Roll20.net Virtual Table Top
Reviewed by: JUN10R
Roll20.net is a new Virtual TableTop from the Roll20.net founders, Riley Dutton, Nolan T. Jones and Richard Zayas.
Roll20.net is a virtual tabletop that will allow you to play games with your friends from the comfort of your own computer at home. The web-based interface removes many of the connection issues of other virtual tabletops, like getting everyone connected without having to reconfigure your firewall. The cost ranges from free to $99.99 per year, depending on the amount of content you wish to store on their servers and extra features that interest you.
“Roll20 is the easy-to-use virtual tabletop that brings pen and paper gaming to the web the right way. Built on a powerful platform of tools, yet elegantly simple, it focuses on enhancing what makes tabletop gaming great: storytelling and camaraderie. It’s incredibly user friendly, and runs right in your web browser, so there’s nothing to download or configure.”
I have been interested in Virtual Table Top (VTT) gaming ever since my regular gaming friends and I all grew up and started gaming less. We found ourselves only getting together a few times each year. We had tried various solutions and we were disappointed, along with many of you, when the VTT for Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition never materialized. Naturally MOST gamers are technically savvy; in fact most of us appear to work in Information Technology in some form or fashion. However, we quickly grew tired of spending most of our precious gaming time trying to decipher why we could not get everyone through the firewall and working on the locally installed VTT!! When I saw the Kickstarter campaign for Roll20.net in April of 2012, I was intrigued by the fact they were creating a WEB-based interface instead of something that had to be installed on all the gamer’s local machines!!
As a backer of the project, I had early access to the Roll20.net signups and our local gaming group has been using the software since September of 2012 for our Thursday night game.
The setup is pretty straight forward. You begin by creating your user id and password and you have instant access!! The amazing part of the software is that it is FREE to use! You can choose to become a Supporter or Mentor for $4.99 to $9.99 a month and gain more storage, remove the ads, and get access to new features. There are also annual payment options that reduce the total cost by 15% if desired.
Once you have successfully signed up, you may wish to spend a few minutes setting up your account and public profile. The ‘Looking for Games’ (LFG) feature is a great way to organize a game night or to jump in and start gaming and making new friends. As I scroll through the list of campaigns that are currently looking for gamers, I am seeing D&D, Edgerunner, Traveller, Pathfinder, Toon, Fiasco and many other game systems! That is the beauty of the VTT, your ability to game is only limited to YOUR schedule. The LFG page has the ability to filter the results by keywords, day of the week, and even time you want to play.
If you prefer to start your own campaign, you will click on the ‘Create New Campaign’ button which then leads you to a screen asking the name of your campaign, tags and then a feature that mentions Modules. Those do not appear to be a current feature, but I have heard that it is coming soon!
Once your campaign has officially been launched, you will have the ability to invite players directly to your game or you can open it up to the public and list in the LFG area.
The next major screen is the Roll20 editor. I would suggest you start by reading the HELP files and watching the videos they provide on how to build your first campaign. They will cover important topics like how to upload your own images, search for others in their interface and use sources for new content such as Monster Tokens by Devin Knight. I will review some of the tokens that I have received from Devin in another article soon.
What Roll20 provides is an intuitive interface to run your campaign and allow your players to see your images and make dice rolls! Unlike other VTTs such as Fantasy Grounds, Roll20 does not attempt to calculate all of your rolls for your character. Instead it assumes that you know how to play your game and you simply type /roll 1d20+6 to see if you hit and /roll 1d4+1 for your damage.
An interesting ability is to use the /gmroll function so that only you and the GM can see the results, and you can use /w to whisper back and forth to another play or /w gm to speak to them alone. Not that any of you would be up to anything tricky!? I am looking at YOU rogues!!!
If you think Roll20 is just for Role Playing Games, you will be surprised at the number of card and board games that are being played every day!! If the game has dice in it, chances are you can use Roll20 to play it with a little bit of work.
What is our favorite feature so far? The roll20 Jukebox allows you to quickly search and find sounds for setting the mood in your game, such as Dark Swamp by johntaylormusic. But it also allows you to quickly find that 80s song that someone just happened to mention in game and hit the PLAY button and let the hilarity ensue.
What has not worked so well for us? The audio/video system has been the feature we have struggled with the most, and that is not entirely un-expected. Skype and other major VOIP providers are still perfecting their multi million (billion) dollar interfaces and the Roll20 folks are using a feature provided by Tokbox. What happens the most often is one of us will suddenly lose the ability to hear the rest of the gamers or they cannot hear or see us. The usual fix is simply to log out of the program and shut down the browser. Once we log back in everything is working again. Rebooting a computer is not a bad idea right before you login, just to have your memory as clear as possible.
The web interface is also a bit buggy at times for our crew, though only a couple of us are brave enough to allow the other gamers to see what exactly our game room/office looks like! One final thought is to suggest gently to all gamers that they should invest in a microphone headset instead of using the default microphone on the laptop, to eliminate the noises from their surroundings.
In conclusion, Roll20.net has allowed my gamer buddies to game more often. We are able to reduce the spouse aggro by being home on a weeknight instead of out gaming until o’dark thirty somewhere across town. If we need to get up for five minutes to accomplish a quick HONEY DO item, the rest of the gang is able to continue on. For the price of your average video game, you can pay for an entire year of Supporter-level membership and increase the amount of time you have to game exponentially!
For more details on Roll20.net and their new Virtual Tabletop check them out at their website http://Roll20.net
Codex Rating: 15
Virtual TableTop From: Roll20.net
Type of Game: VTT
Written by: Riley Dutton, Nolan T. Jones and Richard Zayas
Retail Price: $0 to 99.99
Reviewed by: JUN10R