Last night Dan and I got online and took Roll20 for a spin. I really wanted to play something just for fun, so we sat down with a solo D&D module and took shared control of elven swordswoman/conjurer named Aelmar Ravazana. We spent a good chunk of time figuring out the tech, reading the solo rules, and rolling up a character, but ended with a climactic encounter with a rock baboon. While we did this entirely for ourselves we did turn on the stream, so if anyone actually cares to watch us fumble about, you can do so here:
So, here’s a quick review of what we did and didn’t like about Roll20:
- Poor Video Chat. Despite my best efforts, I could not get the thing to use the correct camera. It kept defaulting back to my laptop’s built in camera even though I have a much better USB webcam attached. Also the video looked very laggy. We ended up sticking with Skype in a separate window and then denying access to the camera from Roll20.
- Character Sheets. Unsurprisingly there was no built in support for OD&D character sheets. We tried mucking about with a generic one and gave up in favor of just using paper.
- Non-Intuitive UI. We definitely had to spend some time digging around, and occasionally searching the web for how to do certain things. Panning the map and switching between maps was a bit clunky.
- 3D Dice. The 3D dice were everything we were hoping for. They tumbled about our shared screen and added tension and drama. We even had a moment where a die hesitated on the 20 before tipping over to an 8. Very exciting! I only wish there were more options around when to leave dice on the screen and when to clear them. Eg, for contested rolls it would be nice if we could each toss a die onto the screen and see both side by side.
- Map Scaling. I found a really nice feature for making the squares on your map align with the squares on the Roll20 board. Right click the map, and select Advanced -> Align to Grid. This has you draw a 3×3 square on your map, and then sets the scale of the grit to those measurements. More info here.
- Max Players. We’re still not sure how many players Roll20 actually supports. A commenter on our previous YouTube video suggested it might be limited to 6, but the docs seem to suggest that may only be for sharing purchased source material. If anyone can shine some light on this issue, we’d appreciate it.
- DM Tools. Since we’re playing a coop game here, we didn’t investigate stuff like revealing hidden parts of the map or other tools specifically geared towards the DM. I’d like to eventually toy with that stuff, but it’s not necessary for this game.
Ultimately I think the game was a great success. While ostensibly we were playing to learn more about Roll 20, I also strongly wanted to do something that was just plain fun. We left off a lot of the bells and whistles from our usual stream. I even used lighting that was more pleasing for my own experience (ie. I didn’t shine a giant glaring light right in my face as I usual do for streaming). By the end, I was genuinely disappointed to have to stop, and am looking forward to our next game.
I think that will likely be Tuesday evening. It’s a good time for both of us — for me it conveniently fills a time slot when I used to go ice skating, something I can’t do now that all the rinks are shut down. So, if you want to watch us continue to bumble about with Roll 20, or just enjoy the exploits of the doomed elf Ravazan, by all means come check out the stream. In the meantime, I’ll try to find other excuses to experiment with more options in Roll 20 and/or try out some of the other VTTs out there.