Last month (September), me and the gang tried out Roll20 for the first time. If you live under a rock, Roll 20 is a web-based app that allows you to run and play TRPG games such as Dungeons and Dragons, online.
Being Grognards and old farts, we were hesitant at first but soon learned that technology can adapt and enhance our hobby.
Video (Although the video below is for Pathfinder, Roll20 is really system agnostic and can work for ANY system):
Here are some of my observations and notes on the experience:
- IT IS DAMN CONVENIENT – Scheduling TRPG games for face-to-face sessions is a bitch, we all know that. But with this, it’s easy to enjoy a game from the comfort of your couch. We also save on gas, Uber or Grab, food, snacks – plus, the missus is happier (a bit) that I’m home “talking to myself with headphones in front of my computer.”
- LAG PROBLEMS – The Philippines is notorious for slow Internet and although the app has video and voice communication built-in, one has to find ways to optimize bandwidth consumption. I learned that you typically do a roll20 session (at least here in our country) WITHOUT the video and you have to use a 3rd-party voice solution such as Discord since the native Roll20 communication stream can be problematic.
- CAVEATS – of course, nothing can replace a great, actual face-to-face table game and the TRPG social experience. You sacrifice a few things when playing RPGs online such as:
- You can’t talk at the same time (due to bandwidth concerns)
- The actual feel of holding (and rolling) real dice won’t happen.
- All the minis and the dungeon terrain that I did will not be seen! (huhuhu!)
- You cannot see your player’s faces nor their reactions.
- LEARNING CURVE AND PREP TIME – As a DM, there will be some prep time for your game. But this is mostly done digitally as you have to prep the maps, monsters, digital handouts and “screens” for your players. Similarly, your players have to prepare their characters and update them on your Roll20 campaign page. Like anything new, there still is a learning curve for both players and DMs. But heck, there were a LOT of tutorials on youtube and the on the Roll20 site. Lest I forget, I also would like to take this opportunity to mention and acknowledge the kind DMs and players at our local AL Roll20 Community, the AL PH ROLL20 BULLETIN BOARD who helped me when I was starting out. So, to Dick Sumabat, Sigh Ang, Kristoff Alejo, Stan Sison, EJ Claro, Vince Tuibeo, and everyone else who helped, THANK YOU SO MUCH!
- PAYMENT OPTIONS – Roll20 is free (and you can continue free forever and not have any problems) but there are better options for paid users such as dynamic lighting and a bigger vault to store your images, characters and other content. Also, publishers offer “Roll20-ready” content for their games – you just buy these (they cost anywhere to a couple of US Dollars to around $50) and then all the set-up (Tokens, maps, monsters and info) are ready for you and your players. It’s a good option especially for those who don’t have the time to manually set-up their games. Just to see what the paid content looks like, I recently purchased (around Php 500) the Hidden Shrine of Tamaochan since that was the scheduled game I had for my players playing the D&D Tales of the Yawning Portal Hardcover (HC). And, it was totally worth it!
Thanks for bearing with my ramblings. If you want to check out my Roll20 campaign, the page is here.
May your rolls be always crits!
Mon Macutay, Dungeon Master for life