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Friday, January 5, 2018

Last Night I Roll20'd and it was a Blast!

The field on which we play our game(s) is ever-changing, and nowhere is change more of a constant factor for me than with my online roleplaying experience.  As a longtime user, and often preacher, of the virtues of Fantasy Grounds as my primary Virtual Tabletop (VTT) I am still open to playing in (if not running on) Roll20.

Last night I was most graciously invited to join a relatively new B/X campaign currently running   Keep on the Borderlands using Roll20.  Not only did I need to adjust my mindset for the very different VTT inside a chrome window, but with some previous voice-chat connectivity issues I was asked to pop onto a Discord server in order to play as well.  Damn!  I was used to (if not happy) with Skype, and I had been using and liking Teamspeak (though it’s got a somewhat complex UI for users not quite tech-comfy), and now I was being asked to grab yet another piece of voice-chat software.

It seems as though there are endless combinations and options for customizing one’s online roleplaying experience.  It’s a good thing.  Normally I would rail against the dying of some sort of light, dig my Fantasy Grounds heels in deep, grab on to Skype as a chat-anchor and tell everyone else how wrong the other ways of doing things are...but nope.

As long as the person running the game is sufficiently comfortable with all of the tools he/she has chosen AND the players gathered are savvy enough to overcome any technical newness, anything can work.  I submit fully that this is a possible outcome, and thankfully last night it was true.  

Our old school crawl through the Caves of Chaos was super fun. I’m not generally a recap-blog-post guy, but when we charmed the ogre Markus to crush our enemies, absorb the damage, and then at the end when he had only a single hit point left...we killed him just as quickly and surely as if his name was Fredo Corleone. I was ecstatic.  He had a bounty on his head, he was an ogre, and this was a B/X game.  There were no moral boundaries to cross or arguments about doing the right thing.  There’s gold and XP to be had back at the Keep and we aimed to nab it.  

Also, it was fun.  We roleplayed, we metagamed, and we had some good, clean, murderhobo fun.

Discord worked fine for us I think.  The interface was pretty easy, and any issues were local and hardware-based I think...not the result of bad software.  I would consider using it in lieu of Teamspeak.

Kelly (the DM) is very Roll20 savvy, and everything ran seamlessly.  My limited experience with the free-to-use software was enough to get me on-board and playing pretty quickly.  Yes, I am still a user and proponent of Fantasy Grounds.  Its UI and its ruleset-based approach makes building and running a long-term campaign/game much more pleasurable for me.  If I was running a ruleset it supported, that would be my go-to VTT.  If I wanted to run a game that wasn’t supported on Fantasy Grounds, I might try Roll20, but it still seems a bit cludgy to me.  

There are other options too.  Maybe you’ve tried Power VTT?  I haven’t, but I’m thinking of giving it a go.  The video on their homepage is enticing for someone looking to run a game for an unsupported ruleset.  There are games I’d like to run that will never be available on Fantasy Grounds (Talislanta anyone?).  I’m sure I could make an unsupported game work, but I’d rather just get the players the .pdf’s they need and play using a ruleset-agnostic VTT.  

I tried Maptools early on in my VTT history.  Fuck that noise.  Maybe it was too complex, or maybe i’m too dumb to learn it.  Did not like it.  Maybe you do.  Perhaps you can extol it’s many virtues and wondrous capabilities to me.  Maybe I missed something?  Was I too new to the VTT game to know better?

There are alot of ways to skin the VTT cat, and I think more are bound to crop up.  

I realize that there are alot of roleplaying purists who only want to to play in meatspace.  I get it. I too love gathering at the table for a session, an adventure, or a long-term campaign but the reality for many of us is that time and space are at a premium and we simply must learn to use the tools that are available in order to actively continue to enjoy the hobby.  While some elements are missing, and while there are no perfect VTT solutions, we do live at a time where we have pretty good options.

AD&D 1e Anyone?

I’m probably not going to run a Roll20 session anytime soon, but I’m down for a game.  Especially if we are gonna crawl OSR-style.  I’ll roll up an extra character, just in case, cause...well, ya know.


  1. Glad to be gaming with you again!

  2. For over five years, I ran multiple weekly games using Google+, Hangouts, and Twidla. I loved the fact that it was free, and incredibly easy to use. I've tried several VTTs over the years, but the technical and monetary barriers were always too much. Even Roll20 is a little too feature heavy, for me. Unfortunately, with Twidla switching from free to ludicrously high priced subscription service, things are a little more difficult.