A Dungeon Master With A Thermal Printer

The thermal printer is ubiquitous in today’s world, mostly found whenever we have to get a receipt from somewhere. They’re cheap, fast, and easy to use. Not only that, though, but as [Daniel] found out, they’re also pretty straightforward to re-program and use for other things than a three-foot-long receipt from a drug store. He’s adapted them to serve as a key tool of the dungeon master in his D&D games.

While he has adapted the most common thermal printer standard, the Epson Standard Code, the real fun of this project is in the user interface. He’s made it possible to build templates and other D&D-oriented sheets quickly via HTML, so the dungeon master can print out character sheets, items from the game, maps, or anything else they might possibly need at the time. It’s all highly configurable to whatever needs arise, and the interface works on Mac, Windows, and Linux.

All of the project code is located on Daniel’s GitHub page for anyone looking to try this out. Most thermal printers use this standard too, so cheap ones can easily be found and put to use as long as a roll of thermal paper is available. If the feel of thermal paper is bringing up some childhood nostalgia, it could be because you had the Game Boy Printer as a youth and are looking for ways to recapture that thermal printer magic.

30 thoughts on “A Dungeon Master With A Thermal Printer

  1. When you are simply rubbing your fingers across or picking these up, does that affect your character’s stats or yours? BPA or BPS or BPF instead (if it is “BPA Free”) doesn’t seem like it boots your overall stats though.

    This thermal printer paper (and most commonly typical printed receipts for that matter) very likely contains a significant amount of BPA. So yes, cheap paper type ones are widely available but they very likely contain BPA in the thermal paper and it’s not as if it is embedded deeply in. It just transfers to your skin when you rub anything against it.

    Not something people should be drinking out of or moving about for 8+ hours a day either by handing people receipts.

    The European Chemicals Agency has added BPA to the Candidate List of substances of very high concern (SVHC).


    Really neat idea, just an unusually poor choice of material to use is all.

    1. That’s a good point about the exposure to BPA. I went down a rabbit hole and found out that there is a company out there making Phenol free receipt paper: https://ecochit.com/

      This is great news because I love this project. I also was falling in love with the idea of using a POS printer like this for more mundane things at home. Definitely want to fulfill my nostalgia for the Gameboy camera printer.

      1. There are other forms of small printer too, though no doubt somebody can find something terribly dangerous about them too… Not that I saying the above is wrong, as BPA has crossed my radar as something to pay attention to, just that there is always something… Including inkjet printer paper being problematic.

    2. Valid concern. At least in the EU BPA is banned to be used in paper since a few years, but you should still keep a eye on what kind of paper you are buying :) as the comment below says there are Phenol free versions.

    3. My fingertips always go numb after handling receipts, not a fan. I don’t know if that’s something estrogenics like BPA do, but it’s always weirded me out.

      Go too far down the BPA/xenoestrogen rabbit hole and you’ll find concerns/claims that it’s linked to triggering early puberty in girls, that it used to be an estrogen cream ingredient but it was dangerously effective, etc etc. Who knows what’s true on the Internet, but the fact that my fingertips go numb is enough for me to avoid handling the things whenever I can.

      1. We should really be moving on from paper receipts altogether. Why can’t the data on what you bought be appended to the card transaction log and made available via app?

        It could be opt-in for privacy, but the data collection opportunity would be enough to pay for development even if it was only opt-in. Download the app, never get a receipt again at any participating store.

        Is it theft related, where they want everyone to have a paper receipt as they leave to make it easier? Can’t they just log it and give the people doing the checking a tablet?

        1. Everything you’re saying hinges on everyone using some kind of card and requiring everyone to run an app? How about No, and Hell No! I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but just no.

          1. A bit paranoid,ain’t we? The business keeps that information for the time period required by the law And for the purposes of stock management,anyway,And it Is traceable. So if you pay by card or on you way to/from the shop Are seen by a recording camera,you don’t hide your porn magazines from the Big Brother.

