In the beginning of 2013, I was living in Texas over 800 miles away from my circle of gaming friends, due to work. I was having difficulty with inconsistent games, unreliable players and an ever-changing work schedule. Then, in April of 2013, a friend and fellow gamer told me about a Kickstarter project called Roll20 that had turned into a successful virtual tabletop with a supportive community and blog. This is how I came to start playing Dungeons & Dragons on Roll20.net.
Within two weeks of creating my account, I was certain I had found my solution to long-distance gaming sessions as well as a community of others with similar interests. Long a fan of role-playing online, I dove into Roll20.net’s bag of tools and started exploring the possibilities. I have been active ever since – as both a player and Dungeon Master.
Though I will always prefer playing role-playing games in person, there are many great reasons why I enjoy using a virtual tabletop like Roll20.net. The most important reason to me – it’s free. Our brand of gamer spends enough money on books, dice, miniatures, and other accessories. Roll20.net offers Base Accounts for free, which enables me to play with any of my friends and better yet, we don’t have to download anything. It’s all hosted off their website – all you need is an account and internet access.
What about other lasting impressions that I’ve had from Roll20.net? It’s fairly simple to use. I figured it out in about a week from top to bottom. Not actually the first week that I had it. That week was a train wreck where I thought I could get away with spending 20 minutes reading, watch a YouTube clip, and be ready to rock. I was wrong – it’s a bit more in-depth than that. There’s always something new to learn or a different way of doing something – but I was able to start playing and creating campaigns after focusing on it an hour a day for a week. It takes me more preparation and time to set a campaign up online, but part of that is attempting to prepare for the inevitable surprises players always bring to the table.
The amazing thing about using Roll20’s virtual tabletop is the behemoth list of tools and capabilities that mimic gameplay at a physical table. If you want to see and converse with your players, then just turn on the video or voice chat. It is flexible and not bound to any system so you can use it to play any role-playing game you want. You have access to pretty much any character sheets you could dream of – including community-created ones. There’s a built-in dice roller, a chat window for in or out-of-character conversations, a robust map creation system, personal journals for characters, a music player, and even a giant library of art for tokens, portraits, or maps. They even have a feature called Dynamic Lighting (a paid subscription feature), which handles line of sight and illumination for players. Seriously, the list goes on and on AND they keep updating it.
If you’re looking for a way to play with friends over a distance or perhaps just looking for a new alternative to table-top gaming – give a virtual tabletop like Roll20 a try. I know there are other options out there as well. If you’ve used one – what has worked for you?