in running the game as a way to track your character without needing to scuff up paper, or worry about losing character sheets between sessions. It also makes characters readily available if someone is missing for a session but you need to know what they can do or have on them.
Content Cross Referencing And Searching
The most use I get out of dndbeyond is the ability to search through all my content and find what I'm looking for. I can search for a class, and get all the subclasses for it spelled out on the same page. I can go to special sections for Spells and Monsters and search through those by type, class (for spells), level, or other features.
Being able to find all the types of Orcs across the Monster Manual, Volo's Guide to Monsters, and Mordekainen's is a huge help. Being able to sort monsters or look through monsters that appear on Plains and are in a certain CR range is also huge.
The same is true for spells. I use dndbeyond even in my roll20 game where the GM has the compendium just because it is so fast.
The end result is that while dndbeyond can be expensive depending on your financials, and buying books multiple times can be a hassle, I find it worth it. However, keep in mind that part of my finding it worth it involves me running 2 games of D&D 5e, and playing in 2 other games. I get a LOT of use out of my dndbeyond subscription.
Also, if you are thinking of taking the plunge take a couple weeks/months and actively look for coupons. I've seen multiple times with 25% or slightly higher sales on things like the Legendary Bundles. I personally got in on a legendary bundle deal from critical role which saved me over $100 on my initual buy in, and has since secured me at least 10% off future book purchases through them.
I get adventures exclusively through dndbeyond as I don't tend to run them but the custom monsters and characters are super useful when looking for ideas for encounters or custom abilities. Source books I will also try to find on sale for a "at the table" copy for the live games in case it is needed. But even then I've found those a lot less needed thanks to dndbeyond.