          2. @Marek Staněk
            Or perhaps they just like real physical cash for any number of reasons – perhaps because its easier to budget with for them? And because they can’t afford or don’t want the fancy smart phone – the latter I can really get behind, they have become rather more of a blight than a boon IMO, and I had some of the first objects you could call smart phones and enjoyed them – its just everything wanting to be ‘app’ only is hell, as not only can you not get 5 mins of peace from the selected bits you want to as easily on a computer/web interface, as every service is constantly messaging you or checking for updates but also you now often can’t use the nice keyboard or screen to do the job either as so many things are going ‘through app only’…

          3. Yeah one thing that the whole russia/ukrane war situation has shown is currency that is stored in digital media can we cut off from you very easily cause that happened to millions of russians

          1. Yes, exactly like that, just standardized so you only need one app for all “virtual thermal printers”. Looks like Safeway has an app too, I don’t know if they allow canceling the paper receipt but I’ll definitely be downloading it. Really cool that this is starting to exist at least in limited form.

        2. If a business will not accept physical money and give me a physical receipt, I say no thank you and walk away. No way would I trust some random store’s “app” with my money, tax records, or other personal information. Not to mention that where I live it’s common to pay a surcharge of 0.5% to 2% to pay by EFTPOS. That adds up quickly, and the banks here already have record profits, they don’t need to skim from me.

    4. The good news is that with services like Amazon and Walmart+ you’ll never actually need to leave your house ever again. Certainly that will be the safest route moving forward…

    5. That’s a valid concern but you’re also forgetting that there are people who literally handle this stuff 8+ hours a day every single day, cashiers. I’ve not seen a single concern or mention of that in here when talking about exposure. Only in the context of using it to play DnD.

  2. Love this idea. Has anyone thought of using a Rocketbook for D&D? If not, conceptionaly there are endless possibilities for these books. If anyone has managed to make D&D templates or just Dungenmaster templates I would love to know.

  3. Why does “everything” have to be bad? Grow up and enjoy life! This sounds like adding fun into something. If you dont want to touch the paper then DONT. But stop trying to control everyone elses life. We are all going to die of something so let me go with a smile on my face–now worrying if the liner in my casket is going to give me some other kind of cancer. Live your life and keep your nose out of everyone elses! Oh and by the way — Merry Christmas!

    1. You are certainly entitled to your opinion but we encourage you to review actual studies and actual data before characterizing us as “freaks” whose opinion has no merit just because we are concerned about the health and well being of society at large as well as individual people, especially if you spend most of a working day on a regular basis interacting with these materials. Putting vinyl gloves on doesn’t exactly avoid causing another separate issue either, then go stand up for 8+ hours a day on top of that then also now add in COVID-19 and other issues?

      There is a reason entire countries have gone so far as to place certain materials on the list of things not to have customers purchase or interact with because the health implications are severe enough to no longer legally be able to do so, even if it costs more to change to alternative products (and typically takes many years to do so).

      We moved away from lead paint and leaded gas (except in many planes) and certain refrigerants and asbestos and latex (which typically has more in it than just latex) and a host of other materials because they were truly so bad, even if they worked “better” than others or were inexpensive. The hugely toxic and deadly health issues aside, asbestos is actually an amazing material in what it otherwise can do compared to many other materials. There was just an article published here about this. That doesn’t mean people should use it (though worldwide it is still used for a host of different things). We have sort of moved away from BPA in polycarbonate though not really since we just went to very similar materials that are technically only very slightly different and have sort of moved away from some powdered gloves or latex gloves but not really moved away from vinyl gloves or even vinyl and phthalate adult toys yet though that is at least moving in that direction. Silicone is at least so much better from a health and safety perspective and has now seen widespread use in the kitchen as well.

      Our point is that the human body is very unhappy with certain materials, some far more than others and some persist forever in your body and that can range from killing people decades earlier to causing major allergies and a host of other very serious things that hurt or impact a large number of people. Still go live your life and you are always entitled to your opinion but we would personally encourage people to try to make informed decisions about items that are likely to materially impact you both short and long term, particularly when they have been studied by and published by professionals for decades now.

  4. Back in the 80’s NCR had an 80 column thermal printer that had a smaller footprint than dot matrix printers of that time. It had a single thermal head with a 9×7 matrix that created text by moving bidirectionally across the thermal paper like an inkjet head. It was heavily used by Pennys and Wards for credit checking and department inventory reports. I wouldn’t mind finding one of those.

  5. So I can’t keep a thermal printed sheet from burning in my presence especially if its hot or Im nervous/ stressed. So as much as I like this quick print idea, now I can’t hold my character sheet for more than a session at best and more than in an encounter or two in the summer/ exciting campaign.

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